When we hear stories of environmental degradation, social injustice, and governmental corruption, what do we do with them? How do we interact with these systems and the entities which can seem corrupt and sometimes evil?
Most of us tend to either numb out, blame and fix, or fight and martyr.
Numbing: Getting super overwhelmed and busy is a favorite for many of us. When we are incredibly overbooked, there is no time to reflect on philosophical questions like “Are we using our resources wisely and justly?” and “How can I be of service to my people and my planet?”
Other common ways we numb are through alcohol and drugs, but nearly anything can be used as an addiction to distract us from things we fear are beyond our power to influence.
Blame and Fix: We look for what’s wrong and then try to change it. The problem with blaming and fixing is that it creates more stress and distance. Plus any action taken from fear, begets the thing it’s afraid of. Blame and fix doesn’t actually fix anything; instead they create a reinforcing feedback loop of problems, blame and stress.
We might also beat ourselves up and say “If I cared more or if I were stronger, then I could be an activist and change things. But I’m not doing anything or at least not enough. That’s awful.” This is the fast track to creating shame within ourselves and often for projecting that energy of “not doing enough” onto others – friends, family, NGOs, and the government.
Fight and Martyr: We become activists. We march with signs. We sign petitions. We camp in trees for months or years on end. I’ve often thought that this kind of activism was heroic and what I “should do if I cared enough to get out of my comfort zone.” But there is a saying “What you resist, persists.” I’ve found this to be very very true. Fight and Martyr doesn’t seem to create a just and peaceful world with any more consistency or certainty than blame and fix or numbing.
There is another way.
What do we do instead? We realize that the skills we’re learning through our shame and vulnerability work on relationships and body image are the same skills we need to tackle these larger social/environmental issues. Parts work. Compassionate presence. Vulnerability within a safe container. How to create that safe container.
We’ll also go another step deeper into vulnerability by learning how the things we hate, despise, and distrust outside of us are alive and well as parts inside of us. The things we hate most in those who are spilling oil into the oceans are actually things we hate about ourselves. We are so scared to let that reality in. We’re so scared that we’ll hate ourselves if we look too closely.
I say through cultivating compassion and a safe container, that level of vulnerability is actually the way to fall in love with yourself and from there to love others more truly. And from there, to take more effective action in the world.
Radical self-responsibility with deep compassion and vulnerability is the way to heal your relationship to yourself and from there, to find ways to heal the planet.
“Healing the Personal, Healing the Planet” takes what we’re learning about shame, vulnerability, scarcity, joy, courage, gratitude, and sufficiency and helps us apply them to larger social/environmental issues.
“Healing the Personal, Healing the Planet” is the third class in our Year of Joys series on shame, vulnerability, scarcity, sufficiency, gratitude, courage and joy. It will start the week of March 23, 2015.