With social justice wins being attacked seemingly on all fronts in the US, it is normal to feel overwhelmed. If you’re feeling like it’s hopeless to fight back, you’re not alone.
It’s important to keep fighting the good fight, and stand up for the rights of the vulnerable. So what can you do to combat feelings of hopelessness?
In mental health, there is a technique called watching/labeling thoughts that I think social justice circles should adopt.
Next time you catch yourself thinking something unhelpful, like “x is hopeless,” tell yourself “I am thinking x is hopeless,” then add “I notice I am thinking x is hopeless.” Your mind will no doubt continue down the same train of thought, so just continue noticing the thoughts. “I notice I am thinking x will never get any better.” “I notice my mind is saying that it is useless to continue fighting for x.”
If the series of thoughts is recurring, give it a name. Each time you notice your mind on that train of thought, tell yourself: “My mind is telling me that “hopeless” story again.”
Practice doing this for a while and you’ll start to notice a difference in how you interact with those thoughts. Doing it helps to put distance between ourself and the unhelpful thoughts. With that distance, we are better able to take action based on what’s really important to us rather than being trapped by the thoughts.
But it’s not just thoughts — you feel hopeless. Noticing and labeling thoughts will help the feelings become more manageable. For particularly difficult feelings, though, there are other exercises you can try.
As social justice advocates, we know deep down that giving up is the wrong thing to do. But sticking to it can be overwhelming. Learning techniques from mental health can help us better handle the difficult times while staying committed to the struggle.