Community helps us get un-stuck & turns grief into action
How to resist sustainably & fight burnout or despair without "looking away"
It’s been over 5 weeks. We’ve been watching the most recent intensification of a >100 year long settler colonial occupation & genocide unfold on livestream. Video after video— countless people trapped under rubble, severed limb after limb, brutalized dead bodies, excruciating cries from the loved ones left behind, tens of thousands of people displaced, fleeing on foot as every place of refugee they uncover is bombed by Israel. The scale of suffering & devastation is unfathomable for many. For some, it is all too familiar.
Some people are stuck in a loop of grief & processing, others are being told to “look away” to avoid the grief altogether. Neither is sustainable.
Many people who were previously not as aware are now more informed. But what do you do with it all? What do you do with all the “awareness”, the pain, the sadness, the survivor’s guilt, the seemingly insurmountable heaviness? As people in Gaza are starving, I’m able to access food. As critically ill babies died after being removed from their NICU incubators when Israel cut electricity, I don’t even have to worry about electricity. Yes, it’s privilege and yes, it’s a lot to process but constantly processing and “feeling your feelings” can incapacitate you. So today I want to address two big questions:
A lot of folks in the global north are urging people to “look away” in some form as an act of “self-care”— is it really good for any of us? Of course, it is unjust to Palestinians. For the rest of us that are more insulated from overt violence, the long term impact of running away from holding collective grief, is that it blocks us from accessing collective joy.
If you have decided to look, witness the atrocities in Palestine & are stuck in a loop of despair— how can you go beyond just grieving and feeling “bad” about it all? How can you let what is happening in Palestine devastate you in a way that catalyzes sustainable action & transformation rather than paralyze you into despair & inaction?
Ultimately, the only way we can survive, sustainably resist oppression AND experience any joy or connection is by rooting into community. Palestinians and all communities resisting colonialism have showed us that even under crushing oppression, we are capable of experiencing immense happiness if we try to survive together, carry pain & fight back as a collective.
Side note: I am still doing 1 on 1 sessions but cut down to 1 sessio/ day (more on weekends) to also focus on organizing for Palestine sustainably. I am slowly catching up on emails. If you’d like to work thru distress, mental/ physical health, work, relational or life issues in general thru the political, ecological, culture lens of decolonized medicine— I’m still here.
Community helps us get un-stuck.
This is the moment to feel deeply, find your people, process in community, then get organized & MOBILIZE.
Whether we know it or not, we are intimately connected. There are devastating consequences to everyone the longer we pretend we are not. Isolation drives despair & keeps you stuck. It also blocks us from accessing true contentment and happiness that only stems from tending to the threads that connect us all.
Mainstream mental health systems will urge you to do the impossible— care for yourself by looking away from someone else’s distress.
I’ve observed how fragility is rampant, especially in the so-called “west”. Individualism has weakened people immeasurably. Isolation has cut people off from the very things we need to thrive— community & connection to our ecosystems. Alienation has made people un-resilient. People end up being stuck doing something for far too long— over processing feelings, over intellectualizing oppression in their heads, mobilizing rapidly/ intensely/ constantly only to burnout shortly after, avoiding emotional vulnerability in community while fixating on productivity even within activism, etc. It doesn’t help the individual and it surely doesn’t help the collective.