self-care becomes a sticking plaster on the wounds caused by capitalism
November 27, 2018 7:53 AM   Subscribe

Ironically, in telling us to take the pressure off ourselves, self-care discourse can feel as though it’s doing the exact opposite—adding “taking care of our mental health” as yet another task to put onto our plates, alongside finding a fulfilling, well-paid career, doing overtime to prove our worth, networking to maximize our chance of success, getting to the gym five times a week, finding the perfect skincare routine, practicing an interesting and resume-friendly hobby, seeing friends in a variety of glamorous locales, finding a partner, and creating an original yet classic décor theme for our homes. If it’s too hard, and you need something easier for a little bit, you are invited to seek solace in consumption.
Self-Care Won't Save Us
posted by griphus (64 comments total) 77 users marked this as a favorite
 
This morning I was feeling like I usually feel -- which is to say, more or less like my upper body has been tied to a chair and I'm straining against the ropes -- when a thought came to me: it's okay to feel like this. And I suddenly relaxed. The great weight of having to feel better slid off me, and I was able to face the day.
posted by Countess Elena at 8:09 AM on November 27, 2018 [25 favorites]


The critical paragraph

“But what if there was an alternative? What if you didn’t have to worry about your insurance covering a therapist, because everyone had universal coverage? What if you weren’t exhausted from balancing your job and your family, because you had affordable daycare, decent parental leave, and six weeks’ paid vacation? What if you didn’t have to spend every waking moment optimizing yourself for the job market, because we had built an economy that did not put disproportionate power in the hands of employers? What if we stopped thinking of ourselves as being constantly in competition with each other, because we realized it was more a source of misery than success? What if we didn’t feel a nagging sense of doom every time we looked at the news, because we were actually on the road to making things better? What if we built something different? What if we did it together?”
posted by The Whelk at 8:15 AM on November 27, 2018 [140 favorites]


Oh hell yes to this article. Thank you. It’s going to everyone I know. I’m so fucking tired of managers asking if we’re taking care of ourselves, after piling more work on us.
posted by greermahoney at 8:32 AM on November 27, 2018 [20 favorites]


The funny thing about this type of article is that it makes me feel guilty for not doing more, for several reasons:

- "self-care" is a capitalist trap, so if I'm taking care of myself more than the minimum needed to reproduce my labor, I'm a bad person suffering from false consciousness

- I don't actually have it that bad. I have a union job (at least until budget cuts hit), I don't have kids, I have health insurance, I have stable housing. So why aren't I doing more? If I feel the need for "self care" it's probably because I'm bad and lazy.

- when people reassure me that it's okay to engage in "self care" I just feel like they don't really understand my situation and are giving me credit I don't deserve, and then they say that of course they do understand my situation and then I just think 'see, they're going yet another layer deeper into thinking better of me than I deserve', etc etc

- how do I know what a normal level of feeling okay is? No one I know feels okay. If I felt "okay", I would be massively more privileged than everyone around me, because everyone around me is miserable and precarious, so feeling "okay" isn't really okay.

- how do I know what a normal level of physical health is? I've been having some intractable pain (hopefully to be resolved in January when I can afford the new mattress I thought I'd be affording in August) but doesn't everyone have intractable pain? It's not really that bad, except that I can't walk more than about half a mile or stand for more than ten minutes, but again, other people hurt too and seem to get a lot done

Basically, I guess the take-away is that we're all going to feel bad until society is better.
posted by Frowner at 8:38 AM on November 27, 2018 [31 favorites]


You know, there has to be a cute catchphrase for this cycle where:

1. People in medical and psychological care communities develop language to describe specific practices.
2. That language gets appropriated by capitalism and commercialism.
3. Journalistic thinkpieces that throw out both the baby and the bathwater to say it's bullshit, or not enough, or something, my eyes kinda glazed over in the middle part of this piece.
4. It gets posted to Metafilter.

Part of keeping me happy, healthy, and well-fed as an angry activist includes respect for the fact that I create time in my schedule for dirt-cheap pleasures where I'm not creating shit, saying shit, cleaning shit, cooking shit, or maintaining shit for other people. If I don't, if I'm always on-call for everyone else, I burn out, become twitchy and agoraphobic, or worse.

That's what self-care is supposed to mean, telling people who've been raised to give, give, and give labor on demand to others that, no seriously, really, it's ok if you're not available for an hour in the evening. And if you don't come from an abusive background where simple enjoyment has been weaponized against you, that probably sounds crazy. Self-care is one of those life skills that people who are not abuse survivors can take for granted. For some of who who were raised with "no" as a dirty word, it's a challenging practice. Also for people where the "yes" marks us as sex-crazed perverts and monsters. If you don't have an inner demon speaking in the voice of your historic abusers to tell you you're worthless for a small indulgence, the practice of self-care really isn't something you need.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 8:38 AM on November 27, 2018 [80 favorites]


how do I know what a normal level of feeling okay is? No one I know feels okay. If I felt "okay", I would be massively more privileged than everyone around me, because everyone around me is miserable and precarious, so feeling "okay" isn't really okay.

