Critical social justice theory has become increasingly prevalent in recent years, permeating academic and social spaces alike. The ideology has been hailed as a step towards fairness and equity, but it is becoming increasingly apparent that its tenets are punitive and obtuse. Its reliance on cancel culture, deplatforming and the cultivation of a preoccupation with oppression create a dangerous victimhood culture that stifles free speech and fosters a culture of fear.
The fixation on what we perceive to be limits and oppressions can lead to feelings of helplessness, anxiety and depression, which can have serious consequences for our mental well-being. But there is a powerful antidote to this toxic ideology: resilience.
Resilience is a crucial component in promoting positive mental health and well-being. When individuals are resilient, they are better equipped to sustain their well-being, even in the face of challenges. Resilience can help individuals feel empowered to take control of their lives and tackle challenges with a sense of agency.
In contrast to critical social justice theory, resilience encourages individuals to focus on their strengths and recognise the resources and skills they can bring to the table. This can help build confidence and help individuals feel empowered to take control of their lives and tackle challenges with a sense of agency.
Promoting open and honest dialogue is another crucial step in addressing the impact of critical social justice theory. By encouraging individuals to engage in conversations with those who have different perspectives and experiences, it’s possible to build bridges and develop a shared understanding of the challenges facing society. This can foster resilience, as individuals feel connected to others and are better equipped to handle adversity.
Positive mental health is a complex experience that’s influenced by a constellation of factors. That’s why evidence-based solutions should be given priority: looking at research can help us to develop a more nuanced understanding of society’s issues and come up with practical solutions. This will not only encourage positive change but also instil individuals with the confidence to face their own problems head-on and find creative solutions.
Examples of this in action can be seen in various societies around the world. In Denmark, “hygge” (finding cosiness in life’s simple pleasures) has been shown to increase resilience and mental well-being. The same is true for Japan’s practice of “ikigai” (discovering one’s purpose) which has also been shown to improve mental health and resilience.
Resilience is not just limited to those who have been exposed to natural disasters and traumatic experiences; it can be developed by everyone. Experts say adults are just as adept at learning the skills needed to be emotionally resilient, no matter how late in life they start.
Instead of fixating on what divides us, we should focus on what unites us: a desire for a fairer, more just world that works for everyone. By engaging in resilience-enhancing practices and reassessing our approach, we can start taking steps towards creating this kind of world.
We need to remember that critical social justice theory’s negative consequences extend far beyond individuals to society as a whole. Instead of focusing on oppression and limits, let’s use our creativity and resilience to create a more positive future that works for everyone.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.