Why so much anger in activism?

Cathy Presland
6 min readNov 4, 2018
Let go of the emotion, connect with the humanity

Again and again, I see activism that is born out of anger. Or another strong emotion.

The lawyer who told me she was driven to fight for women’s rights because of an assault on a childhood friend.

The successful entrepreneur turned philanthropist who told me he never wanted to live in the poverty his parents had experienced, that drove his business and the investments he made later in his life.

The social entrepreneur who told me she couldn’t stand to see what we were doing to the environment; that it caused her physical pain to think about the state of the planet.

I don’t think all activism is driven out of anger — of course not, we can’t hold on to any emotion — but it’s a common thread that seems, somehow, relevant to ‘the cause’.

But, why?

Why do we think that? Why do we think it has any role at all? Why do some individuals I meet feel that they need to hold on to it to stay motivated? That, only when we dip into the depths of an emotion, particularly a negative one, will we be able to create change?

But, what if any emotion taken too seriously is destructive? What if we are innocently diverting ourselves from the very things we want to be doing? Staying stuck in an emotional groundhog day?

The environmental activist felt her feelings so deeply that she wanted to hide away. She couldn’t engage with the world she so wanted to impact. And that hurt led to a layer of self-judgement, paralysing her even more.

We’ve all experienced that I’m sure — we can’t seem to achieve what we’re capable of, so we feel ashamed, deeply ashamed sometimes, and the shame sends us even deeper into the hole we’re digging for ourselves.

Scaling it up can be more destructive…

And it’s not just our personal paralysis. I’ve seen again and again — back into the 1990’s when I was working with women’s organisations, right through to present-day politics, I see change being halted by in-fighting and bickering. What if all the energy we spend on that was put into the very cause we’re working towards — I’m sure we’ve all said that to ourselves, out-loud or even on Facebook!



Cathy Presland

What if making an impact was part of your everyday? Stories to light up your soul. Read more and free courses: https://cathypresland.com/