This kind of thinking seems to produce an absurdity, so I am probably misunderstanding it. If you have the opportunity to become okay, and that okayness does not itself impose a cost on the people around you, would that not be preferable to remaining not okay? Imagine if the people you know reasoned in the way you appear to be describing, and no one made the first move into feeling okay. It just sounds like pointless suffering...?

I mean, imagine if a group of friends have some physical need (like X heavy object needs to be moved to Y place) but none of them are capable of performing the task. Then it turns out that a treatment would enable one of the friends (but only one of the friends) to become capable of performing the task. Getting that treatment, despite creating a form of inequality (?), would still benefit the whole group so long as the person getting treated is willing to use their new strength in group-relevant ways.

I must be missing something.
posted by Jpfed at 9:15 AM on November 27, 2018 [5 favorites]


Gotta say that this article strikes me as whiney. I know of no time in history when things were better than they are now. It is bad now, but it was bad then. There are better places than the US. Canada maybe, Germany and France maybe, the Scandinavian countries for sure. People there don't seem to be all that happy either, though.

This being the case, why on earth would one not sit quietly and breathe for fifteen minutes, wave one's hands gently to and fro while imagining magical energies, pray to some fictitious invisible boyfriend, read from a book of aphorisms, or just sit in a park and look at a tree? It is cheaper than drugs or shopping, and much less likely to get out of hand. The world in general and this country in particular are fucked all the way down. They are not going to get fixed any time soon. If you want to feel better, you are going to have to take care of it yourself.

It is a free country, though. You can drag around miserable if you want.
posted by ckridge at 9:20 AM on November 27, 2018 [11 favorites]


Heh.

Self-Care Won't Save Us

"You will not be saved by General Motors or the pre-fabricated house.
You will not be saved by dialectic materialism or the Lambeth Conference.
You will not be saved by Vitamin D or the expanding universe.
In fact, you will not be saved."
posted by ckridge at 9:26 AM on November 27, 2018 [13 favorites]


This kind of thinking seems to produce an absurdity, so I am probably misunderstanding it. If you have the opportunity to become okay, and that okayness does not itself impose a cost on the people around you, would that not be preferable to remaining not okay? Imagine if the people you know reasoned in the way you appear to be describing, and no one made the first move into feeling okay. It just sounds like pointless suffering...?

Well, my reasoning would be:

1. Some people I know are suffering for material reasons - precarious housing, precarious income, physical ill-health, discrimination. They don't feel okay. If I feel okay, it's only because I unfairly have things easier than they do, so in fact if anything I should strive to make my life less okay through working harder and taking on more stress/anxiety/awareness. If I'm not working, I'm letting them down because I'm enjoying something that I only have for unfair reasons. It's like sitting around eating ice cream while someone is starving next to you.

2. I can feel "okay" emotionally because I'm not at risk. That is, I don't have skin the the game the way others with precarious housing, etc might. So my feelings of "okay" are bad to have - they're basically complacency. If I'm not upset, it's because my lack of risk and suffering is giving me a false experience of the world.

Also, I'm a very anxious person and an introvert. To feel "okay" basically requires me to ignore a lot of news, to ignore a lot of the suffering that goes on around me and to limit the amount of activist stuff I do. Like, I would probably only do a couple of activist things a month left to my own devices (and often that's all I manage) but it's very obvious that at minimum I should be doing a couple a week. I could spend every single night at actually important - ie, not just radical navel-gazing but things like city council meetings - meetings pretty easily.
posted by Frowner at 9:31 AM on November 27, 2018 [25 favorites]


For folks interested in reading more about community care, as an alternative to the way self-care is weaponized against us in the way this article describes, I can't recommend Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha's writing highly enough.

Their new book, Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice is a wonderfully concrete look at how (in particular, queer and trans people of colour with disabilities) succeed and fail at taking care of each other.
posted by ITheCosmos at 9:39 AM on November 27, 2018 [6 favorites]


Gotta say that this article strikes me as whiney. I know of no time in history when things were better than they are now. It is bad now, but it was bad then. There are better places than the US. Canada maybe, Germany and France maybe, the Scandinavian countries for sure. People there don't seem to be all that happy either, though.

You must be joking. I--if nothing else, compare your "how are things going?" barometer, within the US, to your feelings on December 1, 2015.

I'm usually pretty fucking cynical about nostalgic looks into the past, but I am incredibly aghast at this comment at this place and time.
posted by sciatrix at 9:45 AM on November 27, 2018 [42 favorites]


The Good Place explanation of a "happiness pump." (Major spoiler.) Which nicely describes why "self-care" is an important skill to teach some people coming out of abusive relationships.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 9:48 AM on November 27, 2018 [10 favorites]


All of us need to take pleasure in things we enjoy. It’s important to take care of our needs and smell flowers and eat cheesecake. But if our deeper anxieties are at least in part caused by our conditions, then maybe our solution lies in fixing our conditions.

This is the part that hit me where I live.

Before that, it slid between two modes that I mentally separate: the overfunctioner (you don't have to try so hard all the time) and the underfunctioner (you never have to try anything hard). Neither is a great place to be, and they have different paths out of the woods, but IME they tend to get glommed together in "take care of yourself." That means different things to different people.

