||CHAPTER 7: PERSONAL INTEGRATION VS. BURNOUT||Page 20|
To sustain the struggle, activists must share the burden of political responsibility with other people in their organizations - developing relationships of mutual support. Otherwise, the whole "burden of the world" seems to sit on their shoulders alone, and eventually the stress becomes too much for a single individual to take. Apparently, this is what caused Helen Caldicott to announce, at the 1985 national conference of WAND, that she was retiring from her active leadership of the organization she had founded:
I've been working for 16 years....travelling all the time, sleeping in strange beds, giving two or three speeches in a day, dealing with the press all day, having to give a speech and arouse an audience enough to make them cry and change their lives that night or that day. I dream about it every night, as I'm sure many of you do. And I wake up in a cold sweat, frightened, anxious, guilty. I feel the whole world is on my shoulders. Well, that's right. I should feel that, but I'm sinking into it. I'm drowning in it. I have to stop.
"Burnout" is not just the absence of the feeling of social support, but it is also a particular psychological state that may deepen by degrees into depression with inactivity, disaffiliation, despair, debauchery, guilt, exhaustion, nervous and physical illness. All of these symptoms are described by Dorothy Day in her description of her "long loneliness." The psychological processes by which the phases of depression lead deeper and deeper, like a vicious circle, are not yet well understood scientifically. No doubt, as I have written in a technical article, they include profound hormone changes that transform the entire physiological response to social situations.
In describing her "long loneliness," Dorothy Day is quite explicit about the social causes and the integrative cure that was needed:
I was lonely, deadly lonely. And I was to find out then, as I found out so many times, over and over again, that women especially are social beings, who are not content with just husband and family, but must have a community, a group, an exchange with others.
"Just husband" for Dorothy Day was Forster, with whom she had a common law marriage and a child named Tamar. But Forster did not support her activity, because he was an anarchist whose anger was turned inward rather than being used to stimulate action (see quotation on page 12). Finally, Dorothy Day met Peter Maurin and together they built the kind of community she was looking for. Maurin aroused "a sense of your own capacities for work, for accomplishment." Maurin called it "a synthesis of 'cult, culture, and cultivation.'" For Dorothy Day, it meant the synthesis of all her past actions and affiliations: social activism, journalistic work, a family, and Roman Catholic affiliation.
Personal integration provides not only practical support, but it also produces an enriching and rewarding psychological transformation. By integrating each new affiliation with their previous networks of personal relationships and group affiliations, King, Debs, and Day (after meeting Maurin) were able to grow not just in public stature and strength, but also in private individuality. They were not "swallowed up" by their new affiliations and did not lose their individuality in any nightmare such as the fear of "enthusiastic crowds" that prevented Bertrand Russell from taking the step of affiliation. Instead, through affiliations they developed even more unique personalities.
When organizations such as religious and political cults discourage the personal integration of their members, they contribute to the myth that affiliation requires persons to lose their individuality. The extreme case is the depersonalization process of the U.S. Army by which they "break in" new recruits by stripping them of all personal relationships and affiliations and putting them into a standard uniform.
Many religious and political cults that have sprung up in recent years engage in similar depersonalization procedures. There is a danger that organizations in the peace movement may adopt such methods which, in the long run, weaken rather than strengthen the new recruits. For example, there was Muste's dream for the "Comradeship" that envisioned "the formation of a band of evangels, patterned partly after the original Christians....cut loose....from the existing order.... dressing uniformly (though not 'too much like a military uniform or clerical dress') to symbolize their internal unity and their repudiation of the world." It is not surprising, given such a vision, that Muste later in life fell victim to sectarianism, in which his analysis became narrow and out of touch with the historical movement of the times.
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