What strategies help vegans manage their trauma?
People become vegans for numerous reasons; a desire to be physically healthier on a plant-based diet, concern for how food production damages the environment, a strongly held belief in social justice for all living beings and/or because they have learnt about the abuses of industrialised animal cruelty and wish it to stop. It is the abuse of animals that has the greatest potential for post-traumatic responses that many suffer.
This includes typical symptoms of anxiety, panic attacks, anger, negative thoughts, despair and fear. For many, the images of animal abuse they have witnessed replay in their mind with flashbacks, nightmares and anger towards people who resist or deny what is happening to animals behind closed doors. Many ethical vegans report that the life they might have once known has changed forever. Everything for them is now hopeless and negative, whereas before, life had its ups and downs, but they could remember that they laughed and saw a positive future.What can the vegan, caught in the depths of despair do to alleviate their pain and live a meaningful life?
There are many strategies a psychologist would suggest to help someone to minimise the overwhelming symptoms of post-traumatic stress. This would include working through the different stages of grief so the person can find a new way of making sense of their life after a great loss. >For the despairing ethical vegan, this would probably be the loss of a better world they might once have believed existed. Strategies can also be adopted to manage the physical overwhelm of grief and panic, including breathing exercises and techniques like Emotional Freedom Technique. Reframing events that have been witnessed is also important so the sufferer can move from feeling totally powerless to someone whose actions can contribute to the overall end of animal suffering. Also, by improving one’s communication skills, vegans can be more confident in clearly articulating what they want to say, irrespective of other’s responses.
The Importance Of Gratitude
If you are a vegan caught in the depths of despair (common in the early stages of veganism and periodically throughout one’s journey), you probably can’t imagine how gratitude could possibly help. After all, ‘What is there to be grateful for?’ The answer to this question I believe is twofold. Firstly, whenever anyone is overwhelmed and feeling powerless to change (whether their own or another’s plight), breaking things down into manageable steps is the only way to move forward.
Taking ‘one step at a time’ is much easier and possible than having to remove all animal abuse in order to breathe again. One way to do this is to practice Gratitude. Every day, ask yourself ‘What am I grateful for in my life?’ In the depths of despair, this answer may not come easily but there are things to be grateful for. Be grateful for the simple things: a warming drink, a smile from the person serving you in the supermarket, a dog playing in the park or a child enjoying the rain. By focusing on these events and being grateful, you can give yourself permission ‘moment by moment’ to feel better. With regular practice, you can learn to quickly change your mindset, your emotional reactions and can learn to breathe again.There is no merit in feeling guilty for doing this, thinking maybe that it ignores the reality of what is going on.Resourcing yourself from the inside is the best thing you can do to change the world to be more compassionate and thus end the source of your suffering.
The second reason for practising gratitude is that is has an effect energetically on how you want the world to be and is your contribution to creating a better world. Remember, you are not alone in your suffering and changing yourself contributes to a growing number of people who are choosing to be more compassionate – to animals, people and themselves.