The President of In Defense of Animals on Influencing Change
Why do people resist veganism so strongly when you tell them about animal cruelty? I posed this question to Marilyn Kroplik, Psychiatrist and President of In Defense of Animals . Her valuable insights became the foreword of Myths of Choice: Why People Won’t Change and What You Can Do About It.
READ the foreword to learn from someone whose whole life has been devoted to getting people unstuck and embracing the imperative of animal social justice.
Insights into Why People Won’t Change and What You Can Do About It
As a psychiatrist and animal activist, I’m privy to pain. Joyous, happy, pain-free people usually do not look for me — so every day I am flooded with sad narratives. No surprise!
What is astonishing, however, is the epidemic of existential angst I hear about daily in towns across America. Statements like, ‘What’s the point? Working my whole life — and then I kick the bucket!’
After Clare Mann invited me to write this foreword, I found Victor Frankl’s book researched the term “existential angst.” Here is what I found.
In Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl characterised the American culture as suffering from Existential Hunger, or the condition called an ‘existential vacuum’ in which a person doubts their life has meaning. Widespread in the twentieth century, the vague symptoms were described as a loss of interest in life. Frankl hypothesised it was related to the advent of industrialisation, with the waning of animal instincts and social traditions leaving people without direction or initiative. As a group, seeking conformity over individualism and needing to depend on others, they neglected their own personal lives. Life was empty — a huge hole could never be filled. Such a sad picture! This reminds me of the composite portrait in Clare’s book; a patient burdened by all seven myths, and she’s itching to change.
Next I began reading Clare Mann’s masterful book: Myths of Choice: why people won’t change and what you can do about it. Clare co-partners with the reader as she gently takes you through 50 written practices, asking questions about your life, values, emotions, beliefs, and myths that are influencing you in your life. Enjoy this in-depth process of inquiry. I went ahead and did some research on myths because I was definitely rusty in the myth department.
I discovered that myths are complex social and cultural influences, not just symbolic and certainly not true. Rather, myths are beliefs based on our own personal values and experiences that give meaning to our lives. Meaning grounds us, providing a base to jump from and fly to even greater heights in life. Without meaning we are simply lost and disoriented with anxiety creeping up. In existentialism, myths help us to understand our human condition, enabling us to deal with the ‘givens’ of life (freedom, death, isolation, and meaning).
Myths can become a big problem, especially if they are believed as factual or considered dogma. We need to question our myths and their meaning regularly, making sure they still fit and bring us positive benefits. Clare does an exquisite job in helping you re-evaluate them. In the text, she debunks seven myths to effect changes and healing, transforming stuck situations that are resistant at first to change. There may come a time where a myth is no longer viewed as a myth, but as a factual truth, and that’s when the problems begin.
As an existential psychologist, Clare explores the reasons people resist making changes. She challenges the reader to identify their unconscious social myths that limit choices, constrict life, and extinguish freedom. The good news: you are already free! Jean-Paul Sartre said so in 1943 when he wrote that humans are ‘condemned to be free.’ How awesome is that? So why is change so difficult for people?
People fear change — it’s natural for us humans! Even the thought of change can trigger a fear response. What’s interesting is that people fear being labeled as ‘the outsider,’ and dread no longer fitting into their ‘comfortable’ culture or social groups. Change feels unsafe and threatening to a person’s identity since their worldview is about to change soon. This fear intensifies when family and friends lack insight. By understanding myths, interwoven in people’s psyche, now you can help a patient, friend, or social justice movement in moving your message with boldness and greater efficacy. It’s not trickery! It’s about coming to terms with conscious and unconscious choices and realising how people live in a perennial trance; a state of assuming, which is not freely chosen because it is moulded by myths.
Myths help you to understand change and its complexities, based on culturally shared assumptions, and especially in relation to a person’s identity and sense of belonging. Messy dynamics! Existential therapy explores our human condition — questions about life and death: Who am I? What is my purpose? Is there a God? What happens when you die?
Before dealing with big questions like these, Clare helps you to first understand your own emotions and delicately guides you step-by-step, gradually and methodically, in a non-judgmental way. She is an excellent role model as an extraordinarily compassionate human. A great balance of strength and compassion through a well-planned enquiry process. Most people need a great guide or teacher who can help them to navigate the emotional terrain of paradoxical questions — she is a wise therapist.
I wish you well in entering Clare’s world, and more importantly, in discovering your own mind and body, heart and relationships, perhaps in new and fearless ways. I found courage in Clare’s words, and wisdom in her style of counselling. In lifting the veils of denial, endemic in our culture, you can explore the paradox of our human condition: a species capable of immense love and sensitivity but also, immense hatred, brutality, murder and wars. Through self-inquiry, your eyes open wider, crafted mindfully by yourself.
Thank you Clare, for opening my eyes.
Marilyn Kroplick, MD,
Psychiatrist and President of In Defense of Animals