Digitally Extinction Rebellion LA’s channel, Charlie, came up with an article in my article arguing that activism is not always the answer to environmental concerns and environmental misery. Later, Charlie contacted me via email. He told me the history of his environmental plight, as well as how he helped to alleviate his activism. He further explained that he had recently taken a step back from activism because of what I described in my newsletter. Like many people who saw external activity as a “fix” for internal pain, he quickly became a pigeon and tried to go straight through the transition process to become a happy, determined, and resilient worker. She confuses the therapeutic effects of the community, which her therapist wanted her to explore, with the idea that moving toward a more positive future would alleviate her suffering.
Don’t get me wrong – external action is absolutely vital Society needs a lot more of it, and contributing to that momentum can bring some real peace because it means you are addressing the thing that is pushing you. But bromide, such as “antidepressants of action frustration,” can greatly simplify a complex experience and point to a society that is hostile to hard emotions.
Echo-anxiety researcher Panu Pihkala writes, “In the case of (extra) emphasis on action, one can also see traits that arise from the general avoidance of emotions or even the culture of shortening.” In many western countries, where mental health problems are on the rise, we tend to snatch our emotions (too) by working hard, distracting ourselves and confusing ourselves, using retail therapy, overeating, taking drugs or reasoning to explain our emotions. By . This is the mental immaturity of many modern societies in the workplace, which will go a long way in stifling deep internal and combined external tasks that are necessary to face difficult feelings and complete the process.
Charlie realized this, and instead of trying to write down his feelings in action, he took more time to sit down with them.
Activism, he realized, was a way to access other people who “got it”, which his climate-conscious therapist asked him to do appropriately. As he began to reach out to various writers online who were thinking about these issues (not just me) and having meaningful conversations with them, he quickly formed connections that could contain his deepest fears and frustrations. Every authentic conversation about the psychological damage of man-made destruction of the environment has made it more tolerable, he said. The research backs up what he has found and shows that this kind of social support is important for maintaining mental health.
Even when we were talking, what he was struggling with was a burning need to get himself out of the industrial society as soon as possible. He was tempted to learn to escape the city, to move to the jungle, and to leave the land. Away from the hustle and bustle of the big city, he doesn’t have to be reminded, at least painfully, that the water coming out of his faucet is being pumped by fossil fuels from a reservoir 300 miles away. But then he’ll think of those LA kids who didn’t get a chance to pursue their dreams as children when they were young, without the opportunity to sing and enjoy the climate emergency and the epidemic that hangs over them. Will he not abandon an entire generation that needs help to increase their resilience if he simply steps out of society and cries out for defeat? The responsibility was on his head. Do we, after all, hate each other as we know it?