Understandably, many of us are feeling fatigued and trying to ward off despair. The stress we’re absorbing from the political climate permeates and impacts all corners of our lives. With so much uncertainty, so many sinister threats on multiple fronts, the task of trying to figure out what to do is daunting.
But it’s important to remember that you are not alone in this struggle and that we all have a part to play. We are individual humans with limitations (annoying, I know) - and it is critical to be able to recognize those and set boundaries. This fight is going to be long and grueling, and we have to find ways to fend off burn-out and remember what it is we’re fighting for.
Something that will be important to let go of early is the notion that things will settle down or “get better, eventually.” The on-going damage, much that has already been done, has been here for many and will likely stay for a long time. It’s important not to try to cope with the political realities by psychologically minimizing them or callousing ourselves to the suffering of others.
Our lives are guaranteed to have pain- some unavoidable, some we suffer unnecessarily. One of the most liberating things we can do is to attempt to determine the kind of pain that we’re willing to take on in order to be the kind of people we want to be. Because hell, we’re going to have pain anyway - why not have some say over what form it comes in?
So instead of trying to reclaim some false sense of normalcy (if you were lucky enough to have it before), or trying to numb or distract ourselves from the pain, the best we can hope to do is work toward creating meaning. We cannot guarantee comfort, we cannot guarantee happiness or success - but we can attempt to live a life that aligns with our values.
Considering the overwhelming nature of the numerous challenges we’re facing, figuring out how to determine our priorities is an intimidating task in and of itself. Thankfully, there’s some scaffolding that can help us determine those.
For this entry, I have included two separate but related activities. The first will focus more holistically on the things that are important to us in our lives and not just in our political aims. Because while we are political agents, we are also parents, siblings, children, friends, lovers, artists, cat guardians, doggy daddies, teachers, cooks, mimes, etc. In times of difficulty, it’s important to figure out how to stay connected to some of the aspects of live that give us a sense of vitality, that inspire creativity and connection. After all, pain is not the only source of fuel for the revolution – joy is too.
To better orient ourselves to our values, we can turn to an established tool found in The Happiness Trap by Russ Harris (an excellent resource for more in depth information about ACT):
Once you have taken a more global look at your life and what is important to you, give yourself some time to let it all sink in before moving on to the next activity. Or if you feel like you’re doing alright more generally, feel free to dig into the specifics of your political values and goals. Or you can do them in the reverse order. (Do whatever you want, I’m not your master!!!!) You’re the best judge for knowing when it’s right to try to dig into any of these questions, and this post will still be here when you’re ready.
Political Values Clarification
For the political values clarification exercise, first consult the instructions in the previously linked values questionnaire for a breakdown of the distinction between values and goals. In the attached worksheet, we’ll approach identifying and narrowing political goals in a way that can facilitate a more sustainable effort.
Finally, consider doing these worksheets with a trusted friend and discuss ways you might be able to support one another in your efforts.