I’ve been at a loss for words.
In the wake of Charlottesville, Hurricane Harvey, threats of nuclear war, and the multitude of other dark events going on in the world—every topic that I usually write about has seemed hollow.
Who needs to read about raising self-esteem when there are Nazi flags waving on TV? Should I really be writing about “overcoming social fears” when people are facing real fear and loss in the path of Harvey’s destruction? The topics near and dear to me (psychology, recovery, self-realization) have taken a back seat to terms like disaster zone, white privilege, and divisiveness.
The dark and important events that pepper our cultural landscape are not new, but at the moment I can’t tease the two apart. I don’t know how to not “get political” when talking about psychology, happiness, or wellness-- probably because our own emotional wellbeing is directly affected by the world around us—and vice versa.
Individual health can’t be compartmentalized from collective health; the two are braided together, interconnected in ways that might not at first seem evident. Paying attention means recognizing that we are a part of the cultural fabric. While it’s helpful to emit “light and love” from our particular strand, sometimes that’s not enough. Sometimes we have to do something.
While I’m a huge proponent of self-work and self-esteem, I know that love is an action word. I know that we can believe all that we want about ourselves and each other-- but how are we acting? What are we doing? Are we helping? Does it really have to be political to get involved in issues that affect huge amounts of people/animals/the world? Being loving and kind is embodying these principles in an active way.
The emotions that come up as we read about a tragedy or watch hate unfold on the news are fuel: rather than getting depressed, it’s our cue to find out where we can help. If we don’t know where to start, that’s when we take Mister Rogers’ cue and “find the helpers.” Maybe we have no idea how to be of service in the world, but luckily there are people already doing it that we can learn from. We can dig for knowledge, vote with our dollars, and live in a way that’s in accordance with our beliefs.
I also acknowledge a disappointing undercurrent of the spiritual and wellness community: an attitude of detachment that can sometimes accompany the people in it. “Sending light and love” can substitute for taking action; “not getting political” can be a privileged form of passivity. This is a place I heralded from for quite a while in my own life: it was easier for me to duck underneath the darkness of the world than peek my uninformed head up into it. It was easier to “work on myself” than depress myself with the world’s problems. Selfish? Naïve? Privileged? Maybe. But I’ve now come to realize that loving myself also involves liking the way that I act in the world.
I’m still learning how to do this myself-- just writing this post brought up all sorts of fear for me. I’ve wondered, “What if I say the wrong thing? What if I alienate people?” I’ve realized, though, that living in accordance with my beliefs means admitting that, for me, personal wellness and collective health are distinctly intermingled. Talking about self-esteem and self-love means also incorporating social action and self-education.
I’ve included a list of reputable resources and charities at the bottom of this post that speak to me. They’re meant as a jumping off place for anyone who has felt confused about what to do, unsure of how to help, or interested in educating themselves on important social issues. We don’t have to move mountains, but we do know that a gazillion ants can move one together. And I know that for me it feels much worse to not name the beasts in our cultural conversations: there IS darkness, there IS heartache, and there IS place for each of us to make a difference.
Each of the following organizations is linked on a site that displays their transparency. This sort of breakdown allows us to see how our money is being used, and ensure it’s donated to the intended cause. If none of these charities speak to you, find out what does. This is merely a starting point.
Help people displaced by Hurricane Harvey by donating to:
Help animals displaced by Hurricane Harvey by donating to:
Fight for civil rights for all by donating to:
Resources for educating ourselves on privilege/oppression:
Want to be politically active but unsure where to start? Click below