Power Makes Us Sick (PMS) is an international collective that researches and supports autonomous health from an insurrectionary, anti-authoritarian, and feminist perspective. PMS seeks to understand the ways that our mental, physical, and social health is impacted by imbalances in and abuses of power. We want to share the good news of folks coming together to overcome that while supporting our collective health and wellbeing. We understand that mobility, forced or otherwise, is an increasingly common aspect of life today. PMS is motivated to develop free tools of solidarity, resistance, and sabotage that are informed by a deep concern for planetary well-being.

Our stated interest in autonomous health encompasses the mental, physical, and social aspects. Increasingly, though, we’ve been focused on collecting resources to support emotional health and wellbeing. There are a few practical reasons motivating this. Perhaps firstly, some of us suffer from mental health conditions that can make it difficult to function. Fighting back, bashing back, and generally creating visibility around this are actions that feel healing and so we do them.

Second, we love responding to calls from social movements and vulnerable communities, and a big part of these have been requests for this kind of support or info. So we’ve been putting together as many resources as we can muster, redestributing them and remixing them, while having a lot of conversations with folks as we go. Some of our friends have said that the lack of resources simply points to the fact that ‘emotional support’ is basic and obvious. To that point, we wonder: if it is so obvious, then why isn’t corresponding care happening more often and why do many of us fuck up so much? A lot of folks tend to be really insensitive to mental illness, write off certain types of people as being ‘aggressive’, ‘lazy’ or ‘needy’, conflate discomfort and harm, or maybe we all just aren’t that great at actually building accountability and conflict resolution. We think that to lay more of that foundation together is vital and important.

This brings us to the third major reason. While we were on this quest for info, guides, best practices, etc. around autonomous emotional support, we didn’t really find whatwe were looking for. We were already really inspired by the Icarus Project and in touch with groups like Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, and others. There were various bits and pieces: essays focusing on burnout or de-escalation, some handouts given to us at actions about how to support each other through crisis, a lot of zines on accountability processes for sexual assault, some best practice guides from the non-profit sector that didn’t really address the problems we saw. So we wanted to compile a guide based on our own experiences from doing this work, informed by our own approach, to help fill the gaps in the literature around this topic.

Much of our work happens through trial and error, is embodied and starts in small conversations that we try to translate back for a wider audience. When we got invited to work on the Syllabus, though, it seemed natural that we could use that time and space to organize all of our material, get a better grasp on the history of the work of autonomous emotional support and where it has come from, and really have some dedicated time to scour and wade through it all. We were suprised to find that when we did that, we found that others might have already attempted to put out a ‘best practices’ guide before, but perhaps in a very different time and place or in different waves of social upheaval. All in all, we loved the opportunity to put this together for others to use, and to work on it alongside some other really amazing people and projects.

We’ll come out with a publication focused on autonomous emotional support sometime in the coming months that delves more into some of the ways we’ve seen folks already practicing this right now, contains more of the guidelines we have put together, and generally mirrors the kind of content you’re more used to seeing come from PMS. This syllabus stands alone as a way to step ones toes into the work of developing autonomous emotional support. We think it would be best served for those who want to pick a few of the sessions and go through them with others who want to do this work together; the discussion questions could serve as a jumping off point for some of the conversations that will need to happen.


You can find out more about the work of PMS, download our zines and other content, and find ways to get involved through our website.