Meanwhile, I can't treat my depression solely with Pinterest boards and herbal tea. They are nice, yes, sometimes. But they are not enough. And while I am one of the lucky ones with some access to services, so many other people are not.
posted by cage and aquarium at 9:49 AM on November 27, 2018 [6 favorites]


Self-care: because nobody else is gonna do it for you.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:52 AM on November 27, 2018 [3 favorites]


Yeah, dialectical behavioral therapy has totally changed my approach to and understanding of self care. Self care once used to mean, to me, that I was allowed to do the things I wanted to do that I thought made me feel better because I had suffered, because it was hard to be me, because it's just okay to do nice things for yourself. The trick that I was playing on myself was that the things I was doing as "self care" were going a long way towards keeping me numbed, immobile, and isolated.

My understanding of self care, now, is much more like preventive maintenance on my car. There are things that I need to make sure I do because not doing them causes me to break down, and when I break down, I hurt myself and other people. I must get adequate sleep, I must eat food that is healthy for me to eat at appropriate times, I must bathe, I must meditate and/or do yoga. I must get an adequate amount of social interaction with people who care about and accept me. These are things I have to make sure I'm taking care of before I can do my job or do anything for other people, and it's much more of a "secure your own oxygen mask first" sort of thing because I literally won't survive long without doing these things.

Self care isn't luxuriating in a bubble bath with a class of cold milk. Self care isn't binging netflix or staying in bed all day with the cat. Self care certainly isn't have a beer-- or two-- or six-- every evening because work was tiring. Self care is wake up, get out of bed, brush teeth, brush hair, breathe, keep breathing. What I hadn't realized before was that doing these basic things was difficult for me because I was always experiencing a moderate level of distress because I hadn't been doing these things, and because my coping mechanisms were actually designed to keep me in that moderate level of distress.

Really it's a lot like what people think hedonism is (link probably NSFW) versus what Epicurus actually articulated.
posted by Made of Star Stuff at 9:55 AM on November 27, 2018 [94 favorites]


I agree with the writer. I find admonitions to practice self-care to be infantalizing and a way of dismissing actual problems. Also, I don't actually give a shit about bubble baths and I'm not a child, so no, I don't want to sit in a blanket fort. I don't want to "escape" into an imaginary world where I am an infant in a bath or a child in a fort -- and, naturally, utterly powerless to change the things in the real world that I dislike.

Anyway, I do lots of things just for pleasure, like reading and crocheting and hanging out with friends and going to shows and whatever else. I really don't need to be pressured to do them, and that's basically the point.

I do think that there needs to be a demarcation between the things that you do just because you want to, and the things that you do in order to improve yourself or the world around you. That's the difference between play and work. Being obligated to play is ridiculous, and it's also frustrating, because then it turns that "play" into an obligation that you're grinding away at for no real reward -- while meanwhile the stuff that you actually want to fix or accomplish in the real world continues on undone because everybody is so busy "playing" in escapist fantasies that they have no time or energy to fix or accomplish anything real.
posted by rue72 at 9:58 AM on November 27, 2018 [8 favorites]


[Couple comments deleted. "Trump is no worse than x" is not gonna be a rewarding path for this thread to go down; let's just not.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 10:01 AM on November 27, 2018 [7 favorites]


If I felt "okay", I would be massively more privileged than everyone around me, because everyone around me is miserable and precarious, so feeling "okay" isn't really okay.

No, nonononono. That’s not how privilege should work. No one should have to suffer. I hate this idea that feeling OK is bad, simply because to feel OK you must be privileged. What is this even accomplishing?

This kind of message is incredibly damaging for someone like me. I grew up with abuse and self-abuse. I do not want left-wing politics to tell me that only pain is acceptable, and that feeling OK means I’m just privileged and complacent. Those are the same patterns of thought that have kept me harming myself for decades.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 10:40 AM on November 27, 2018 [47 favorites]


If you're not a person with a major mental illness or recovery situation who needs reminders or permission to do secondary health needs or recreation, then this conversation really isn't about you.

My mother had joint surgery two months ago, and needs reminders to wiggle her feet every hour. My partner's mother is dealing with age-linked anorexia and needs reminders to eat three times a day. I don't see that as any different than my counselor reminding me that committing all my weekends in a month to volunteering or elder care is likely going to cause a lot of stress.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 10:45 AM on November 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


If you're not a person with a major mental illness or recovery situation who needs reminders or permission to do secondary health needs or recreation, then this conversation really isn't about you.

Sure it is, of course it is. If you have medical needs that require support, that's both totally valid and not the subject of TFA.
posted by rue72 at 10:50 AM on November 27, 2018 [4 favorites]


Getting on better with your associate employee contemporaries
At ease
Eating well (no more microwave dinners and saturated fats)
A patient, better driver
A safer car (baby smiling in back seat)
Sleeping well (no bad dreams)
No paranoia
Careful to all animals (never washing spiders down the plughole)
posted by benzenedream at 11:07 AM on November 27, 2018 [8 favorites]


Doesn't it strike you as a big problem to marginalize people with mental health concerns in discussion of coping and treatment methods that we use and depend on?

That's part of the cycle where treatment becomes marketing, marketing becomes think pieces, think pieces become patronizing responses like yours where the marketing becomes the authentic and we're just infanilizing ourselves through expicit scheduling of stuff you just do.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 11:14 AM on November 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


Self care isn't luxuriating in a bubble bath with a class of cold milk. Self care isn't binging netflix or staying in bed all day with the cat.

