Feeling overwhelmed is a very common psychological issue, affecting up to 1 in 4 adults at some point during their lifetimes. It is “feeling completely overcome in mind or emotion,” according to Marla W. Deibler. And for many people, it is simply a part of life. Kathleen Nadeau describes this common reality:
Overwhelm results from families with two working parents managing a household and raising kids. Overwhelm results from trying to work full-time while earning a degree in our “spare time.” Overwhelm results from workplace environments that keep piling on expectations with little regard for whether those expectations can be met within a 40-hour week. Overwhelm results from being a single parent trying to run a household and hold down a full time job. Overwhelm results from being “on” 24/7 through mobile phones, social media and the availability of movies and TV series on demand.
Good boundaries protect us from our own tendency to sacrifice ourselves for other people. When we are protecting ourselves, when we have clear boundaries, we don’t get hurt as much and the hurts we do experience are less painful.
The truth is, picking up other people’s emotions always does more harm than help. It’s not like we take their burden and carry it for them. They have that sorrow for a reason. We call it a weight on their shoulders, but it’s more like the leaves on a tree. It comes from the roots inside of them. So when we take those leaves off and put that weight on our shoulders, they just grow more leaves on the tree. So now both of us are carrying that sorrow. In other words, by taking on their sorrow, we didn’t cut it in half – we’ve essentially doubled it!
Authenticity is one of the most important parts of being human. But it’s also one of the most difficult. We long for people to see us in our messy puddle and love and accept us anyway, but we fear that they will see our puddle and reject us. Being authentic always opens an opportunity to be rejected, and that scares us. Of course, rejection will happen. It is a part of life. But we must learn to be authentic anyway. As John Amodeo notes, being authentic lets us “discover a satisfying sense of integrity and satisfaction in expressing the truth of our experience no matter what response we receive.” Being authentic is healthy and freeing, but we need to feel safe and protected for that to happen.
The first tool that will help you deal with emotional overwhelm is to simply understand what it means to be a highly sensitive person. Your “openness” means that you can be an incredible philosopher, teacher, or whatever you want to be. On the other hand, you may not be a great explorer or engineer, pursuits which sometimes require a detachment that highly sensitive people usually cannot maintain. But regardless of the career goals you have, your empathetic tendencies are fundamental to who you are. They cannot be changed or “worked through.” Instead, highly sensitive people must learn to work with their brains to interact effectively with their world. If you can understand who you are and how your body and brain work, then you can accept those parts of yourself and learn to work with them. Continue reading
So, what does it mean, then, to be a highly sensitive empath? If you need to know who you are so you can more forward from there, what qualities and strengths will you have to accept and respond to?
First, you must understand that your emotional sensitivity will tend to the negative.
Within yourself, emotional information can be difficult to manage. The messages your body will send to itself are often very negative. Highly sensitive empaths hate making mistakes. They’re people pleasers. They want to make other people happy. And they’re really hard on themselves. They can be highly compassionate towards other people, but beat themselves up constantly. Continue reading
Our brains are vitally important. As the epicenter of our nervous system, the brain is generally recognized as the controlling organ of our bodies and our lives. We don’t need a medical degree to understand that our brains are necessary to our very existence.
The brain is the body’s mainframe computer. It processes messages from every system and organ in the body. It controls the hormonal system and affects our emotions. In it lies the foundation of our intelligence. The brain is composed of two hemispheres which control our right and left sides, but which also control our verbal, logical self (left) and our creative, imaginative self (right).
When disconnected, our brains and our hearts work against each other, paralyzing us and keeping us from the life that we long to have. However, when our heart-brain connection is functioning properly, its influence is extensive and its power in our lives is immeasurable.
The first way that this powerful influence of the heart-brain connection can be effectively harnessed is through intention. Intention is about the “purpose and awareness with which we approach [an] occasion.” Marcia Wieder defines intention as “to have in mind a purpose of plan, to direct the mind, to aim.” In other words, intention is “influencing one’s internal and external environment in a purposeful way.” It is harnessing the power of the mind and heart together to achieve even our most impossible dreams.
Our hearts have significant influence on our lives. Our emotions, while good and necessary are not absolute indicators of what we need to do. They signal what we need to do to make our lives better, but they cannot be allowed to rule the heart-brain connection. When the heart breaks its connection with the brain, we can stagnate from the flood of negative emotions that leave us feeling defeated. These emotional tsunamis can over run our lives, disrupting our balance and negating our ability to function positively and proactively.
Being overwhelmed is a primary example of a negative feeling that can be created when the heart is disconnected from the brain. One of the most common negative emotions that we will face, this feeling often results when the pressure caused by a person or situation seems too much to bear. Continue reading
A negative emotional balance that the heart can cause is a lack of satisfaction. Rather than being indecisive, in this case, you know what you want. But making your choice, and even achieving that goal, brings no pleasure. The most obvious place that this emotional negativity reveals itself is in work. Whether we like our job or not, when our hearts are divorced from our heads, our dissatisfaction with our jobs goes up. And this is currently a common problem in the American workforce.
Recent surveys show that more Americans than ever are dissatisfied with their jobs. Some are burned out or bored, while others feel that professional success has eluded them. Stress over financial well-being – which for many is synonymous with professional success – is the primary source of discontent. Indeed, when people are asked if they could have anything in the world right now, most report wanting “more money.”
The most valuable, way that the heart-brain connection can influence our development towards the full life we desire to have is through the process of self-actualization. Dunlop noted that humans are programmed to stay with a familiar reality, even if that reality is one of pain and suffering. But by utilizing the principles of self-actualization, energized by a working heart-brain connection, we can completely change our lives for the better.
Abraham Maslow who was an American psychologist that was best known for creating Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, also coined the phrase self-actualization “to describe the ongoing process of fully developing your personal potential.” His hierarchy of needs described the fundamental conditions that must be met at each stage in order for us to achieve the highest levels of existence and meaning. Continue reading