Threshold Effects, Stress, and “Alt-Right” Tactics

4 min read

Today’s stress passed a threshold effect for me, making me physically ill. And that’s how I realized the alt-right [1] is doing that to all of us… on purpose.

It wasn’t that any one bit of stress today was particularly bad. The weather change really increased my baseline pain level from a two to a five today (that’s a bigger change than you probably think). There were a few challenging clients at work. I’ve got some stressful things to think about as my contract (and current employment) draws closer to completion. The emotional whipsaw of looking forward to reconnecting to people back home and the oncoming pain from possibly losing connections I have made here. Some other things that aren’t worth writing down. And, topping it all off, that we live in these times, along with worries about what very likely is coming next.

Each of those wouldn’t be enough to pass the threshold effect for me. I have entirely too much experience with life stressors lately. I would notice each of them, certainly, but I would still be functional. I would not get physically ill from that stress and worry.

But together, they were enough.

That’s when a very smart woman sent me this text:

"You are not responsible for fixing everything and everyone. You are only responsible for what you are actually able to do. Nothing more, nothing less."

For me, that was the key. That was the mental crowbar I needed to start disassembling that pile of stress and worry.

That pile of stress and worry started as a looming mass I couldn’t do anything about, paralyzing me under its weight. But after that realization/reminder, even though it was still the same … volume? … of worries and stress, it wasn’t all on my shoulders.

Suddenly, I wasn’t spending all my mental energy trying to balance everything at once. I finally had the mental energy to actually start doing something about those stressors and worries and problems.

You probably have figured out how this applies to the right wing and alt-right [1] by now.

Everything is awful. Our rights are being stripped away or are explicitly threatened based on what body parts you have or who you love or how you see yourself. The climate, where even to begin with the climate? The economy and the consequences of end-stage capitalism? That’s a textbook of horrors, my friends. The ever-lengthening litany of names of BiPoC humans gunned down by police, while white mass shooters get a pass from their connections and the color of their skin. Modern brownshirt-wannabes assault people at brunch and libraries. No matter what SCOTUS rulings you’re aware of from the last month, there’s probably at least one other that makes things even worse. And that’s before we start talking about regional or local injustice, things I just haven’t mentioned, or structural inequity and privilege…

Feel overwhelmed? That is on purpose. It is designed to leave us feeling ineffectual. It is meant to make us feel overwhelmed. To feel helpless.

But we know that simply is not true.

Though the challenges are great, we are not helpless at all.

They are full of it. They want you to feel helpless, because they are scared of what we can do, each of us doing the best we can, where we can.

We just need reminded of that sometimes.

"You are not responsible for fixing everything and everyone. You are only responsible for what you are actually able to do. Nothing more, nothing less."

Remember that.

Work on what you are working on. Fix what you are able to fix. Do what you can, when you can, how you can.

Yes, there are things we can – and must – do better on across the board. Take note of those. Be aware of those, as best you are able. Do what you can, where you can. As best as you are able.

"You are not responsible for fixing everything and everyone. You are only responsible for what you are actually able to do. Nothing more, nothing less."

Featured Photo by Nayani Teixeira on Unsplash

[1] The alt-right are not "alt" anything. They are simply a group consisting of not-always-overlapping factions of fascists, racists, misogynists, and other bigots tricked into thinking that they’re all on the same "side". Call them what they are.

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