I mean, it can be? It can be anything. We're not on this earth to suffer, despite that being a really unpopular idea right now, and however we find that not suffering is good. shapes that haunt the dusk explained it better and that's what I believe, and I had to learn it in a variety of incredibly difficult ways that would perhaps legitimize my comment if I was to explain them. As someone who was driven to entirely destroy myself by those kinds of beliefs, and especially by the reflexive "we are living in the worst timeline/bad place/hell and life is a misery" thinking, by the beliefs that self-care is one specific thing and if I don't follow that rulebook that's just another thing I need to be punishing myself for...I can't. That almost killed me, and I know I'm not alone in that.

I also think the conversation is about everybody. It's maybe more about people in recovery/health/abuse situations but less suffering for everyone is about everyone. Self-caring however the hell you want and spending your time on this earth how you want is about everyone.
posted by colorblock sock at 11:14 AM on November 27, 2018 [13 favorites]


See also how stiming became a toy fad and then one of those things that people like to bitch about.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 11:19 AM on November 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


I know of no time in history when things were better than they are now.

as always this applies only to white people.
posted by poffin boffin at 11:19 AM on November 27, 2018 [20 favorites]


Doesn't it strike you as a big problem to marginalize people with mental health concerns in discussion of coping and treatment methods that we use and depend on?

At the same time, pointing out that Frowner is also talking about mental health concerns and pressure from a marginalized perspective and the way that discussions of self care can induce more guilt for not even doing self-care right feels... necessary, at this time.

Like. I am coming in with an additional perspective regarding mental health and disability, which is that often the permission to declare that yes, actually, I am disabled and need this help is in and of itself a barrier to use of these kinds of coping mechanisms and discussions. For that reason, I think that it's really hard to gatekeep who is and is not allowed to comment on these things specifically because many of the people who, I wager, you would say are entitled to comment... may not initially self-identify within that category.

Do you need me to point out my mental health bona fides here? I can detail them, but that sounds both a little bit invasive and also like more self-justification to work out whether I qualify as a Real Person With a Disability in this context, and that is a bazillion different kinds of fraught. I certainly qualify as someone who has to be lectured frequently to take breaks and to do things I enjoy.
posted by sciatrix at 11:20 AM on November 27, 2018 [16 favorites]


(Also, I can add happily enough that the fad for fidget spinners made me hideously uncomfortable as someone who had been previously trained rather harshly that admitting to being on the autism spectrum was a thing that was Not Done because You Would Be Judged.

I don't necessarily think that that internal anxious reaction was the right one to the normalization of people using them, though, even though a) that form of stimming has never worked for me and b) the backlash is indeed problematic, but it also provides camouflage for autistics stimming in public in a way that didn't necessarily used to be the case.

The curb cut effect is central to my conception of disability and how we talk about it.)
posted by sciatrix at 11:23 AM on November 27, 2018 [6 favorites]


As someone who had their “fidgets” taken away from them by both well-meaning and truly terrible teachers, the spinner fad has me both relieved that future autistic/add kids will have cover and also pissed because now all it will take is one neurotypical kid making a mess with their spinner to have the quietly stimming kid’s spinner confiscated also. So yeah- what sciatrix said. It’s complicated.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 11:29 AM on November 27, 2018 [4 favorites]


sciatrix: I'm not opposed to those conversations. I think that coming into a discussion about useful self-management strategies with a blanket statement that they're infantile and escapist because bootstraps could stand a bit more empathy than arguing that's not what the TFA is about.

Another example of this cycle are content warnings. Again, that's a useful thing for self-management of trauma, they were picked up used more broadly, and that resulted in a backlash that includes the people who found them useful in the first place.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 11:52 AM on November 27, 2018 [3 favorites]


But content warnings aren't something that has been picked up by a hypercapitalistic economy, it's something where the backlash was driven by outrage at the concept that it might be a good idea to tag our shit (or openly opt out of tagging) so that people can engage with content according to their abilities at a given time. Much of that is mocking the concept that people might appreciate some warning and/or pearl-clutching at the concept that content warnings might be useful in a classroom setting so that students can prepare themselves for difficult content.

Blanket dismissals are never okay! But I don't think that the discussion here is acting as a blanket dismissal: I see people talking about the ways that the pressure to engage in a co-opted form of self-care isn't helpful or is actively harmful to mental health care, and talking about ways to think of self care that are more useful to them. I suppose the question I have here is... how do we negotiate the pushback against capitalistic co-option of these options, and how can we continue to foster discussions about the general use of the concept of self-care without, as you say, throwing the baby out with the bathwater? The main article might be doing that, but I'm not sure our discussion here is.
posted by sciatrix at 12:11 PM on November 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


From the article:

"What if we didn’t feel a nagging sense of doom every time we looked at the news, because we were actually on the road to making things better? What if we built something different? What if we did it together?"

Then we would have taken up a task that was started before we were born and that has had continual setbacks, under conditions that seem unpropitious. At least half the country would be against us. We would fail again and again. We would make tiny, undramatic progress. We would never have any assurance that what successes we had would not be swept away. We would hand the task off unfinished, and be blamed.

