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Activism is often seen as a way of expressing one’s values and beliefs in the public sphere, but it can also be a source of personal growth and transformation. In this article, we will explore how activism can be related to self-transcendence, which is the process of going beyond one’s ego and identifying with a larger reality. We will examine the psychological and spiritual benefits of self-transcendence, as well as the challenges and risks involved. We will also discuss some examples of activists who have achieved or pursued self-transcendence through their work, and how they have inspired others to do the same.

What is activism?

Activism is the practice of taking action to promote social, political, environmental or economic change. Activists are people who use various methods, such as protests, campaigns, petitions, boycotts, strikes or lawsuits, to challenge the status quo and advocate for their causes. It can be motivated by different values, beliefs or ideologies, and can target different levels of society, from local to global. It can also have different goals, such as raising awareness, influencing public opinion, changing policies or laws, or achieving justice or equality. Furthermore, it can also be seen as a form of civic engagement that aims to improve the world in some way.

Activism and self-transcendence

self-transcendence and activism are two concepts that can be related in various ways. Activism is the practice of acting to promote social or political change, often motivated by a sense of justice, compassion, or solidarity. self-transcendence is the phenomenon of experiencing oneself as expanding beyond one’s individual boundaries and connecting with something greater, such as humanity, nature, or the cosmos. self-transcendence can also involve a shift in perspective from focusing on one’s personal concerns to considering the meaning and purpose of life.

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Some researchers have suggested that activism can be a form of self-transcendence, as it involves moving beyond one’s self-interest and engaging in collective action for a common cause. It can also foster a sense of collective effervescence, which is a feeling of joy and belonging that arises from participating in a shared ritual or event with others. Collective effervescence can enhance one’s wellbeing, positive emotions, optimism, self-esteem, and life satisfaction. It can also facilitate a sense of self-transcendence, as one feels connected to a larger group or movement that transcends one’s individual identity.

On the other hand, self-transcendence can also be a source of motivation for activism, as it can inspire people to care about issues that affect not only themselves but also others and future generations. self-transcendence values, such as universalism and benevolence, can promote prosocial behaviours and attitudes that are conducive to social change. People who have experienced self-transcendence may also have a greater sense of symbolic immortality, which is the belief that one’s life will have a lasting impact beyond one’s death. Symbolic immortality can reduce the fear of death and increase the willingness to take risks for a noble cause.

In conclusion, activism and self-transcendence are interrelated concepts that can influence each other in positive ways. Activism can be seen as an expression of self-transcendence, as it involves expanding one’s sense of self and connecting with a larger purpose. self-transcendence can also be seen as a catalyst for activism, as it fosters values and emotions that support social action.

Benefits and challenges of activism

One of the benefits of activism in relation to self-transcendence is that it can foster a sense of meaning and purpose in life. According to a study by Barton and Hart (2023), self-transcendent social activists are people who act to address global problems such as inequality, poverty, environmental issues and exploitation, and they describe their lives as joyful, deeply fulfilled, and impactful. Activism can also enhance one’s sense of identity and belonging, as it involves aligning one’s values and actions with a group or a movement that shares a common vision. A cross-national study by Vecchione et al. (2015) found that political activism relates positively to self-transcendence and openness to change values, especially to universalism and autonomy of thought.

However, activism also poses some challenges in relation to self-transcendence. One of the challenges is that it can expose one to negative emotions and experiences, such as anger, frustration, fear, violence, or oppression. Activism can also entail sacrifices and risks, such as giving up personal comfort, security, or relationships for a greater good. Moreover, activism can sometimes lead to disillusionment or burnout, especially when the desired outcomes are not achieved or when the activists face resistance or opposition from others. Therefore, activists need to find ways to cope with these challenges and maintain their motivation and well-being.

In conclusion, activism and self-transcendence are interrelated concepts that have both positive and negative aspects. Activism can be a source of self-transcendence, as it can provide meaning, identity, and connection for those who engage in it. However, activism can also challenge one’s self-transcendence, as it can involve difficulties, dangers, and disappointments. Thus, activists need to balance their passion and commitment with their personal needs and resources.

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Examples of self-transcendent activists

self-transcendence is the realization that one is a part of something greater than oneself, and that one’s actions have an impact on the whole. self-transcendence can inspire people to pursue higher goals and values, and to overcome personal limitations and challenges. In this paragraph, I will discuss some examples of activists who have achieved or pursued self-transcendence through their work, and how they have inspired others to do the same.

One example is Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistani activist who survived a Taliban assassination attempt for advocating for girls’ education. She has dedicated her life to fighting for the right of every child to go to school, regardless of their gender, religion, or background. She has also founded the Malala Fund, a global organization that supports girls’ education projects around the world. Malala has transcended her own suffering and trauma, and has used her voice and influence to empower millions of girls and women.

Another example is Greta Thunberg, a Swedish environmental activist who started the global school strike movement for climate action. She has challenged world leaders and politicians to listen to the scientific evidence and take urgent measures to prevent catastrophic climate change. She has also inspired millions of young people to join her in demanding a safe and sustainable future for themselves and future generations. Greta has transcended her own age and diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, and has become a symbol of courage and hope.

A third example is Albert Schweitzer, a French-German theologian, philosopher, musician, and physician who devoted his life to humanitarian work in Africa. He founded a hospital in Gabon, where he treated thousands of patients suffering from various diseases. He also advocated for peace, nuclear disarmament, animal rights, and respect for all forms of life. Furthermore, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952 for his philosophy of “Reverence for Life”. Schweitzer transcended his own culture and profession, and showed compassion and service to all living beings.

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Further reading

If you are interested in learning more about activism in relation to self-transcendence, you may find the following weblinks useful:

The Experience of self-transcendence in Social Activists: This article presents a definition of self-transcendent social activism and a theoretical model that explains the development and impact of participants’ activism.

Personal values and political activism: A cross-national study: This article examines how personal values relate to political activism across 20 countries, and how these relationships are moderated by cultural and individual factors.

Social identity as a key concept for connecting transformative societal change with individual environmental activism: This article explores how social identity can motivate and sustain individual environmental activism and how it can contribute to transformative societal change.

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