If you are vegan, I am sure by now you have heard of this thing called vystopia.
You may have even said that you had it yourself.
Though, do you really?
What if it was all set up to make you feel bad about feeling bad?
For those who came in late, vystopia is a word coined by psychologist Clare Mann, to describe the existential crisis experienced by vegans, arising out of an awareness of the trance-like collusion with a dystopian world.
The term and symptoms are further discussed in the book Vystopia The Anguish of Being Vegan in a Non-Vegan World.
We are told by the creator of the term, that if you have the following symptoms, you are likely to be suffering from vystopia:
- Intense grief at the enormity of the ubiquitous animal abuse
- Frustration at being unable to wake people up from the trance
- Feelings of alienation from non-vegans
- Loneliness within groups you previously felt part of
- Despair and hopelessness that things will never change
- Powerlessness to effect change on a global level
Though do you really have vystopia?
Rebadged Compassion Fatigue
Is vystopia really a symptom, or is it simply drawing a negative association to something that we vegans should be feeling naturally?
The symptoms listed for vystopia are eerily similar to those of compassion fatigue.
- Feeling burdened by the suffering of others
- Blaming others for their suffering
- Isolating yourself
- Loss of pleasure in life
- Difficulty concentrating
- Physical and mental fatigue
- Bottling up your emotions
- Increased nightmares
- Feelings of hopelessness or powerlessness
When you sit down and look at the two, there isn’t that much of a difference between the symptoms of compassion fatigue, and those of vystopia.
Though the glaring difference between them relates to the diagnosis.
Compassion fatigue accepts that it is a result of the activities that you may be doing as part of your job. (Yes, this also includes being vegan, because the simple matter of being vegan is likely to expose you to things that others wouldn’t be).
In fact, compassion fatigue is viewed as something that is normal to happen.
Whereas this doesn’t appear to be the case with vystopia.
It is portrayed as something negative.
It doesn’t matter whether it is compassion fatigue, or vystopia the catalyst for both is essentially the same.
It is the exposure to situations where the person becomes aware of the ongoing, and at times, unspeakable suffering inflicted upon others.
While compassion fatigue is common in health care workers, and those in emergency services, vystopia is something that was said to initially impact vegans.
For vegans, it is the constant reminder of how other animals are oppressed/abused, by certain industries.
This could be through things like the footage shown at cubes, or any of the documentaries that show how other animals are treated, such as Earthlings or Dominion.
Compounding the matter for vegans is the lack of willingness of those who aren’t vegan to change their ways.
While it stands to reason that the continual viewing or exposure to the footage that vegans tend to share on social media and the attendance at events that show the footage may cause of vystopia, it is fascinating to hear what the claimed antidote is.
According to a Live Kindly article, “by working through the grief and despair, and transmuting this into powerful action to be part of the solution, relief is possible”.
Though what exactly does that mean?
The powerful action that is recommended is attending a cube of truth or a Save “vigil”.
The very things that are known to be the catalyst for these feelings are listed as something that one can do to remedy themselves of those feelings.
Doesn’t really make sense, does it?
Compassion Fatigue’s Solution
Obviously, the first step in helping to combat something is admitting that it might be impacting your life.
And that is the same with compassion fatigue.
Though, unlike vystopia, managing compassion fatigue doesn’t involve continued exposure to those situations that are likely to cause it.
The Compassion Fatigue Awareness Project lists the following as things you can do as part of an authentic and sustainable self-care program.
- Be kind to yourself.
- Enhance your awareness with education.
- Accept where you are on your path at all times.
- Understand that those close to you may not be there when you need them most.
- Exchange information and feelings with people who can validate you.
- Listen to others who are suffering.
- Clarify your personal boundaries. What works for you; what doesn’t.
- Express your needs verbally.
- Take positive action to change your environment.
What To Do? What To Do?
Ultimately, whether you say that you have compassion fatigue or vystopia, depends on whether you want to accept it as a normal part of life, or as a negative symptom of being vegan.
If you want to accept that it is a normal part of life, acknowledge that it is compassion fatigue, and look for remedies away from those things that are likely to compound the feelings.
If you want to say that you have vystopia, I will ask you why?
Why do you want to say you have something that brings a negative to being vegan, and was created as a vehicle to help someone profit from the “community”?
It is your mental health that is at stake here, and something that you shouldn’t take lightly.
Making the wrong decision can impact your longevity in this movement, and the sustainability of the movement itself.
Anything that isn’t sustainable isn’t good for you, the movement, or the animals.
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This article was written by the founder of VeganPolice.com.au, Cameron Blewett.
Cameron is a long term vegan (30+yrs), and is passionate about veganism, and helping people to understand more about it and giving other animals equal consideration.
You can find Cameron’s other rants on his website, CameronBlewett.blog