Everyone is Sort of Terrible: On Taking Breaks from Community Participation

Sometimes I really just don’t want to be around other Pagans. Part of it is my introverted personality. Part of it is the stress that just naturally comes along with running a group. And part of it is genuine irritation at the pettiness of other people, bringing out my own pettiness.

There are times when withdrawal from a wider community is necessary. I think it’s easy to blindly get caught up in patterns—that’s the nature of any social group. We’re people; it’s what we do. There’s always some kind of (sometimes subtle) hierarchy, some kind of covert measure for determining authenticity (oh, he’s not really one of us), speech patterns, memes, outfits…it starts to feel gross after a while. I stop feeling like I’m progressing. I get caught up in the dramas of other people and lose sight of my own objectives.

It’s not personal. I mean, sure, the Pagan Community™ has its share of brokenness, but I’m not convinced it’s really more prevalent than what goes on in other spaces. Everyone is sort of terrible sometimes, whatever freak flag they’re flying. Abandoning one group for another doesn’t usually solve much because fundamentally people follow the same sorts of behavioral patterns just by virtue of being people. Withdrawing entirely can be equally problematic because isolation doesn’t usually help anyone in the long-term. It’s worse if you’re prone to depression.

For me, it comes in waves. I get excited about participating in a wider community right around summer and sustain those feelings through fall (LET’S GO TO ALL THE FESTIVALS). Winter and spring, I don’t want anything to do with anyone (EVERYONE IS SO DUMB OMG). It’s normal, I think, to want to take breaks.  And it’s especially important to be aware of your own waves to keep from being caught off guard by shifting moods.

I start feeling drained and the depression gets worse. I don’t have as much energy for new connections or casual acquaintances. I get irritable and start speaking in sweeping generalizations. I roll my eyes a lot more. It’s unpleasant for everyone involved.

To remedy this I try to do a lot more art. I paint, I play music, and I journal a ton. It helps me to center and recharge. I run a lot more, and further. I usually cut down on my time spent online. I also like to plan trips, either to go backpacking in some backcountry somewhere or to visit close Craft family. Sitting around with my upline shooting the shit over cocktails is basically my idea of heaven. I can start feeling like I’m part of something worthwhile again. All of this leaves me with more energy for my coven—that tiny portion of the community that I’m directly responsible for.

7 thoughts on “Everyone is Sort of Terrible: On Taking Breaks from Community Participation

  1. scott

    Good to know it’s not just me. I dropped facebook, only had it for a few months, I felt brain cells committing suicide. Also killed the dating sites and started turning inwards. But it would be nice to find a really tight coven. Thanks for the article again Thorn.

  2. Totally true. We usually no longer want to participate in the wider community the second we wake up hungover, but the drive returns around 8pm the next evening 😉 but that’s only because Gardnerians always have good scotch.

  3. It’s because in the community setting, most participants of that community are concerned about both belonging and belonging better than anybody else and therefore standing out, but standing out in a belonging sort of way, please. The result of such motivations, sadly, is terrible conduct. Those who don’t value belonging or belonging better than others tend not to do well in a community setting, because they’re not playing that game.

    In the community setting, why do we ever speak up about something unrelated to us? Is it really out of a selfless objective to contribute to discourse? No, not usually. We speak up because we want to make that something-unrelated-to-us related to us so that—whether it even makes sense or not—we can stay relevant. It’s stupid.

    That was my long way of saying I rarely function well in community settings, so this post resonated with me. Thank you for writing it.

  4. Chris Mann

    Sometimes I get annoyed at how unintelligent most human beings are. What I really don’t get is why so many aim to be even less intelligent.

  5. I go through this a lot. I have depression, and when it cycles ’round I just want to be away from everyone and, as you say, everything is terrible. I feel you. We (the Pagan and occult blogosphere) will still be here when you’re ready to emerge. Best wishes!

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