The Importance of Emotional Wellbeing in Cultural and Societal Change
Over this year my heart has broken over and over for all the suffering in the world. I reached a point in the middle of the week where the world’s problems sat very heavily on my shoulders (not for the first time this year). This significantly affected my emotional health and wellbeing this week. In the short term it is absolutely right that it did. However, when this gets to the point where I become so overwhelmed and struggle to function this does no one any good. This impact on my emotional health and wellbeing cannot continue in the long term. This is important for my personal wellbeing but as importantly I must be able to function in doing my part to bring about change. Contributing to cultural and societal change is a long term journey, one that needs many people to play their part and it is important that we all look after ourselves within this journey.
I decided I needed to find a way to continue to hold the values of care and compassion that are very dear to me but at the same time demonstrate self care and self compassion. There has to be balance.
A useful tool in mapping out how my care and compassion can be balanced with self care and compassion is circles of control model adapted from Covey.
I spent some time mapping out what I can control, what I can influence, and what is outside of my control and more difficult to change.
This blog on circles of control is really useful, as are the worksheets.
My initial thoughts are below, using model adapted from Covey at the beginning of this article, to reframe to being more proactive than reactive, to make the suffering of the world less overwhelming and more manageable.
In every endeavour I shall love my neighbour. Regardless of colour, race, faith, belief, sexuality, gender, ability or disability, class, those in favour and those out of favour, I shall love my neighbour.
I will continually reflect on my values, attitudes, behaviours and the way my behaviours may be perceived. I shall be the same in private as I am in public. I will reflect on how I use power when I lead and when I am led. I will make every effort to use the power I have for good. I recognise that I have not always got it right and recognise that in all likelihood there will be times that I will still not get it right. I will reflect and learn, seek forgiveness where I have wronged others and most importantly change where necessary.
In every opportunity I am given I will listen to, learn from and reflect on others experiences.
Whilst I cannot change my past behaviours, values and attitudes I can reflect, learn and change where necessary.
For my own sanity I recognise that I am one voice, one person and cannot take the on the worlds burdens. I will however be part of the solution and not part of the problem. I will love myself as I love my neighbour and expect to be treated as I treat others.
In every opportunity I will challenge well (maintaining dignity, value and respect in others) where I see abuse and harm, injustice, misogyny, sexism, racism, homophobia, intolerence of faith, classism, entitlement and elitism. I will challenge this whether this is individual or institutional. I will ensure that in addressing injustice that injustice is not mirrored or caused for others.
I will encourage, empower and support others to voice their experience and to challenge well.
I will aim to be the best example I can be in how I live and interact with others. I will challenge well and where I disagree I will disagree well. I will always maintain the dignity and value in others. I will always treat others with respect.
Where I have little or no control
I will regularly reflect on what I can control and influence, and those things that I can’t control, I will let go. This is something that requires a lot of work and requires me to be intentional.
Another useful exercise here is the worry decision tree.
A key question is can I do anything about the problem? If I can what action can I take? If I cannot do anything, how can I change the focus of my attention?
We need to be kind to ourselves in recognising change is a process and incremental, takes time, takes the effort of many, and needs a critical mass to become ingrained.
If we are to achieve the changes that are necessary in our culture, society and communities then we have to be in this for the long term. To be in this for the long term we have to look after our emotional health and wellbeing and this takes self care and compassion as well as care and compassion for others. It also takes a realism that some things are beyond our control and influence. We have to focus on what we can control and influence and if enough of us do this in the long term cultural and societal change is not only possible but inevitable.