Right now, there are a large number of people scared and in pain. Many of them are actively expressing their pain in emotionally intense ways and want others to feel their pain. Of those, some will be upset that others are in less pain than them and lash out at anyone who is unwilling to feel their pain. If you have enough space and spoons for yourself and can spare some to feel the pain of others, please do, others will appreciate it. If you are exhausted or otherwise do not have the spoons to feel their pain, it is perfectly acceptable to take time away from others who are in pain to do self care. It is incredibly difficult to constantly feel the pain of others and attempting to do so without rest will lead the vast majority of people to burnout.
Filtering through the messages from those around you to find specific actions you can take to reduce their pain is a happy medium between being perpetually stressed and in pain because others are in pain and isolating yourself and saying “fuck you, I’ve got mine”. One example from the current situation is passports for trans people. Under the next administration, it will likely become significantly harder to get passports with correct gender markers so helping fund passports for trans people is a small way to help which will have a disproportionate impact. Filtering for places where there are actions to be taken has the benefit of filtering out pain related to uncertainty and focusing on the most concrete threats where you can actively help. Uncertainty can lead to useful contingency planning, but past a certain point, there are no actions which can be taken until more information is acquired and the situation is clarified. Efficiently using your spoons means saving enough energy to effectively implement your contingency plans to help yourself and others if the situation requires it.
One of the biggest principles of being able to help others is that if you break, you cannot help anyone, including yourself. A friend once told us “Being a healer is a tricky business. Too little healing and you are too broken to heal anything. Too much healing and you lose touch with that which you are trying to heal.” To be able to help others, is is often necessary to feel their pain, otherwise, you may be too out of touch with their needs to be able to provide assistance. At the same time, you need to take care of yourself otherwise you will burn out and be too emotionally exhausted to help anyone.
Our method is to take care of ourselves first and prioritize self care above all and always be watching for places where helping others will be most efficient. A large part of creating a sustainable path through life for ourselves has been recognizing what we can and can’t do and making sure we do not push ourselves beyond our limits and end up breaking ourselves. In the current situation, we have taken the stance that our spoons will be spent much more efficiently once more concrete threats materialize and there are clear actions to take to help others. We recognize that it is important to feel the pain of others, but also recognize that attempting to comfort others’ fears about nebulous threats can be a black hole of our spoons. Instead, we take the approach of hoping for the best and planning for the worst, making contingency plans for what could be, but focusing far more on what is than what could be. In this way, we will ensure we are able to help at every step of the way rather than burning out and being unable to help anyone.