Psychotherapy is a cultural practice, subject to the broader ideologies of the day, and psychotherapists need to understand how these manifest in the individual psyche. An understanding, in psychoanalysis, of unconscious processes may contribute to an understanding of why people resist the environmental message and to an understanding of the difficulties of environmental activists. Contrary to appearances, anxiety about climate change and environmental damage is acute but is defended against through primitive psychological processes at the collective level. This paper explores several aspects of this process, including the difficulties that processes of splitting, projection and infantilization produce for people within the environmental movement. A tendency towards guilt is inevitable as a result of the repression of desire for objects of consumption and this is exacerbated by the projection of split-off guilt from the rest of the population, which is lodged in the environmental movement and then attacked there, creating the common caricatures of environmentalists. The final part of the paper examines implications for clinical practice. Copyright © 2005 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.