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We can’t get anywhere when we’re overwhelmed. It's like being hit by a sudden snow storm, hail storm, and kitty litter storm all at once. Pretty debilitating.

 

Okay, so we want to never again be tangled and tied in a knot of mental and emotional overload, right? Feeling overwhelmed is a big obstacle to moving forward. It’s like trying to drive to XYZ destination across town when a sudden snow storm, hail storm, and kitty litter storm hits all at once. Not pretty. Debilitating. We can’t get anywhere when we’re overwhelmed.

In the last posting, I gave three reasons why it can be tough to make Overwhelm go away forever [if you don’t know why I’m capitalizing the “O”, like it’s a name, read Part 1]. 

Again, here are the three reasons it can be so difficult to defeat Overwhelm:

1) Overwhelm is a feeling, and feelings are usually pretty tough to overcome, 2) Overwhelm can be very convincing, and 3) Overwhelm is a master of disguise and is deceitful in that it wants you to think Overwhelm itself doesn’t even exist; that Overwhelm is just a mix of other negative emotions. Nope. Overwhelm IS an emotion.     

Alright, let’s just take it easy and consider these one at a time…

1. Overwhelm is a feeling.  Too many people believe feelings can’t be controlled. Those people are losing to Overwhelm, sometimes on a daily basis, and they’ll keep losing as long as they believe feelings cannot be ruled by things like facts and rational, conscious thought (we’ll get to that in a minute).

People whose life decisions (and indecisions) are driven by feelings, to the exclusion of other integral elements of the wise decision-making process, don’t like the results they keep getting… but they believe life is happening to them and that they have no other option.

This article is not for those who are satisfied with being “feeling-driven.” It’s for those who’d like to take charge of their feelings rather than the other way around.

Got Overwhelm?

So, if you are experiencing a feeling that you’d characterize as “overwhelming”, remember that it is just a feeling, and feelings are not based upon facts.

— What? You want to argue about that? Of course, you do. When I say that feelings are not based upon facts, you get angry – just a little bit angry, right? Isn’t that interesting.

Here’s one of the problems with your disagreement: if feelings were based upon facts, then all of us would always feel the same way about the same set of facts. But we don’t.

No. Feelings are not based on facts. Feelings are derived from the meaning(s) that we choose to attach to the known facts.

And when we are feeling overwhelmed, we’re being tempted to believe we can’t control that feeling. We are also being told to ignore the relevant facts that will help us to get out of the morass of emotions we’re swimming in.            

2. Overwhelm can be very convincing.  When we say, “I’m overwhelmed,” or “I’m feeling overwhelmed,” we are in the process of getting sucked into a common… (let’s just call it) attack. The Enemy wants you to think you are hopeless and that your life is in a hopeless state. He wants you to believe you’re defeated. He wants you to give up.

Overwhelm doesn’t want you to realize that Overwhelm is, itself, a feeling. Anger is a feeling (feeling mad). Sorrow is a feeling (feeling sad). Overwhelm is a feeling that too much is being piled on and you can’t think straight.

Perhaps the worst consequence of this is that when we’re in a state of overwhelm, we too often succumb to a not-so-subtle pressure to make a drastic, dramatic decision, like, right now.  That is such a mistake (but it’s also the stuff of future posts).

Suffice it to say that there are incalculable physically abused children, unnecessary divorces and broken friendships because really bad, really rash decisions were made in a moment heated by that undercover emotion known as Overwhelm.

If you don’t believe Overwhelm is a feeling and that it can be controlled, you’ve proven this point; that Overwhelm can be very convincing.

3. Overwhelm is a master of disguise. Overwhelm is deceitful in that it wants you to think Overwhelm itself doesn’t even exist. Overwhelm prefers to have you believe that Overwhelm is just the same feelings you’ve been experiencing – just more intensely because of everything that’s going on all at once.

That, of course, is a lie. Other emotions aren’t plotting your total demise like Overwhelm. Overwhelm represents an attack on you and your future like nothing else.

Overwhelm must be defeated. There’s only one winner. It’s either you or Overwhelm. Now that you’re aware that you have a choice, the answer to this question is completely up to you: will Overwhelm defeat me or will I defeat it?

How to Fight Back…  

The way to defeat Overwhelm is so simple, it’s almost embarrassing.

For starters, it is important to engage your brain. You’ve got to start thinking.

Do you understand that thoughts are not feelings? Okay, now understand that you can’t do both at the same time. We are all able to think and we are all able to feel, but, like sneezing and having your eyes open, it’s pretty much impossible to do both at the same time.

