Activism & ... Feeling Overwhelmed

IssueDecember 2014 - January 2015

That just makes me think of... nearly everybody. You feel like activism isn’t something you choose to do, it’s somethig you have to do. You’re thinking of the outcome rather than clocking in and clocking out. So there’s no obvious place to stop or to end; so that’s when it can be easy to be overwhelmed. That happens quite often to people I know.

Where I live, it would be good to find ways to make it into a place where people can go to recover. I see that as one of the main reasons for this place – not that we’ve reached that stage.

For me, I suppose that’s why I try and keep my home separate, and it’s nice to go home and recover, rather than getting overwhelmed.

It reminds me of the idea that activism has three strands: head, heart and hands. The head is thinking, writing, theories, arguments, press releases, interviews, publishing. And then you’ve got hands: doing things, direct action, demos, making things, being the change.

And then you’ve got ‘heart’ and that’s the one most people forget about, according to where I got this from, Starhawk or one of those books – I should try and find it again – ‘heart’ you need as much as the other two: taking care of each other, taking human considerations, is this campaign too much for people? How do we make sure that no one’s getting left behind or hurt or offended?

You probably need a person on each strand or thinking on each strand, rather than trying to take on all three by yourself, otherwise that could be a way to be overwhelmed too.

Or concentrate on one strand for a while then move on.

Woman C, 20s

Activism and feeling overwhelmed? That’s a very common sensation for a great many activists.

I seem to be in a minority as someone who’s never suffered a major burnout. It’s probably because – I don’t know – I guess I’m very bad at lots of time management but I’m evidently very good at pacing myself. As a result, I’m always disappointed with what I can fit into one day or one lifetime but at least I can keep doing it!

Man B, 30s

I’m probably not the right person to ask, because I’m not so involved in peace activism now. When I use the word ‘activism’, I’d struggle to apply it to myself. Burnt-out yes, but activist... I’d struggle. I do ‘service’; but I’m not sure about ‘activism’. If you ask about ‘service and feeling overwhelmed’, what comes to mind is.... In terms of service, other people not getting it and you feeling you’re being taken for, not for a ride. You wonder why you’re doing it.

When you’re stretched and you keep on doing it, there’s a bit of you that can feel you’re not being appreciated, you’re being taken for granted.

An incident occurred at a project; a family turned up and were critical.... I’d been working hard, doing extra work and not getting paid for it, I felt – my projection was – that the guy just didn’t get it; I’m putting time into this and not getting paid for it. It grated.

I suppose it’s about not being seen. When you’re overwhelmed or stretched and when what you’re doing isn’t seen, it is difficult.

When you’re overstretched, you’re too tired and you can’t see the positives. The other side of it, I suppose, is – this weekend we had a workday up there, networking, families, people getting together, mutual support while working on the site, right at the end I was chatting to someone – when you get the warm bits back.

Man A, 40s

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