Under such circumstances self-care is necessary. If morale goes, good training and good organization won't help.
posted by ckridge at 12:17 PM on November 27, 2018 [7 favorites]


But at least you went down fighting for what's right.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:26 PM on November 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


Unfortunately, our consumer society that shades us, condemns us and ultimately robs us of peace and contentment, employs a lot of us, we are the tail our orobouros system devours. It is only "fun" if you have unlimited resources. We are killing our world for the few. And, we are making it more difficult for indigenous peoples and small farmers every day.

This whole big damned thing can't live in our heads 24/7, not the hype, or the guilt. Nope. Self care is called our lives. Self care, and care for our families, and families of choice, this is life. Being convinced we are less than important is anti life. I was reading about people working in chicken plants having to ask for bathroom breaks, and being denied them because managers won't hear the requests. This is a bad world.

If a person doesn't take their issues to task, how do they even think to go get help if self care won't do it? A person has to stay in touch with self, pleasantly, indulgently, with great consideration.

You just can't put all your miseries in a satchel, and dump it on a health care provider's exam table and expect them to do 85 percent of your regular self esteem and active relating, and keep you well.

As far as activism though, it works. Do something. Family members with a combined 10,000 facebook friends/fans, hosted an event for TJ Cox, who has just picked up the last Democratic house seat. I met this candidate in my daughter's living room. The life where you make a difference, has to be your own, first. Then build good walls for your inner sanctum. Then venture out to survive the mess we have made, what you have to do to make a living.

In my long life I have been abused in every way and survived it. I advocate for self worth and negotiating with self, caring for self, and anyone else you can help.

You do not have to put up with the debilitating effects of personalized capitalism. Just shut it off.
posted by Oyéah at 12:40 PM on November 27, 2018 [3 favorites]


The only time I feel "okay" is going back to sleep at 2 AM after getting up to use the bathroom. No one, including myself, expects me to attend to any level of commitment at that time of night.
posted by Brocktoon at 1:14 PM on November 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


Great comment (and name), Made of Star Stuff.

It's all VERY individual, though that doesn't drive clicks. I just finished up an extended break from work, and limited my main "blanket fort" activity to X hours a day so I wouldn't blearily flush entire days down the hatch out of inertia. Surprisingly, I felt better at the end of it than previous times when I'd blanket-forted with abandon. Did I finish all those home improvement projects, hell no, but I had to figure out what would support my brain/soul at this specific time. No doubt someone else would have felt better diving into their escapist fave for 12 hours a day. That's individual. Know thyself, as hard as that can be.

And ugh to neurotypicals ruining spinners; I'm sorry on our behalf. I've really wanted a fidget cube ever since I heard about them, but since I am not diagnosed on the spectrum, I know they Are Not For Me Dammit Don't Be That Person. The world gets my knuckle-cracking instead, haha.
posted by cage and aquarium at 1:19 PM on November 27, 2018 [4 favorites]


Sweet lord, if Voltaire (or whoever actually said it) was right that a witty saying proves nothing, tritely posting the lyrics to Fitter Happier in a thread about self-care must prove even less.

Made of Star Stuff's comment is really helpful to me and in a sort of ironic way basically lays out what I find I need to do to live well now I have to care about and for other people and things more than just myself, or more than just getting to work regularly and soberly enough not to get fired.
posted by ominous_paws at 1:19 PM on November 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


I've really wanted a fidget cube ever since I heard about them, but since I am not diagnosed on the spectrum, I know they Are Not For Me Dammit Don't Be That Person.

Good God, that's the opposite of what I was saying! More people, autistic and otherwise, playing with and normalizing fidget shit means that autistic people can play with those things in public without stigma, too. Also, I'm fascinated with the fidget cubes--I don't care for spinners, the cubes are more to my taste although knitting or other repetitive puzzley things are best of all--and there being a broader market for those sort of things mean autistic people can afford them. See here weighted blankets.

My dude, that's the good result of the curb cut effect--where possible, normalizing accommodations (including "fiddling quietly with a gadget while still listening intently and being correctly perceived as such") makes life better for everyone.
posted by sciatrix at 1:31 PM on November 27, 2018 [20 favorites]


Yeah man- get a spinner!- just be polite with it because if you act obnoxiously with a fidget tool people will judge everyone who stims with one. But the more people who use fidgets the less likely an autistic student will be punished for using one.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 2:05 PM on November 27, 2018


Will stimming with a spinner at a health care rally make the author of the TFA explode from dissonance?
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 2:38 PM on November 27, 2018


Why does this remind me of the jokey Lovecraftian blog "things that cannot save you"? Self-care won't save you, but neither will clowns, new headgear, celebrity witchcraft or thinking your own thoughts.
posted by oneswellfoop at 3:46 PM on November 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


I am one of those people who has to report each year on how much vacation I took, so I can prove I am attending to my self care, which makes it one more thing for me to worry about.

Having said that, my next act of “self care” will be learning to make that broccoli-peanut butter soup because it sounds delicious.
posted by 4ster at 4:02 PM on November 27, 2018


sciatrix: I'm not opposed to those conversations. I think that coming into a discussion about useful self-management strategies with a blanket statement that they're infantile and escapist because bootstraps could stand a bit more empathy than arguing that's not what the TFA is about.

