Got Passion Fatigue?!

‘The reason why people give up so fast is because they tend to look at how far they still have to go, instead of how far they have gotten’

~Ritu Ghatoury

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In the words of Kid Cudi, “It’s true that pain makes people change.”

The life of an organizer can be really challenging at times. Between the daily dumpster fire we witness on social media, to the vicarious trauma and frustration we may sometimes experience fighting broken systems and not being able to help in the ways that we’d like with the vulnerable populations we work with.

It can be a lot to take in and our bodies and minds aren’t always feeling it.

There’s a multi-billion dollar self-help industry out there that is designed to shame us when we give up. It never takes into account the reality that some of our ideas and approaches to advocacy may no longer be useful, may have been stretched beyond capacity, or we’ve simply outgrown our understanding of the issue in ways that force us to question whether the approaches we’ve signed up for are the most effective.

If we aren’t prepared for this level of fatigue or need for redirection, we can spiral down a rabbit hole and across a spectrum of emotions which deprive us of any sense of joy and accomplishment we may used to feel, leaving us begging the question “how in the world did I even get here (in this circumstance that I don’t consent to)?!”

The most ubiquitous experience of this that we can all seem to relate to is when we find ourselves inadvertently fighting with strangers over civil rights issues on the internet.

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Even the most well-meaning comment, intended to de-escalate and spread hope can force us to navigate landmines of callouts and questioning our willingness to engage with the work — to be in an environment where the motives of would-be advocates are questioned by those with painful histories and experiences you may have not included in the overall context.

These triggers can stimulate our fight, flight, or backpeddle mode. The adrenaline can leave us feeling defensive and shaky especially when unexpected conflict puts our relationships on the line.

For those who have become quite literate in the language of loss and deprivation, of unapologetic resistance, disassociation that vulnerable populations experience, adrenal triggers can hardwire pain (both physical and psychological),can fatigue our adrenals, or create a state of learned helplessness.

And we want to be very clear, it is the stance of the NeuroTrust to acknowlege that the pain and associated barriers people experience are real.

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We all process pain differently, but each individual’s sensitivity to pain is modulated in the same parts of the brain called the amygdala and nocireceptors that create the stress reactions we experience. So, whether it’s emotional tension or physical trauma our minds process that source of pain in the same part of our brain that decides whether to shut down or stick out the painful experience in order to survive.

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The good news is, that there is also a section of the brain, and we’ll discuss that a bit later, that sends relaxation signals to help ease that tension when we trigger it.

One helpful exercise that we like to encourage is to redirect participants attention in order to:

  • reflect upon the outcomes they would like to see,
  • have them identify where they may have outgrown their goal and
  • assess when it may be appropriate to take next steps forward.

Tell us about any progress you’ve made on a goal you’re working toward. What made it worth working toward? What’s driving you now? Inertia? Is it personally meaningful? Have you noticed any signs (or triggers) of fatigue?

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How can grown ups make sense of their emotions?

Adulting…

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Image Credit: Etsy

Occasionally there are times when even seasoned role-models find themselves in the predicament where

what they really need is someone to help them make sense of their experiences and the fallout of the resulting (often very complex) emotions.

In the primary education system, children receive collective oversight from caretakers who are available to track and monitor their self regulation, social, and emotional literacy skills.

Children who display at-risk behaviors are provided free access to adults who are trained in crisis intervention, how to distinguish between cultural, special needs, emotional literacy indicators, and risk prevention strategies.

These mentors provide individualized education plan (or IEP) to provide students with access to the language to help them make sense of what they feel so that they can then identify which coping skills will help them attain the outcomes they will need to rebound when they encounter adverse experiences.

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Image Credit: Pinterest

These interventions make a HUGE difference.

And given that emotional literacy skills are a relatively new concept in education, it’s no wonder that

the same kinds of adults who grew up only to mirror the reactive behaviors they saw modeled by their parents can’t have benign conversations about the color of Starbucks coffee cups during the holidays

— let alone a non-threatening discourse over how to manage equitable access to resources for things like healthcare, education, and basic infrastructural needs life food, housing,  who gets access to nuclear codes, etc.

 

So let’s do a little bit of an exercise for a moment:

How are you feeling right now?

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Image Credit: Kimochis

Did that last statement change the way you experienced this content? What did you notice about the sensations in your body?

Take a little moment to think about it for a moment.

There are lots of avenues you could take to cultivate your observational awareness incl.

  • When was the last time you felt that particular emotion?
  • Is it a feeling you experience often?
  • What was your earliest memory of that emotion?

But we’re not going to dig too deep here.

It’s important to work with appropriate boundaries outside of a clinical setting.

We’re often forced into conversations that are poorly facilitated or just not appropriate for a trauma-informed discourse and may find ourselves juggling the emotional labor of placating others in order to appear palatable — in addition to managing our own reactions.  When we’re blindsided with triggering information, we may not have the capacity to unpack or even identify all of the complex emotions we may experience.

We each have different thresholds for what we’re able and willing to tap into, and it’s generally not responsible to knowingly activate triggers without knowing that participants have the tools to respond with an appropriate coping mechanism.

Learning how to identify sensations and the language we need to communicate our boundaries and needs is one of the most liberating things we can do for ourselves and our interpersonal relationships.

 

What did you notice about this exercise?

Tell us about your experience in the comments section below:

Did you notice any sensations in your body?

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Image source: Women’s Health

To read more (or get more resources) please click here….

