Feeling Down About The World? Rise Up!

| Educate!

Above Photo: Alex/Wikimedia Commons

Many people are quite legitimately feeling down about the state of the world right now.

We are dealing with the United Nations climate report that confirms we only have a dozen years left to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius, then there’s the rise of fascism, the misery that led to the migrant caravan, the cynical right-wing vilification of that caravan, and numerous other wrongs that we either directly experience or see on a daily basis via our social media feeds (or both).

There can also be a devastating feeling that we are powerless to change any of these deep injustices.

Here are some thoughts on how to cope with some of this:

1. You’re right and you’re not alone.

The world is a pretty messed-up place. It’s likely good to acknowledge that and not deny what we are feeling. Feelings are a big part of what make us human! It’s also likely good to know that many of us are feeling the same way. On the hopeful side, the disillusionment we feel can also be an important catalyst toward resolving to fight smarter and harder. If we allow those feelings and take the time to mourn, then maybe it’s possible to organize in an even more powerful way.

2. Step in, step back.

To cope with all this, it may be helpful to acknowledge that there are times when we will need to step back and ground ourselves and that there will be times when we feel stronger and are more able to step back into the fight. It may be helpful to see this as a repeating pattern, as natural as waves. Someone also once told me that fighting for social justice is a marathon, not a sprint and to adjust my pace accordingly in order to avoid burnout.

3. No choice.

It may also help to work through feelings of despair by acknowledging that many have no choice but to struggle. It is important to recognize that it’s another whole level of struggle if a pipeline is about to run through your territory, if a poisonous refinery is already there, if you lack clean drinking water, if your employment is precarious, and if you experience oppression because of your skin colour, gender and sexuality. This is where acknowledgement of privilege and a commitment to genuine solidarity can be so important in getting everyone through these times.

4. Find your place in the revolution.

There can also be the feeling of not knowing where to start, not knowing where to turn (is meeting with my MP going to change things?), ineffectiveness (did signing that petition really accomplish anything?), and even feeling let down by our own traditional institutions of change. There are no easy answers to any of this other than to take the time to find out for yourself what makes sense to you and what gives you some measure of satisfaction and feeling of effectiveness. That time of reflection and settling on an approach that is meaningful to you can be important in sustaining your fight-back.

5. Find hope.

Hope can be found in an experience, in a person, in an inspiring story about an act of resistance, in a book, in music, in a quote, in a vision, in a dream, and many other places. I’ve recently found hope in science fiction author Ursula Le Guin’s quote: “We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable — but then, so did the divine right of kings.”

I’m not a psychologist, or an elder, just someone thinking through the question of how to cope and wanting to help some friends who are feeling down.

This clearly isn’t a complete list on how to cope with the world, it’s just the beginning of one among many discussions of this.

I’m sure there is a lot of collective wisdom out there that would help all of us. Please add your thoughts in the comments section below.

And remember: “Keep your eyes on the prize, hold on.”


  • mwildfire

    Years ago, someone at an environmental conference said something, a metaphor I use–sometimes you’re down in the ditch of despair and you need help getting out. Other times, someone else is in the ditch and it;s your turn to help them. This piece is an exercise in helping people out of that ditch, except that it isn’t personal, it isn’t one-on-one. One of the most important functions of the organizations and coalitions we join is that when it’s our turn in the ditch, there is someone to help.
    One of my mantras for encouragement is that we don’t know future history. There could be some kind of amazing black swan right around the corner that will Change Everything, as 9/11 was said to have done. But it’s important to be on our toes. My husband watches and plays tennis, and I used to wonder why the champs are bouncing, moving all the time–doesn’t that waste energy? But he says it’s easier to respond quickly to an incoming ball if you’re in motion. We need to find what it means for us to be in motion, to be ready to respond to an unpredictable event that could give us an opening.
    Something that helped me a lot was a pair of science fiction novels by Connie Willis, Blackout and All Clear, set in World War II England–but the main characters are all time traveling historical researchers from the 2060’s. They helped me to finally learn that, contrary to so many other novels–it is never “all down to one man” to save the universe, it doesn’t work that way. If we are to defeat the Nazis, to use the metaphor of those novels, it’s going to take literally millions of people all contributing their bit. And we don’t get to know what we did that made a difference, it’s all too complex for that.
    On a more bitter note, I recommend David Holmgren’s controversial Collapse on Demand, for those who see the environmental crises as primary. Google it, it’s a long essay online.

  • Jo Hayward-haines

    A connection – wrong word, deep affinity – for nature, the very Earth we live on, keeps the context big enough for complex concepts and whirling emotions to inter-relate. We can learn from the ecosystems we live in. A concrete example is the ultra Monarch run that will be following the Monarch butterfly route from Peterborough, Ontario to Mexico – to save that beautiful species from extinction and, since we are inter-related, to keep our crops pollinated. The context – life itself- is vividly articulated in Frijof Capra’s book, “The Web of Life”.