Wait, I feel like you're responding to me with all this "get out of the thread" stuff.

At no point did I say that self-care was infantile because bootstraps. I'm not at all sure how you got that from my comments, unless it was when I said, to paraphrase, "my take away from this article is that self-care is a capitalist trap so I feel bad about engaging in it after reading this kind of article".

I'm also not sure why this thread was only for people with physical or mental disabilities. The linked article doesn't say that at all, but talks about self-care as something that people on the left generally discuss and engage in. If the article had said, "let's talk about self-care for physically disabled people and how that relates to disabled activists", or if the OP had said, "let's discuss this with a specific framework of disability" I would not have talked about my experience, except inasmuch as chronic pain and anxiety are disabling for me.

I would really appreciate knowing why you responded to my comments by saying that they did not belong in the thread.
posted by Frowner at 4:28 PM on November 27, 2018 [4 favorites]


Speaking of capitalism and healthcare, remember The Carlyle Group?

When a Private Equity Shop Buys a Nursing Home, It Ain't Good for the Patients. Who knew?
posted by homunculus at 4:51 PM on November 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


To quote Pema Chödrön:

For example, you might say that taking a bubble bath or getting a workout at the gym is maitri. But on the other hand, maybe it isn’t, because maybe it’s some kind of avoidance; maybe you are working out to punish yourself. On the other hand, maybe going to the gym is just what you need to relax enough to go on with your life with some kind of lightheartedness. Or it might be one of your 65 daily tactics to avoid reality. You’re the only one who knows.
posted by airmail at 4:57 PM on November 27, 2018 [12 favorites]


Where does the reward system fit into all this? Because rewarding myself for bullshit or petty accomplishments or "reasons" has been fucking up my existence for at least 20 years now.
posted by Brocktoon at 6:16 PM on November 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


I appreciate the votes for non-legit fidgeting, but other people with legit uses of therapeutic tools/toys are saying in this thread that neurotypicals ruined them, trivializing the real need makes everyone look bad, it isn't fair because their stim aids were taken away in childhood, etc.

Given a lack of consensus, I will try and err on the side of not hurting anyone if I can possibly do so.

Back on topic though, that's another thing about self-care: try and find ways to do it that work for you AND don't hurt / colonize / appropriate anyone else. Fidget cubes sound soothing, yeah, since I "need" to do things with my hands all the time. But not really need, like I'll die if I don't. It just makes me feel better/calmer, and that is not a disability or an excuse for cheapening someone else's legitimate therapeutic tools.

Take care of yourself but remember you don't exist in a vacuum, is what I guess I'm saying.
posted by cage and aquarium at 6:24 PM on November 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


you know what though whelk's comment upthread makes me really wish for a "good living for commies" kinda journal, something written from an anticapitalist perspective that focuses on us all helping each other feel a little bit like shit all the time. but not as a party recruitment or organizing tool, just something that'd take useful concepts like self-care and help us put 'em to use for real, instead of getting stuck with the second-rate junky capitalist-appropriation versions. like, with the acknowledgment that real long-term solutions will require operating at something other than the individual level, but also with the acknowledgement that we gotta do what we can at the individual level, cause feeling like shit is no good for anybody.

maybe every issue could have a special insert from the anarchists, just to keep the rest of the writers honest.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 6:33 PM on November 27, 2018 [12 favorites]


Frowner: No, my posts were not about you, not in response to anything you've written, and I appreciate your contributions to this thread. Specifically, they're a response to rue72, which could be verified by searching for "infant" and "escapist."

But, you said, "The linked article doesn't say that at all, but talks about self-care as something that people on the left generally discuss and engage in."

That's a framing I object to, because self-care has its roots in both mental heath self-management and (now that I've had an afternoon to think on it) criticism of gender disparities of emotional support in relationships. So we're hit here with a double whammy. First our self-care strategies are decontextualized by consumerism. And then we're criticized for using those strategies by people who treat the consumerist framing as authentic.

And generally I'm just plain sick and tired of think-pieces that criticize the commodification of mental health care techniques and then blame the people using those techniques for not revolting hard enough. So for example, content warnings are needed by a variety of people. They become adopted for a variety of additional purposes including, "I don't like that kind of plot twist." Nothing wrong with that. But then, we see a stack of articles criticizing users of trigger warnings as entitled snowflakes. Decontextualizing things like self-care and content warnings to waggle the finger of shame at entitled latte liberal consumerism (and yes, that's the kind of stereotype invoked here) isn't going to bring liberalism into question. What it does do is put me on the defensive in explaining those practices to people who take their cues from pieces like this.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 6:41 PM on November 27, 2018 [2 favorites]


on having missed the edit window: helping us all feel a little bit less like shit, is what I meant to say. apparently something deep in my brain refuses to accept the possibility of us all feeling maybe somewhat not shit.
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 7:11 PM on November 27, 2018 [5 favorites]


This article made me feel bad. The idea that it is okay to take care of my own needs as a female identified human being was, frankly, revolutionary to me. It literally was something I needed to be told, because society had sure as hell taught me otherwise. Having learned this, I suppose it’s inevitable that the tide has turned and now I’m supposed to feel bad about it because capitalism. Once again, women are doing it wrong.
posted by Ruki at 7:57 PM on November 27, 2018 [11 favorites]


my take away from this article is that self-care is a capitalist trap so I feel bad about engaging in it after reading this kind of article

I dunno, it is a capitalist trap, but isn't the practice of it separable from the commodification and marketing of it?

