On overwhelm.

“‘Overwhelmed’ isn’t an emotion,” someone once told me.

Perhaps not, but it’s certainly an experience.  To me, it feels like being bombarded by a bunch of input at once – sensory as well as energetic.  Sometimes this is literal, like I’ve just walked through a crowd or I have a lot to do.  Sometimes, it’s more generalized and I can’t pinpoint a direct cause.

Overwhelmed can feel like a weight on my head, pressing down.  It’s hard to get really quiet within myself when I’m in that space; it takes more intentional focus to do so.  I’ve said before that it “feels loud.”  Sometimes this is due to external noise, but mostly it’s internal.

My experience of overwhelm often involves anxiety.  Other emotions may come up, too – sadness, frustration, anger, joy, excitement.  Sometimes it all feels jumbled and it’s challenging to identify one emotion, let alone several.  It can feel confusing.

Simplified definition of overwhelm from the Merriam Webster Dictionary:

to affect (someone) very strongly.

to cause (someone) to have too many things to deal with.

to defeat (someone or something) completely.

Dictionary.com includes this as part of its definition as well:
“to cover or bury beneath a mass of something, as floodwaters, debris, or an avalanche; submerge”

That certainly brings up a lot of images for me.  I think of a disaster that leaves piles of debris to sort through.  I imagine a flood that has waters so high that you can only see the rooftops of houses; the water overpowers anything in its path.

It’s easy for me to identify overwhelming experiences in a negative light.  At times, even excitement can feel like too much.  In the end, though, it’s not necessarily positive or negative.  Experiences in my life affect me strongly.  This has been part of my life as far back as I can remember.  So, I continue along the path of acknowledging, accepting, and integrating.  Sometimes this requires taking a step back.  And sometimes this means just saying to myself, “This feels like a lot right now, and that’s okay.”
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