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Internal & External Activism

As eco-anxiety and eco-grief have taken hold of society in new ways over the last few years, the tendency to prescribe action as a tool to beat the feelings back has grown. But climate-aware psychotherapist Caroline Hickman argues there’s a danger lurking in that sentiment. It’s a shortcut - a too-quick move from pain to action - and it threatens to leave people far less resilient and capable of facing the ecological crisis than they ought to be. 


Hickman says we need to not only grow up in the climate crisis by cultivating our imaginative, creative, determined and hopeful capacities, we also need to grow down by building our tolerance for fear, depression, anger, guilt, shame, and anxiety. After all, life in a human and planetary heatlh emergency is not a straight linear progression. There are uplifting wins and more often, crushing losses. We need to be able to flexibly bear both by growing up and growing down, so that as we move forward in life, we become deeper human beings.


We all need to process some of the distressing feelings that comes with our life-threatening ecological reality, learn how to fold them into our lives, and harness them as strength. This is what Hickman calls “internal activism”, and it is just as important as “external activism” - the more conventional kind.  

External activism on its own is not the antidote to despair; acknowledging and working with your feelings as well as connecting with others who share them, alongside taking action, is. In other words, internal activism leads to more sustainable and effective external activism.

Intenal Activsm


Climate activism today looks far more diverse than only protesting and civil disobedience. It can be a part of teaching, farming, care work, entrepreneurship, art making, storytelling, tech, heck, even working in insurance. Because climate change touches everything, we can also address it from wherever we’re already standing. As the climate-aware psychotherapist Dan Rubin explains “I think we think of activism with a way too narrow lens, and that excludes a lot of people. That was my problem when I was getting started. I was like, I don’t want to go to marches, I don't want to go to meetings, I don’t have that much time, I have little kids. Then I realized, oh wait a minute I’m already doing this trauma work, surely climate can be included. Why not?”

We need everyone to find their anchor point to the movement. We’re so glad you’re here.

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