Step One: Engage Your Brain. I’m going to choose to take a few minutes and think for myself. Feelings will have to take a back seat while I choose to engage my brain and think about things.

Step Two: Have a Conversation With Overwhelm. Yes, I mean it; you literally have a conversation with Overwhelm. Overwhelm is telling you that you can’t handle it; that you are defeated; that you should give up. Fine. Your objective here is to no longer just stand there and take that kind of emotional abuse. You’re choosing to fight back. You’re choosing to challenge what Overwhelm wants to convince you is true.    

Now, here’s what you can expect…

Overwhelm isn’t rational, so Overwhelm is immediately on the defensive because you’re using the tool of rational thinking against Overwhelm and that’s not the arena Overwhelm deals in.

Remember that Overwhelm is deceitful and doesn’t want you to know that Overwhelm exists at all. Overwhelm would rather sit in the shadows and whisper a constant drone of negativity until it makes you cry, or lash out at someone, or make a decision based upon the emotions you’re feeling right now, and that’s when Overwhelm is finally happy. Overwhelm isn’t happy unless you are… miserable. If you can be misled into believing that you have very good reasons for feeling this way, Overwhelm has accomplished one of his objectives.   

Anyway, you simply need to tell Overwhelm that you’re going to do a fact check on what he’s been trying to convince you of.

“Overwhelm, you are telling me I need to feel miserable because of a list of facts you want me to believe are true. Let’s take a closer look at those facts and see if they really are true. Oh, and let’s make sure we’re taking into consideration ALL of the facts that might apply to this situation. Okay?”

At about this point in the conversation Overwhelm might be saying something like, ‘This is stupid. I don’t want to have this conversation.’

That’s okay! Even though Overwhelm will not participate, you can still go through the list of what Overwhelm had been telling you before you caught onto what Overwhelm was up to.

I think it’s important to go through the exercise of actually listing the facts of the matter. If you do this, you generally won’t have to do it again. The list will be available for future use, to refer back to.

So, once you’ve gone through and parsed what are the true facts and what you’ve been listening to that are lies [and, by the way, a “fact” that is 99% true and 1% lie IS A LIE!!), you are now able to put things into proper perspective and, voilà!, you no longer feel overwhelmed.

[If you’re still feeling overwhelmed, continue the exercise. It will work every time it’s done because feelings and thoughts cannot be fully engaged at the same time. The more you think, the less you feel the weight of Overwhelm sitting on your chest.]

Remember that Overwhelm hates you and ultimately wants nothing less than your total destruction. We should never fall into agreement with Overwhelm. We should always fight back. We should fight Overwhelm like it wants to kill you… because it does.  

A couple of housecleaning points…

You might be saying, ‘I don’t think I’m choosing to feel miserable.’ Yes, you are… by default. By giving in to Overwhelm, misery is the result. It’s not a conscious choice to feel miserable. It’s a result of a choice to not fight back when Overwhelm comes knocking.  

The sooner you realize Overwhelm is a liar and has nothing good for you, you’ll stop opening the door every time it comes knocking.  

One final note: We should delineate between feeling overwhelmed and feeling extremely guilty or extremely sad or extremely angry. Overwhelm is a feeling all by itself and it delivers a single message: you’re defeated. Give up.

Guilt is guilt. Sadness is sadness. Anger is anger. Those are emotional responses that are bad enough on their own. When an emotion like overwhelm enters the picture, you’re no longer dealing with guilt, sadness, or anger. You’re now dealing with a liar who wants to destroy you by convincing you that the guilt, sadness, anger, or whatever, is just too much to take. Things have now gotten more serious. It’s more vital than ever that you remember to simply resist it and it will go away!  

And by the way, negative emotions like guilt, sadness and anger can also be minimized – even eliminated – by: 1) questioning the facts that are inviting you to feel guilt, sadness, and/or anger, and 2) introducing additional relevant facts into the mix.

The main thing here is to think. Don’t just feel.

Are you feeling overwhelmed? Think about it. By applying good, old fashioned thought to the situation, you are able to control your feelings and weigh ALL the relevant facts of the matter, not just those that feed Overwhelm’s insatiable appetite for half-truths and negativity.

2 Responses

  1. Matt Krause
    | Reply

    I like this sentence in particular…

    “Overwhelm is deceitful in that it wants you to think Overwhelm itself doesn’t even exist.”

    It reminds me of Stephen Pressfield talking of The Resistance in The War of Art (http://www.amazon.com/War-Art-Through-Creative-Battles/dp/0446691437).

  2. Jenn
    | Reply

    Brilliant. Brilliant. Brilliant. Thank you.

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