Allowing yourself to really care about climate change can be a liberating experience: suddenly all the energy used to "not think about it" becomes available for action. However, being brave enough to face the climate science facts can trigger fear, anger, sadness and even emptiness and despair. Self-care strategies need to be in place to avoid 'burning out'. Support from others can be part of your self-care, but your family and friends may not want to hear 'inconvenient truths', and counselling/psychotherapy can be expensive.
Have you ever considered forming a Peer Support Group? Coming together on a regular basis with a small group of others who are prepared to engage with climate change can be a good way to prevent yourself from being overwhelmed by the size of this challenge. This kind of self-care is inexpensive - meeting at one another's homes, taking pot-luck meals, and taking it in turns around a circle to check in. As trust builds in a group like this, it can be tremendously helpful to your sustainability as an engaged citizen or activist.
The Story of a Support Group
In the early 90's I attended a Council of All Beings workshop lead by Australian rainforest activist John Seed in a Buddhist retreat centre west of Sydney. Participants of the workshop were guided through a series of experiential processes that enabled us to share our deep caring in a safe community. After this experience, a small group of us, with some of our friends, decided we wanted to form a support group to keep alive the sense of empowerment that the workshop had given us.
Our group, meeting about once a month in one another's homes, became our "Earth Support Group", and it enriched our lives for nearly ten years. We did not have a leader, and the group functioned very organically. We developed an opening and closing ritual, illustrated on the T-shirt design below. To open the group, seated in a circle, we would ground our hands on the "earth", then onto our self (heart and belly), then gesture toward "spirit" and finally join hands to each other. To close the group we would perform the same four gestures in the reverse order.
In addition to our regular sharing circle, we created several group projects through the years. We designed and facilitated our own Council of All Beings workshops at various conferences, and even adapted the structure (from Joanna Macy and John Seed) to our own Towards Creative Reconciliation workshop. The group eventually came to an end after several of us left the 'big smoke', but it had enriched our lives for many years.
Support Groups using the Arts
Sharing in your support group using words can be the most comfortable way to start, but sometimes it is hard to describe feelings in words of conversation. Your support group may wish to experiment with approaches which incorporate arts modalities such as drawing, mask making, poetry, song writing, drumming, dance or drama.
You never push yourself into arts that don't feel safe (your "NO WAY" zone), but you do use arts that are on your "growing edges" - things that you've always wanted to try but aren't in your "comfort zone". You use the arts to explore themes like "my life journey", "what I care about", "my roots" and "my resources".
Sometimes an art-work that has unfolded playfully from a place of "not knowing" can give you a gift of insight beyond words alone. You can find resilience and resourcefulness in yourself when you began with overwhelm or confusion. The arts have always been a way to grapple with the big mysteries of life, and using the arts can add a rich dimension to your support group.
Help to get started
If you would like some coaching and guidance in forming your climate change support group, I can see you individually or facilitate the first few meetings of your support group to share my experience and some arts-based methods to get you going. I will ask you or your group to make a donation that feels appropriate.
I am also holding an Active Hope group through Mosman Community College in October 2015 which will introduce participants to some arts and body-based resources to support engaging with climate change, and possibly lead into an ongoing support group.