Four phases an idealist passes through in his career
Those of us who work on behalf of and who dedicate our lives to animals go through four phases in our career evolution.
As we are unique, so are our individual stories, but we all go through a similar process, and if we
survive that process go on to understand that we have achieved what we wanted in the first place. First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win, Mahatma Ghandi.
Red hot and raring to go, we are out to
change the world. We are high on life. We
know we can make a difference, that our
efforts on behalf of animals will ease their
plight. We work what seems like 25-hour
days yet are energized. Our enthusiasm overflows,
our capacity for challenges is limitless.
We eat, sleep and live in the cause for
animals. Our friends don't understand our
obsession and turn away or just fade away,
and we let them for we meet new ones. Some
of us though don't make new friends, we're
too busy working for animals.
Some of us become loners with only our
canine or feline companions to keep us from
total isolation but we're content because
we have a cause. In our zeal, we tend to
affix simple solutions to complex problems
- every animal should be sterilized or no
animal should be euthanized. We're often
late because we try to rescue animals from
highways and streets. We think we understand
the problem and we know we can fix it if
only people would get out of our way.
Our phase one enthusiasm has turned sour,
the bubble bursts and we crash and burn.
We see the same people coming into the shelter
with yet another litter - they haven't heard
our message. We continue to euthanize, there
seems no end to it. Even our friends - those
we still have left - don't understand us.
We can't seem to reach anyone.
Animals are still abused and neglected,
their plight seems unchanged despite all
our efforts. We've lost the boundless energy
that characterizes Phase One. We no longer
wish to talk about work, don't even want
to admit where we work. We're tired all
the time. We go home from work, lock the
doors, turn out the lights, turn off the
answering machine and close the window blinds.
We're too exhausted to cook so we scarf
fast food, pizza, potato chips or chocolate.
Some of us buy useless objects we can't
afford. Some of us turn to alcohol for it
takes away our feelings of hopelessness.
We ignore our families and even our pets
get less attention than we know is right.
We seem powerless to affect any of the changes
that drove us to such ecstacies of dedication
in Phase One. We have become horrified by
the work we have to do. Even our dreams
are filled with the horror. Every animal
we take in, every animal we euthanize is
yet another nail in our coffin of defeat.
Somehow we're to blame for all our failure
and it's destroying us. Raise the shields
Scotty, the Klingons are on our tail!
Our shield gets thicker and thicker. It
blocks the pain and the sadness and makes
our life somehow tolerable. We continue
on because every now and then we get a spark
of Phase One energy.
Our phase two depression has turned outward
and we're mad as hell. Hopelessness turns
to rage. We begin to hate people, any people
and all people unless, like our co-workers,
they dedicate their lives to animals the
way we do. We even hate our co-workers if
they dare question us - especially about
euthanasia. It occurs to us, let's euthanize
the owners, not the pets. Let's take everyone
who abuses an animal or even surrenders
an animal and euthanize them instead.
Our rage expands to our out-of-work life.
That guy in front of us on the highway,
the one who's in our way, euthanize him
too. We rage at politicians, television,
newspapers, our family. Everyone is a target
for our anger, scorn and derision. We have
lost our perspective and effectiveness.
We're unable to connect with life. Even
the animals we come in contact with seem
somehow distant and unreal. Anger is the
only bridge to our humanness. It's the only
thing that penetrates our shield.
Gradually, and over time, the depression
of Phase Two and the anger of Phase Three
become replaced with a new determination
and understanding of what our mission really
is. It is big picture time. We realize that
we have been effective - locally and in
some cases regionally and even nationally.
So we haven't solved the problem - who could
- but we have made a difference with dozens,
even hundreds and sometimes thousands of
animals. We have changed the way others
around us view animals. We begin to see
our proper place in our own community and
we begin to see that we are most effective
when we balance our work and out-of-work
lives. We realize that work is not our whole
world and that if we pay attention to our
personal lives, we can be more effective
at work. We understand that some days we
work 14 hours and some days we knock it
off after only 8. We take vacations and
we enjoy our weekends. We come back refreshed
and ready to take on daily challenges. We
see that all people are not bad. We understand
that ignorance is natural and in most cases curable. Yes,
there are truly awful people who abuse and
neglect animals but they are a minority.
We don't hate them.
When we find them we do all we can to stop
them from hurting animals. We recognize
that the solutions are just as complex as
the problems and bring a multitude of tools
to the problem at hand and use them any
way we can and we begin to see results -
one small step at a time. We reconnect with
the animals. Our shields come down. We understand
that sadness and pain are a part of our
job. We stop stuffing our feelings with
drugs, food or isolation. We begin to understand
that our feelings of anger, depression and
sadness are best dealt with if we recognize
them and allow them to wash over and past
us. We recognize our incredible potential
to help animals. We are changing the world.
See also: the personal stories of animal rights activists
and people telling about their motivation to help animals inner
liberation and freedom and its relation to animals.