Besides, self-torment is a capitalist trap too.
posted by clavicle at 8:13 PM on November 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


I don’t think you’re supposed to feel bad about it I think it’s more something used to help people has been co-opted and commodified into something capitalists use to sell people stuff they use to mitigate the damages capitalism does to them. The problem isn’t are you, an individual performing self-care badl? it’s wow this really isn’t something unorganized individuals can effectively deal with. Buying a Caspar mattress isn’t going to undo the fact that you’re sleeping horribly cause you have no job security, no savings, and no hope of ever getting out of debt.
posted by The Whelk at 8:27 PM on November 27, 2018 [5 favorites]


There is nothing capitalism can't turn into a trap. There is also nothing writers looking for clicks won't write about as a capitalism trap. Sometimes you just have to accept that many writers these days are little more than automatic word-assemblers on near-randomly-generated positions on topics. This whole "you are not doing enough if you are not torturing yourself 24/7" approach, especially as advocated by people who are clearly not living according to the precept, is so tedious. It's the kind of thing you write when you missed out being a leftist in your teens and thus never matured into understanding how ideology must accommodate and embrace humanity, not vice versa.
posted by praemunire at 9:24 PM on November 27, 2018 [6 favorites]


I don’t think it’s inaccurate to say that hype / industries built up around the idea of self-care express and perpetuate neoliberalism. But we do actually need to recuperate somehow from obligatory participation in capitalism. Sure, I’d love to dip into the warmth of community instead of an epsom salt bath, but no one’s available, because they’re also tired, from their jobs, commutes, families, household duties. (Or they had to leave because they couldn’t afford to live here.) It’s not just people with health issues. Fact is, no one’s really available for that structural effort, everyone’s too busy getting by, or beaten down by not getting by.

Only when things are so catastrophic that everyone’s lost their stake in society, and they’re so necessarily united against actual hunger that they can forget identity divisions, is the structural stuff going to be targeted, probably violently. And then a benevolent tyrant will step in with another big idea, and people will go for it because they’re craving stability, and inequity will roll on in another form.

(I saw an eagle kill a squirrel today, and it’s crude, but I think that’s it, we’ve all got to be one or the other [and don’t have much choice in the matter, either].)
posted by cotton dress sock at 10:17 PM on November 27, 2018 [1 favorite]


The heart of the awful trap is the idea that you have enough power over your own existence that you should be able to achieve any end.

To surrender that assumption involves coming to terms with the limits of your individual control over your own existence and life experience.

This can be both disheartening and freeing, for obvious reasons. And when examined it also becomes obvious that not only do we not have as much control over our lives as we might wish, but we don't have the ability to see to what degree we might assert control if we just tried harder. And there's so much incentive to believe that we can get what we want if we just figure it out or try harder, even in the face of obvious impossibility.

And that desire makes us vulnerable.

Because as long as we believe we have the power, we cannot escape the responsibility.

And so our supposed power to fix our individual lives becomes an obligation. And having ceded definitions of meaningful and fulfilling to outside authority - advertising, self-help books, parents, friends - we end up trapped, struggling, burnt out, but convinced it's our own fault.
posted by allium cepa at 10:42 PM on November 27, 2018 [9 favorites]


Part of my self-care last night included showing up to the monthly discussion group at my church. This is one of those social things I do separate from my current partner that my abusive ex would likely have thrown a fit over with irrational jealousy. During the discussion, a dear friend said that he's experiencing some depression in the morning and his self-care included cutting back on watching news media and exercising during that time. Another aspect of his self-care this month is that he didn't engage in any of the readings that dealt with imagining one's own death.

His wife gave away surplus oranges from their garden. I don't really consider that exchange of a good "capitalist."

This morning, self-care includes intentionally eating breakfast, even though I didn't get a good sleep last night and it would be soooo easy to just grab something from a case on my way to work or just skip it. Food for most people is a capitalist commodification of needs, but we don't have scare pieces about how prepping meals is a capitalist trap of false consciousness.

I'm making time off of work to help with my partner's self-care of going to a doctor that I've vetted as reasonably LGBTQ friendly. Is it false consciousness that I'm intentionally making that time?
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 4:38 AM on November 28, 2018 [1 favorite]


I could spend every single night at actually important - ie, not just radical navel-gazing but things like city council meetings - meetings pretty easily.

For a couple of weeks maybe, and then you would burn out and be unable to do any work at all for a way longer period, and that would be a net loss for everyone involved.

Even if you are determined to see your talents/time/energy as a ressource to be used exlusively to the maximum benefit of others, the goal would presumably be to optimize your _long-term_ efficiency. And that means you have to go about it in a sustainable manner. Because most types of activism are wars of attrition, and we need people to play the long game.

You need to recharge your batteries at some point, even if that means skipping a meeting once in while. And maybe you also need to take a break from the news sometimes, so you don't get numb and worn down. And sometimes you need to indulge yourself, because the people still suffering won't benefit from you denying yourself pleasure, but they will benefit from you rising to fight another day, when things seem impossibly dire and fond memories of past pleasures are the only things to keep you going.

