The science of us

On the first Thursday of every month during Winter, Inspiring Australia NSW joins the State Library of NSW to present The Science of Us, a program series where scientists, researchers, authors and academics help us to understand troubling human behaviour through the prism of science. Our next event on Thursday 1 July is: “Understand your emotions on climate change” presented by Dr Jonica Newby.

Our first event held on 3 June 2021 explored the topic: “Conquer your anxiety and fear” with A/Prof Melissa Norberg from the Centre for Emotional Health at Macquarie University. As Melissa explained, anxiety and fear are normal emotions that help us to survive, but when we experience them more frequently and intensely than is helpful, they can overwhelm us.

The National President of the Australian Association for Cognitive and Behaviour Therapy, Melissa is an expert in anxiety and obsessive-compulsive related disorders. Her research examines the psychological factors that underpin these disorders as well as identifies strategies that help individuals overcome these burdensome conditions. 

During the talk, Melissa explained that imagined threats are a key factor in most anxiety disorders. In most cases, we develop fear disorders through pairing specific stimuli with threats that may not be there. To demonstrate how psychologists work with anxiety sufferers to disrupt learned responses, Melissa led participants through evidence-based strategies that can be used to help overcome anxiety and fear.

By exposing ourselves to our feared events, imagining and experiencing the anxiety and fear of the worst possible outcome and doing this in a way that interrupts our expectations, Melissa showed how we can get on top of habitual fear responses. With the help of a skilled psychologist, exposure therapy can teach us that we can indeed tolerate things we’re scared of, despite being afraid.

Years of research has shown that by using proven cognitive therapies, we can break the pairing of imagined threats and conditioned responses and learn how to habitually interrogate our threat expectancies. This can help us manage anxiety and fear when it arises rather than being controlled by it.

Learn more about Associate Professor Melissa Norberg and the Centre for Emotional Health here.

Understand your emotions on climate change

Our next event on Thursday 1 July will feature author and science reporter Jonica Newby who will lead a conversation on how to navigate the emotional turmoil of climate change. 

Jonica’s new book, Beyond climate grief: a journey of love, snow, fire and an enchanted beer can is a deeply moving personal story. After researching what global warming will do to the snow country she loves, Jonica plummeted into a state of profound climate grief. Reality outstripped imagination as her family was swept up in the apocalyptic 2019–20 fires. 

Jonica will share both personal and scientific insights on how we can respond to climate grief, face the uncertainties ahead and find the courage to take action. Learn more about Jonica Newby here

Event details

What: Understand your emotions on climate change
When: 11.30 am, Thursday 1 July 2021
Cost: Free with registration via this link

The Science of Us is curated by Inspiring Australia’s NSW Manager Jackie Randles and co-presented wit the State Library of NSW.