This is Part 1 of a 3-part series on Healing Empathic Overwhelm, Stress and Fatigue:
- Part 1 – [You are here] Get Rid of Your Noisy ‘Fridge Head’ Once and For All (Article)
- Part 2 – How to Recognise When Your Gut is Blocked with Overwhelm (Video)
- Part 3 – How to Solve Overwhelm without Therapy (Meditation)
- Bonus – How the mind and body connect, drama and how it engages empathic overload (Video)
Do you keep quiet about your problems?
Melissa tried hard to force herself out of bed…
Her head hurt, it felt fuzzy, her legs like lead, her arms heavy. Not much sleep as usual. Her head had bubbled for hours, eventually she’d fallen into exhaustion before the beep, beep, beep of the morning alarm clock.
It was all happening again, the pattern repeating itself.
She was feeling over worked, unable to express how she felt.
Crawling into the shower, her body felt breathless. “What’s wrong with me?” she muttered. After a few minutes she’d pulled herself together, tucked the exhaustion to one side, showering, she stepped into her day.
Many of us limp through life exhausted, surviving rather than thriving. We put it down to a busy life-style, eating irregularly and too much to do. We all know the SHOULDS of life, we should be eating healthy food, we should be exercising more.
What if though we can’t follow through on the SHOULDS for an unexplained reason, a reason we’ve missed?
Melissa, like many people in life, has been taught a fundamental belief which impacts all sensitive individuals.
Keep quiet about your problems, don’t acknowledge them to anyone, not even yourself.
When you’re exhausted, your head buzzing, your inner world is trying to evaluate these three rules:
- Don’t talk
- Don’t trust
- Don’t feel
In other words, keep your business quiet.
1. Don’t Talk
Melissa had been told early in life to keep quiet, to always answer “I’m fine.” It was indeed impolite to trouble people with your woes and worries. It was certainly impolite to mention her father’s excessive drinking.
The trouble is, when we’re trained from early life to keep quiet about our life, to never divulge any weakness, to keep it in the family, we’re training ourselves to carry a burden, a burden that sub-consciously impacts our life forever more.
We carry that unconscious ‘bruising’ into our adult years. We create a pressure cooker of self-doubt of keeping things in. This somehow gives others permission to dispose of their energetic waste at our door. When we keep our inner world from our outer world it builds a pressure in the nervous system. That pressure, especially for an already highly sensitised person, builds an emotional bruising which eventually translates into inflammation. We then grow to assume all mentions of stress are negative thus turning that pressure in on ourselves.
Inflammation is both actual and symbolic. When we hurt ourselves the site of that wound swells, it bruises, it shows it’s been in pain. Generally inflammation is a good thing. It’s associated with an evolutionary advantage, a good ‘swelling’ response is thought to be a sign of a great functioning immune system, a sign of health and therefore reproduction. The body brings about inflammation through the release of chemicals that summon immune cells to the sites of trouble.
What happens though if we’ve become ‘immune’ to long-term stress?
Our body doesn’t respond to the inflammation. The ‘bruising’ is permanent, the inflammation isn’t switched off when the activity is over, the inflammation becomes chronic and widespread. A low-grade inflammation, a smouldering fire in our cells, the body over reacts to minor threats.
If you’ve ever wondered why you’re jumpy, hyper-vigilant and ready for action at the flick of a switch, a great problem solver, a highly instinctual workaholic then look to your foundational experience around managing family dramas.
So is the answer to over share?
Becoming suddenly vocal about our inner world, the potentials of what is troubling us opens up the second problem.
We wonder about what’s certain in life, what we can trust.
2. Don’t Trust
Psychological training to ‘never trust’ goes back through generations. It’s a little known survival mechanism designed to keep the clan, the tribe together. Modern life though requires us to trust outside of the family circle. The ‘tribe’ is now a global inclusion that requires transparency and partnership to thrive, it isn’t life threatening anymore. Part of us wants that connection the other part shrieks “NO it’s dangerous” the shrieks are particularly loud if our earliest emotional instruction was to avoid honest communication.
