By Dan Bloom, an informal op-ed with an UPDATE:
January 9, 2019
[Note: Dr Bollas has has read this post now.]
Santa Barbara psychotherapist and author Christopher Bollas coined an interesting term back in the 1980s -- "the unthought known" -- and when I came upon it the other day I started thinking that in 2019 and beyond, this phrase could have an important role to play in our global thinking about climate change and how it will impact out lives and our descendants lives in the near future and over the next 30 generations.
What does it mean? It's when you feel something, you know something, but you have no name for it. It's what we absolutely KNOW but cannot allow outselves to THINK! That's
"the unthought known."
Because we know it, but we don't want to think about it, or at least not think about it too much. Or maybe we know it, but we can't allow ourselves to THINK about it.
Take climate change, for example.
Take the future of humankind in relation to the coming impacts of runaway global warming worldwide.
As things stand today, in 2019, most climate scientists and climate activists suffer from ''the unthought known.'' Because their careers and their incomes depend on continuing to give interviews and produce written reports and academic papers that say everything is going to be alright, don't worry. we humans can fix anything, and with technology by our side, we can fix whatever climate change throw at us.
These well-paid professors and scientists and hard-working public activists want to keep their jobs (and their nice incomes) and don't want to jeopardize future employment opportunities. So they go along with everyone else, with their peers, and pretend that everything is going to be okay, we can solve the climate problems coming out way, and just don't worry about it.
But they people, actually, they worry about it. They suffer from ''the unthought known'' but in fact they KNOW, they KNOW. We are doomed, doomed. Not now, not in 12 years and not in 100 years and not even in 200 or 300 years, but they KNOW that humanity is doomed, doomed in say, 500 to 600 years, 30 or 40 more generations of man and then time's up, Game Over, the final countdown, The End. They know this. But the reason they cannot articulate this or say this in the open in public or in the public prints in newspaper or online on the internet or on blogs is because they cannot allow themselves to think about it. Even though they absolutely KNOW what's coming down the road.
That, my friends, is ''the unthought known'' as it applies to climate change.
Ask Dr Collas about it. He knows. He will dish.
Ask Margaret Atwood or Roy Scranton or Naomi Klein or Michael Mann or Amitav Ghosh and Jeff Vandermeer or Paolo Bacigalupi or Liz Jensen or George Monbiot or Amy Brady or Annaleen Newwitz or John Abraham or Elizabeth Kolpert or Elizabeth Rush or Megan Hunter or Marshall Herskovitz.
They know. They are aware of the unthought known. Ask them.
I want to call it the unknown thought, but that's the correct term. It's the unthought known.
And there's reason it's the UNTHOUGHT known.
It's because we can't handle it. It's too frightening, it's too scary, it's too horrible and terrifying to think about. So we put it away and it becomes The Unthought Known.
You've learned a new term today. What are you doing to do with it?
UPDATE: After this blog was posted, Dr Bollas wrote to me, saying:
''Dear Dan, I think my last book "Meaning and Melancholia: Life in the Age of Bewilderment" (Routledge, 2018) will be down your line. It is not long -- only about 120 pages but took about 8 years to put together.
''I will return to writing about ''the unthought known.'' In the 1987 book, the chapter was subtitled something like 'early considerations'. Since then I have learned a bit more. But as to applying it to climate change, why not?
''Part of the concept is that we have been "in-formed" through experience that is not thought-mediated. Taking up climate change, for example, I was an athlete as a young man (track, baseball, football)but now and then had odd lapses of ill health. 60 years later I can see that those bad patches were due to pm 2.5 in the so. california atmosphere. for decades i have been trying to 'figure it out' which is an interesting expression. when i could 'figure it' i was then able to think it.
''I am 75 now, and really cannot travel far and wide as I would wish, to put all the pieces together. The medical community would love to tag me with an endogenous diagnosis: i.e., aesthama, or copd. But that is nonsense. It is climate change. After figuring it out I began to speak up to differing medics but the resistance in the profession to one of the world's leading killers (pm 2.5) verges on a crime against humanity.''