I mean that's one of the main issues some people have with the whole self-care trend in the first place - that shady business types push it for nefarious purposes, to exploit us even more efficiently. I think you can debate the value/dangers of trying to optimize every single aspect of your life, but regardless of your stance on that, making no time for self care at all is clearly a suboptimal use of resources.
posted by sohalt at 5:20 AM on November 28, 2018


If you don't invest work into taking care of yourself, exactly who is going to be responsible for 1) picking up the slack because you end up half-assing it and 2) taking care of you when you get sick?
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 5:35 AM on November 28, 2018 [5 favorites]


One nice line; Well, I hate to break it to you, talking lungs, but it’s 2018.
posted by doctornemo at 6:29 AM on November 28, 2018


when people reassure me that it's okay to engage in "self care" I just feel like they don't really understand my situation and are giving me credit I don't deserve, and then they say that of course they do understand my situation and then I just think 'see, they're going yet another layer deeper into thinking better of me than I deserve', etc etc

I did like the article. But anxiety and depression are absurdly rife. I could count the friends I have with good mental health on one hand. I know that people are going to find a way to blame themselves anyway, so why would I do anything but reinforce and support them. I'm happy to push self-care and try and give people outs and the like because a lot of people aren't taking enough care of themselves. They do run themselves ragged on committee after meeting after caucus after rally after article and honestly I want everyone I know to take a holiday, but there's work that needs doing and people stretch themselves to do it.
When burn-out isn't as much of a problem, when I think laziness is actually an issue, then I'll worry, but for now, I think everyone's Frowner, we're already really harsh on ourselves, I'll tell others to take a load off whenever possible, because they won't often enough.
posted by AnhydrousLove at 8:16 AM on November 28, 2018 [6 favorites]


Because as long as we believe we have the power, we cannot escape the responsibility.

This is a phenomenal way of describing this process succinctly, thank you. It was very clarifying for me to see the two connected so explicitly.
posted by PMdixon at 10:37 AM on November 28, 2018 [4 favorites]


Because as long as we believe we have the power, we cannot escape the responsibility.

It goes the other way, too: the fear that we might not have the power drives us to take on the responsibility, to try to exert just a little control on a universe that is tossing and turning and gives not a whit for any one person trying to ride out squalls on a battered coracle. We take up the mantle of trying to steer our paths in the face of unimaginably huge terror because to do otherwise is to admit our personal insignificance. And, well...

...really, the problem is that humans are really bad at observing incremental change as well as being very prone to rounding errors, honestly. We can't singlehandedly do anything to keep our coracles afloat in the storm, but life isn't really like that. We can change systems--it's just that lasting change requires millions of people to make small changes and build off of one another, and that kind of solid foundation moves so slowly that the landmarks often aren't broadly apparent to the world until long after they've past. We round down all the incremental work and change that we make from very small into zero, and we multiply our own incremental work by the population as a whole and we fall and drown in despair. But...

we're not multiplying by zero.

it's a small number. but not zero.

but it looks like zero, especially from right now up close, not like the gilded statues from far away and long ago we use to inspire ourselves towards action.

We can't drop the responsibility without giving up the--illusion? the belief? that doing small things in a massive aggregate might yet change things for the better.

Maybe we're in a storm, and maybe we're just struggling in quicksand. (Did you know that if you stop struggling in quicksand you float, and once one person staggers out onto land they can pull in others? and others? and others?) Time will tell. But it is so terrifying to lose the illusion of control that responsibility feels seductive and comforting. It's the same reason that children being abused by caregivers decide not that the caregivers are bad but that the child is bad: the child cannot do anything about the caregivers, but the child can change their actions. The illusion of control provides hope.

I go back and forth on whether hope is Pandora's salve or her greatest curse, but I find it easier to go on if I choose to believe the former.
posted by sciatrix at 2:52 PM on November 28, 2018 [3 favorites]


makes me really wish for a "good living for commies" kinda journal, something written from an anticapitalist perspective that focuses on us all helping each other feel a little bit like shit all the time. but not as a party recruitment or organizing tool, just something that'd take useful concepts like self-care and help us put 'em to use for real, instead of getting stuck with the second-rate junky capitalist-appropriation versions. like, with the acknowledgment that real long-term solutions will require operating at something other than the individual level, but also with the acknowledgement that we gotta do what we can at the individual level, cause feeling like shit is no good for anybody.

maybe every issue could have a special insert from the anarchists, just to keep the rest of the writers honest.


the BUILD journal is all about focusing on local organizing and mutual aide efforts (and being extremely Offline) but I do wonder if there's a place for the Commie Home Journal - here's now to host a potluck! Recipes! Sewing Patterns! Detach yourself from capital even in a small way while using it to refuel yourself for the broader fight to make these refueling stops unnecessary!
posted by The Whelk at 1:29 PM on December 2, 2018 [2 favorites]


Anyway we should be better at taking care of each other while we also work to bring the better world. Community building and dealienation is anti-neoliberal afterall.
posted by The Whelk at 3:00 PM on December 2, 2018 [1 favorite]


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