When ‘don’t trust’ is a sub-conscious programming that we add to the ‘don’t talk’ instruction, positive associations become difficult. Our internal world becomes governed by tension, hyper-activity and a mind buzzing intensity so strong that being anything less than perfect is failure.
We thus in our efforts to present perfect, we tell ourselves to placate others, to be agreeable to all we meet and to never confront situations head-on. We tell the world all is fine whilst the inner world is struggling to hold the water from leaking through the internal roof, buckets are everywhere.
Melissa’s head pounded with what she had to do that day. What if she didn’t get it all done? What if her boss didn’t like her today? Had she done something wrong? Had she caused his mood yesterday? She’d better ask – treading carefully of course.
Melissa had attracted into her life a temperamental boss. They could be all sweetness and light one moment followed by an insecure, raging, unreasonable nightmare who not only forgot, but couldn’t keep their promises.
Just like the unpredictability of her father.
She knew how to handle this though, she’d become a professional at handling difficult people. She’d placate them, listen attentively and avoid confrontation at all costs. Sometimes though the pressure grew too much, they’d push it too far and she’d walk. She’d done that several times in all her relationships and wasn’t afraid to do it again.
When we’re taught to keep quiet about our own problems, to never trust we deflect attention by becoming the perfect person for other people. The great friend, the kind person for everyone else, the problem is, the kindness never extends to ourselves.
We become the perfect listener, our mere presence seems to be an invite for people to dump on us. We engage in the depth of a conversation, fascinated yet bracing ourselves as we say, “Tell me more.”
3. Don’t Feel
When we’re very agreeable to others we’re avoiding feeling ourselves.
We put others first and attend to their drama in the most spectacular of ways. It’s as though someone else’s problems somehow relieve the tension of our own inner experience.
We’re useful, we can solve something! We’ll do anything but feel ourselves. We’ll feel the emotional experiences of others we’ll sense their mood even if they’ve given little away. Identifying with our own feelings? No…that’s just numb.
Melissa had spent the day before listening intently in the latest meetings. Her boss had been on a monologue, her assistant inefficient, her mother needed taking to her hospital appointment and her best-friend had just broken up with her partner. She’d calmly dealt with them all. Given the boss the reports they needed, given her assistant some encouraging words, agreed to take a day off work to take her mother to hospital and taken her friend out and provided a shoulder to cry on. She’d come home feeling proud of herself, she’d done her good deeds for the day.
The tension release a sensitive person feels when helping another is huge, we forget though about us, our own inner world. In taking care of others we forget to take care of ourselves.
Kindness is the key, taking that moment of inner kindness.
- How do I feel today?
- What is today’s guilt?
Instead of numbing the response, trying to hide it from yourself in shame, listen, properly listen to the answer. You’ll receive it in the stomach area or it will be an unusual pain in the body. Let it talk, that’s kindness.
Self-kindness though opens a new problem: “How much am I allowed? Do I deserve extended periods of self-kindness?” If your life training is to absorb your stress, to never feel, speak, or trust then how are you suddenly going to be able to manage self-kindness consistently?
What happened to Melissa?
Melissa’s world collapsed that day. It was the best thing that ever happened to her. Her body gave up, savaged by fatigue it finally gave up on her like a car driven hard with the hand brake on. Her inner ‘tyres’ burst, she collapsed at work and couldn’t remember much.
The system failure gave Melissa a new world, a necessary perspective. She had a powerful experience of momentary bliss.
Melissa’s body shut her down. She wouldn’t listen, so her inner world took over. It switched her into seeing the possibility she was actually perfect the way she was. She started to explore her inner world, she acknowledged the tensions of her early life, explored her intuitive instinct as a way to heal, she began to develop her own inner compass. She learnt how to recognise when something was for her to feel and for when it was for her to observe. She learnt it was not her duty to take on the world of others.
Today Melissa is happily engaged with her life, her daily life is filled with purpose.
She recognises she’s always been perfect, herself, her soul, a masterpiece in progress…