Facing Forward

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I attended a very well managed meeting today where a local community organizer attempted to facilitate a conversation to help her constituents make sense of

a) what they were feeling after the election

b) what strategies they had implemented to take care of their physical and psychological health

c) discuss how the election results would impact their advocacy work and funding in the state of Kentucky (which had just lost both Democratic seats).

And she nailed it.

Never underestimate the power of people who are trained to help you make sense of things…

Aside from having the advantage of being registered as a 504c3 organization, in addition to a 501c3, she had a an incredible program management toolbox, which she used to keep the chapter on task and moving forward in a strategic manner.

She did an excellent job of making sure that everyone had the opportunity to get their needs acknowledged, by asking these five things:

  1. How are you feeling?
  2. What have you been doing for self care after the election?
  3. What were some of the contributions and other successes that we should remember to celebrate?
  4. What challenges do we have ahead of us?
  5. Where are some opportunity areas (or action steps) we can work on in which we believe we can move the needle forward?

Caretakers often have a very difficult task, especially during times when others are shell shocked by adversity.

My personal go-to for inspiration and/or reappraisal is Vicktor Frankl. But I’m also a huge fan of Rabbi Abraham Twerski.

But I also think that Fred Rogers was probably the most ubiquitous public figure who was visibly equipped to help others make sense of complex or frightening things:

TW: violence, children

Wow…

That’s kind of a lot to process.

So let’s do a little exercise:

We’ll get into the science of why well-equipped caretakers are so critical to ANY recovery process a little bit later.

Why would we ever want to incentivize making ourselves feel worse?

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Is there a way to reduce negative emotions?

Is this notion that we should hide or reduce negative emotions even a healthy expectation?

Can those kind of beliefs diminish our personal self esteem?

Can this belief be used to diminish the regard we have for others? Are those expectations, in autocratic environments culturally insensitive?

when you believe
that your needs matter
less than
those of the group
that your emotions have little importance
your needs hold less value compared to others
you are more less likely to understand
(at least at an emotional level)
the emotions you are having
and how they’re connected
how they differ
and their associations to previous histories, or faulty narratives in your life…

How are you coping today?

One important piece to note: is that the idea that you can immediately switch to logic is a bit inconsistent with neurobiology.

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What you CAN do, however, is get to a place of (physical and psychological) safety.

This is one of the reasons why communities are so important.

Friends and family may not always share your core values, but if you can build a community around the values that you share, you can turn to those folks during times of adversity.

Encourage one another to look after your health and bringing out the best in each other — it will be MUCH easier to respond to adversity strategically than to react.
So get out there and find your tribe.

Envisioning Safe Spaces

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When you think of the phrase, ‘safe space’ what images or memories does that evoke for you?

In our previous post, Mechanical Marvels and the Art of Savoring we briefly discussed the advantages of developing a savoring practice, but we haven’t really delved into the importance that having dedicated spaces where you can feel physically and psychologically safe.

The environments and people we interact with can have a critical influence on your state of mental health. If you don’t feel safe or free to process your emotions in an environment that is free and safe from additional stress triggers and judgments it doesn’t just sap you of your own mental energy, it also erodes your capacity for trust, forbearance, and impacts the energy that you bring to your community.

Neuroscientists believe that the brain is the organ that learns, which means that it is designed to be altered by experiences we imprint into our subconscious.

Day after day, our minds are taking in information that is building and shaping our brains and even the fundamental makeup of our DNA.

In a world which we may not always be able to shield ourselves from triggering inputs, the research that supports this scientific insight posits the possibility that we can, at the very least, manage the way we respond to adversity by creating spaces where we can make sense of what we encounter, and deconstruct our options for how to best to approach moving forward with the information we take in.

But there’s one catch!

We can’t accurately process that information when our minds are triggered to shut down our higher order thinking decision making processes. And stress activation in the brain creates an entire physiological network of responses that are designed to stop us in our tracks, quickly detect potential threats, and get us out of the situation creating the inputs that potentially threaten our safety.

It’s an evolutionary mechanism.

In fact, Neuroscientist, Dr. Rick Hanson, like many other notable cognitive researchers, uses the metaphor of a garden to describe the human mind.

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Image Credit: Kidlutions.com

Hanson suggests that when you find yourself faced with mental afflictions or triggering stimuli, you have a couple of options:

You could simply observe what you notice, about how your mind responds to the information it takes in, as an observer looks at weeds and flowers without judging or changing anything. The observer simply takes notice and bears witness to the stimuli and how one’s attention to this stimuli changes.

Alternatively, you could take on the laborious task of trying to weed out negative thoughts, to deconstruct and pull aspects of one’s mind apart trying to make sense of each intrusive element, which can leave the observer preoccupied, physiologically drained, and disoriented without the right support system or end goal in mind.

Many researchers have found that the process of weeding negative thoughts, often forces the observer to amplify  the triggers, creating more symptoms of physiological and psychological reactivity.

If you keep resting your mind upon self-criticism, worries, grumbling about others, hurts, and stress, then your brain will be shaped into greater reactivity, vulnerability to anxiety and depressed mood, a narrow focus on threats and losses, and inclinations toward anger, sadness, and guilt.

More recently, researchers have begin to advocate for an alternative approach, positive psychology, which leverages the brain’s neuroplasticity and ability to acquire and imprint new information to help clients to improve their personal quality of life.

Or, as Hanson describes, “You could pull weeds by decreasing what’s negative in your mind. Or, you could grow flowers by increasing the positive in your mind.”

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Having a dedicated space, whether it be a tangible location, set of transportable artifacts, or personal ritual is essential for repairing the afflicted mind.

That being said, we want to hear from you! What kinds of artifacts, rituals, and physical spaces evoke a sense of comfort and reassurance for you?