“There is a hole in the ozone!” exclaims therapist and workshop facilitator Alexander Premala Vollebregt, recalling on the time when he was first hit with the idea of a climate crisis. “A sense of interconnectedness among everyone in the world was felt for the first time.”

Now in 2023, with the effects of the crisis being recognised more than ever, the workshop’s organiser Yogi Hendlin (assistant professor Philosophy) states: “Climate change is a heavy emotional burden, which is why attending to our emotions right now is absolutely necessary.”

Crisis turned to an opportunity

The workshop kicks off with a self-reflective exercise that asks for students to reflect on how their cultural upbringing has governed their actions and choices. After some reflection, Premala puts their feelings onto the whiteboard: anger, sadness, confusion. Afterwards, everyone stands up as he guides the students through an energy-releasing exercise where they focus on their breathing and free movement, releasing any physical tensions that have accumulated in their bodies as a potential result of crisis-induced stress and burn-out.

Alexander (Premela) Vollebregt_Emotions-ClimateCrisis_13April2023_QBuilding_ThanhNguyen
Alexander Premela Vollebregt Image credit: Thanh Nguyen

‘War on Terror’ and the ‘Y2K Bug ‘ are among the many words on the whiteboard as participants discuss the different types of humanitarian crises that have emerged in the world since late 1990s. Premala explains: “From the moment you’re born, you’re conscious about all these events.” But there are ways to deal with it: “You either become an agent of change or a victim of circumstances.”

Crumpled paper

A final exercise involves students releasing their emotions onto a sheet of paper. Some close their eyes as they fold, rip or crumple the paper, while others only think in silence. Many write down new revelations or insights they collected about themselves.

“I hope we can start becoming aware of our emotions”, says Premala directly after the workshop. “So that when we’re trying to create a better world, we’re not fighting amongst ourselves.”

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