Abyss Staring – a beginners guide

And if you gaze for long into an abyss, the abyss gazes also into you

Nietzsche (Beyond Good and Evil: Prelude to a Philosophy of the Future (1886)

It’s a well known quote, subject (as all the best philosophy is) to a myriad of interpretations. In CEM, it has come to be shorthand for a state of despair arising from looking too long, or too deeply, at the state of the modern world. For some, the more you look, the more it’s possible to be buried under a torrent of negative emotions, to struggle with everyday life. Treading the fine line between being aware of, and confronting our global (and local) predicaments, but not allowing oneself to be dominated by them – is a difficult thing to do. And if you have fallen down the emotional rabbit hole, it can be even harder to get yourself out. So if you’re an activist, learning how to deal with these emotions, whether they relate to climate change, habitat destruction or anything else, is a valuable, nay vital skill, one that is very much part of the Active Citizenship Toolkit.

One person who went through a difficult time in this way is CEM supporter “Alice”, who took the time to collect her thoughts and experiences in the hope that they may help others. We’re providing them for you to download as a PDF here. We found it it to be thoughtful, kindly, and astutely observed, but not shrinking from the difficulties of being in such an emotional state.

If you’re really struggling, and we’ve opened a can of apocalyptic worms, please get help – preferably from a professional. There’s zero shame in that at all. We’re living in a very challenging time.

Some of the reading here may be of help in dealing with “big feelings”.


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