Notes to An Activist on Suggestions When Feeling Down About Infighting

By Chris Crass  (July 22, 2015)

burnout

1. Know that dealing with people talking badly about you, dealing with the heartache of movement building, feeling despair – these are all part of the process of being an effective activist/organizer for liberation.

2. Listen to this song or another that helps connect you to your inner power in the face of people talking trash about you, your organization/crew, and/or your work.

 

3. Keep an actual list, not a mental list, but an actual list of positive, loving comments and feedback that you can refer to periodically, particular when a negative comment or experience has found a home in the back of your mind and is unpacking for a long stay.

4. Meditate, exercise, nourish your spiritually throughout. You may think you don’t have enough time, but take inventory of how much time you’ve spent dwelling on petty drama, other people’s issues projected onto you, self-doubt that was given a red bull by someone’s comments/critique you can’t let go of.

5. Remember that people critiquing each other, unfortunately often in really harmful and unhelpful ways, is how many people learn, express themselves, work through ideas, and that while some of it can be nasty and mean, most of the critical feedback is actually an importance part of people engaging their experiences and what they’re learning and making sense of it for their lives and organizing, and there is often important lessons for us (whether we agree or not with the critique). There are few places in society where people learn how to reflect and critique in helpful and productive ways that are about building and growing together – rather then tearing down and looking out for one’s self. One of our tasks is helping ourselves and others learn how to give, receive, and share feedback in ways that help people grow while also creating a culture of support for people to take risks, make mistakes, and also be awesome. That said, even though this is part of people’s learning process, you get to decide how you want to participate or not participate in their processes/debates, and you can ask others to help in the situation, as well as in potentially working with the person you’re in conflict with. We often tell people it’s OK to ask for help, while preventing ourselves from doing the same.

6. Remember that people have deep pain and trauma and when talking about oppression, privilege and power, those traumas come out in productive and destructive ways. Remember that you own emotional health is a priority and that you do not need to sacrifice your own emotional health for someone else’s emotional process. In fact maintaining your own emotional health does more to serve you and others, then letting other people walk all over you, or get the better of you through abusive criticism. Seeing activists maintain healthy boundaries and self-respect that doesn’t come at another’s expense is powerful for all to experience.

7. Remember that most of what happens on the internet is of very little consequence in the actual scheme of things. But you sense of self, relationship to others, and work in the world is of major consequence. Try not to let the nonsense distort your common sense and ask others for help and perspective and grounding.

8. Forgive those who have hurt you and look to the teachings of Thict Nhat Hanh for help. In my own practice I have written “Go F*ck Yourself” letters to people who’s actions or words have taken over my mental health, burned the letters in a ritual of letting go, and then mediated on forgiveness – including forgiveness for myself for getting caught up in it all.

 

9. Celebrate and appreciate this incredible experience of being alive and give gratitude to some of the people who bring joy, laughter and sweetness into your life. Give gratitude to people in your activist work who inspire you, and thank them. All of us, generally speaking, are going through our own processes of wrestling with trauma, internalized self-hatred, shame, lack of confidence, rage, fear for our loved ones, and many other draining negative spiritual/emotional feelings because of structural injustice – and too often this gets taken out on those around us and ourselves. Rituals of gratitude are an important counter measure to build up a counter power of liberatory culture that celebrates and honors who we are, in all our brokenness, and unleashes love to heal and build stronger.

10. Give yourself gratitude for being in this work for the long haul. Develop an inner voice that loves on you, that sees your tenderness and strength, that soothes the hard edges and shortcomings with reassurances and grounding in your inherent goodness. Love on yourself sugar. Love on yourself and build your capacity to harness love for personal and group healing and collective liberation.

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