Surviving Activism

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful,

committed citizens can change the world;

indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.

                                                          Margaret Mead

Any type of activism is hard.  It is made harder by the shear number of issues in the world today.  At its best activism will be uncomfortable and at its worst it can leave you with real emotional scars.

I don’t know the exact moment it happened but I can remember scrolling through my animal rights groups on Facebook and not being able to watch or look at half of what was there.  I had reached a point where I was scared to death of what I may find in the dark world many of our animals live in every day. I was consumed by a sort of anxious dread and  became hopeless and unfocused.  Many people who deal with daily trauma of living beings can become “compassion fatigued,” which is a type of traumatic stress disorder not unlike PTSD.  This can leave one feeling hopeless, depressed, and unable to make decisions let alone create real change in the world.  Here are my top ways to get out of that funk.

  1.  Have other interests beyond activism.  I have such an intimate tie to animals in all areas of my life it was hard to have an outside interest that was unrelated.  Fortunately, I am also a decent artist which is a great escape from the realm of animal rights and environmental issues.  Have an interest far removed from the activism you are doing.  You will need this kind of rest to be most effective.
  2. Find your focus.  It is easy to get overwhelmed by all the groups out there.  There are wolfliterally way too many issues for one person to have any hope at all of solving.  The old saying “an inch deep and a mile wide” seems fitting for the kind of impact you will have if you try to get involved in too many issues. I had no idea initially how to narrow myself down to a few issues that I could really get behind.  One way of doing this is to advocate for something close to home. If animal activism is something that interests you then why not choose an animal that needs help in your area?  This makes your work relevant on many levels.  I have recently chosen the Mexican Gray Wolf as a species that I want to help primarily because their range is close to my home.  Choosing animals or issues in your area automatically narrows down the myriad of issues to something much more manageable.  I still sign petitions for everything from elephants to honeybees but my primary work is very focused.
  3. Take care of yourself. Make your favorite tea and read a book of pure escapism.  Take a bubble bath. Go to a movie. Rest. Self care is paramount to dealing with stress and disappointment, both of which are common in any kind of activism. Take time to rejuvenate so you can give your best to your chosen issue.
  4. Work some magic. If you live a magical life use this to your advantage.  Simple spells work wonders.  I have created shrines to specific animals that I advocate for.  I have spent many days lighting my dolphin candle during the Japanese hunting season and calling on deities to come to their aid. Use your gift.  It works.
  5. Turn Sorrow/Anger to your advantage.   Turn your anguish into action.  There is actually a lot of energy that comes from anger and emotional hurt.  Use this energy to take action on an issue.

Above all, never, never, never give up.  The saying “it is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness” should be your motto.  If you light a candle someone will see it and light their own.  There seems to be a real awakening in the world and just a few people can have a huge impact. Never underestimate the change you can make. You are a powerful and positive force in the world!

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