Selfish Activist: A guide to self-compassion for do-gooders


A guide to creating healthy relationships in social justice communities

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Hi, I'm Tada. If you feel burnt out from relationships in social justice communities, this book is for you.

Like many of you, I came into the world of activism with rose-coloured glasses. Unfortunately, I left it, emotionally exhausted from the culture of reactivity that surrounded me. Through this book, I would like to share some learnings I have had through my healing journey.

We need to start taking responsibility for our behvaiour and get real about how our childhood traumas impact our relationships. In my personal and professional experience, I have noticed that it is childhood experiences of pain that create the dominant templates through which oppressive violences, such as patriarchy, white supremacy, and able-ism are enacted. 

Behind the frustrated relationship behaviours we commonly see in social justice communities, including reactive call-outs (and even call-ins), and desparate saviour complexes, are our hurt inner children and their repressed feelings of anger, fear and sadness.

When shamed emotions are not addressed, they show up in relationship as a need to control the other.

This, amplified by dynamics of privilege, is what causes burn-out for us, both as ally and allied.

This is why truly transformative social justice work must be based in reciprocal nurturance and space-holding, which in turn facilitates intimacy and accountability.

What can we do?

Like in any relationship, what we can do is work on the one thing we can do something about - ourselves. The truth of the universe is paradox. When we let go our need to control others and focus on our own reactions, everything shifts.

Why? Because when we learn to control our own emotional energies we become able to disarm the triggered reactions of others. As the allied we can meet the mistakes of our allies with gentle compassion and guide them to love us better. As the ally we can listen deeply and stop ourselves from going into codependent care-taking and space-taking.

To be able to do this we must begin with healing our deepest wound: the interesecting pain of childhood shame and oppression. This book is a supportive guide to help you heal and cultivate a compassionate way of being, as both ally and allied.

Decolonized tools for healing and holding space

An underlying principle of this book is a decolonization of social justice thinking itself. The tendency in mainstream activism is to understand oppression as a result of large systems that affect us socioeconomically. This book approaches the subject from a radically different place.

My approach follows the path of Japanese/Asian wisdom traditions such as qigong and martial arts, treating oppression as a dis-ease that comes from blockages of emotional energy in self, relationship and community.

The self-work in this book is broken down into two major parts. First, is using inner awareness (mindfulness) to heal intersecting childhood and social shame that is stuck in our bodies. Second, is cultivating a sense of non-judgement and curiosity towards others through embodiment exercises.

I am honoured to share my ancestral practices of compassion with you.

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