In my last post, we looked at why so many of us are feeling frozen as national events unfold, and what's going on beneath our paralysis.
We examined the internal battle that many of us are tied up in, and recognized that this particular battle doesn't belong inside us. It has a source in the external world, and that's where our energy belongs.
Today, I'm talking about how to get unstuck and engage in meaningful action that's right for you.
So let's jump in!
How do we get this battle out from inside us?
My answer is through Protest. Now, not everyone has access to traditional protest. Some of us don’t currently have the health, the emotional stamina, or the economic privilege needed to exert energy in that direction.
So, let’s move beyond a narrow definition of protest and break down what what it actually is:
1. Protest is saying “no.” It’s articulating through words or actions, “This is not acceptable.” There is something about saying no to someone outside ourselves that dislodges the battle from within and directs it where it belongs.
2. Protest releases fear & outrage. When we confront the source of our fear and outrage, a release happens that metabolizes our pent-up feelings.
3. Protest transforms dread into determination. Protest is a ritual that reorganizes things inside. As we stand up— through whatever action feels congruent— again and again against what’s unacceptable, the less dread we feel, and the more we feel rooted in grounded determination. Protest transforms helplessness into agency and purpose.
4. There is power in being angry at the right things. Anger gets a bit of a bad rap these days: We’re focused on the ways resentment can be toxic and bad for our health. But directing justified anger at its source— being angry at the right things— can lead to a sense of profound power and agency. In fact, far from just being a negative emotion, anger is the language of outraged compassion.
How to find your form of protest
It’s deeply important to start with whatever form of protest you have access to. So, take a moment to check in with yourself: Are you ready for publicly demonstrative protest? Does even looking at the news or thinking about calling your government representatives make your stomach drop?
Begin with a small step, not an action that feels like a skydive.
If we adopt the fallacy that we’re not really doing our part unless we’re marching in the streets, we bring the battle back inside ourselves, and we’re caught in that internal wrestling match about what we “should” be doing, instead of gently finding the modes of protest that are manageable.
Because there’s another side to protest
Protest is saying “no,” but it carries another, equally powerful quality.
Protest is also the affirmation and enjoyment of the very things that are being threatened.
Protest is anything that affirms our humanity in the face of a dehumanizing government.
Think about the things you hold dear that are under attack right now— the things you want to continue to affirm as your mode of resistance and subversion.
I’ve made a little list of possible forms of protest, meant to spark your imagination as you feel your way into what's right-fit for you:
- Donating money to refugees, the legal battle against the immigration ban, or any number of organizations and action groups that now stand threatened.
- Sitting under a tree, putting your hand on its trunk, and letting the tears come.
- Tending with care to your body in a time when attitudes of objectification prevail from our highest elected official.
- Leaning into your intuition as a stand against the fear and panic that are being generated.
- Working with the earth in your garden.
- Continuing to affirm attitudes of compassion and curiosity in your children.
- Your mode of protest can simply be lifting up whatever is endangered, holding it close, and refusing to back down from it. This, too, is protest.
And something surprising happens when we engage in whatever small way we have access to: We find that we gradually gain access to more.
As our emotions unlock and a sense of agency grows, we find that it’s only a small step, rather than a big leap, to increasing engagement and meaningful action.
Our self care truly does become world care.