HOW TO BE LESS OVERWHELMED
We all get overwhelmed by life. It's the way life is. Most of the time
it is not our fault, but as my friend Tom says, "Sun burnt and
hung-over, who do you blame?" Whether it is our fault or not, there
are more things we can do to feel less overwhelmed.
In last week's Dig
we mentioned these three tools to fight an
overwhelmed emotional state:
- Pay attention to your own soul by asking the simple question: how
overwhelmed am I feeling? Assess your emotional state so you don't
take it out on others.
- We need to have at the ready our own unique quick charge way to get
- Notice your good intentions and, in a sense, congratulate yourself on all you do.
A fourth way to feel less overwhelmed is to fight all the emotions and
attitudes that slow us down
. This is quite the list: anger,
resentment, bitterness, self-pity, laziness, procrastination,
dependency, neurotic guilt, and fear. These are the molasses of the
soul: not only do they overwhelm our inner world, they also keep us
from functioning well in the external world.
I remember when I was a little boy I used to eat molasses sandwiches
at the home of my Aunt Reta and Uncle Ivan's. I loved her molasses
sandwiches and peanut butter cookies. It seemed I would always spill
the molasses on her kitchen table. This was the first of many signs that
I was not destined to be a mechanic. So it was especially hard for me
to clean up such a gooey mess. I'd ask for another slice of her home
made bread and, when no one was looking, I'd mop up the mess and eat it too.
So what mops up the soul-slowing, life-slowing molasses of anger, fear
and the other seven habits and dispositions?
You begin by realizing how hard those dispositions are on you and
deciding to mop up their mess inside your soul. Fear slows us down
more than anything. It can stop us dead in our tracks. And a part of
us will like that, because then we don't have to be courageous and do
the thing that scares us but will make our life better. The best
thing you can do about your emotional poisons is to feel the pain that
they give you. Research shows that pain is the greatest motivator to
change. So….feel, feel, feel….see, see, see all the ways in which
these largely negative emotions and attitudes slow you down, make you
feel bad, and prevent you from greater success.
Next, you learn to remember that your overwhelmed state is not all
your fault. Of course, if you are sun burnt and hung over, there is no
recipe like 1) admitting your fault 2) seeing why you did it 3)
stopping the behavior that you do not like 4) forgiving yourself for
spilling the molasses all over the place. Notice that the word
forgive is composed of for and give, which means that to forgive one
self or others is to be in a giving relationship with them or
Just as we go to the gym to strengthen our bodies, we can go to
outside help to strengthen our psyches.
Look at the list below:
Learning how to read
Fixing a blown head gasket in our car
Flying a jet plane
Organizing a wedding
Fixing a torn anterior cruciate ligament
To learn to do any of these things, we would need a lot of help.
Learning how to deal with anger or fear or neurotic guilt is no
different. We need massive help. There is nothing shameful in that
fact. It is the way life is. (And don't forget, your brain and your
soul are more complex than a gasket or a ligament—and can get you into
far more trouble.)
Here are some options for help. You can talk to a qualified
therapist. You can read a great book about one of your molasses issues
or talk to a friend about how to function more effectively in light of
your self-pity or other gooey internal issues.
If you can't do any of those things, at least do this: Sit down on a
park bench when no one is around, and speak to yourself out loud about
the emotional poisons within that are overwhelming you. Name them.
Hear your own voice. Be your own book. Listen to what your own still
small voice of wisdom has to tell you. Act on your own wisdom.
I can promise you this: if you are overwhelmed and if you do nothing
about it, it will only get worse. Life greases the track in the
direction you are going. But you can put the brakes on when life and
you are taking you in a bad direction.
On the American side of Niagara Falls there is a bridge over the river
that leads to the Falls. On the bridge is posted this sign for the
boaters in the river:
- Do you have an anchor?
- Do you know how to use it?
A TRIBUTE TO DOUG HAMILTON
The gods of my youth played hockey every Saturday morning at Doug
Hamilton's rink in Hildegarde, New Brunswick, Canada. We young boys
would arrive early and play our scrimmage games and then the gods
would arrive around mid-morning—these being the men from Hildegarde,
Lutes Mountain, the Gorge and "faraway" places like Gallagher Ridge.
They were the likes of Gordie Steeves or some man named Royce whose
slap shots could be heard a mile away. Their slap shots were the
polite way of kicking us off the ice. Nothing needed to be said.
For most of us, the 8th wonder of the world was Doug Hamilton himself.
He could play hockey with his black rubber boots on and not only keep
standing on the ice, but out race us to the puck and stick handle so
fast that he would always score within two or three minutes. If he
ever fell down on the ice, he would get up us so fast, laugh that
great chuckle of his, and be off for the puck.
Did we ever thank him and Marje and Uncle Bert and Aunt Dorothy enough
for taking that farm land and turning it into the Saturday night skate
where we would hear Johnny Cash and Elvis Presley while we skated
round and round and noticed the pretty girls with their whites skates
and listened also to the crisp sound of skates on ice? Did we ever
thank Doug himself enough for pulling that home-made ice-making barrel
with his arms outstretched behind him while he walked up and down the
rink making the ice cold, slick and hard? Or how about when we would
arrive after a snow storm and he would already have half the rink
shoveled by himself? Or did we ever thank him for the hut where we
would get our frozen feet warm to the smell of forbidden beer, hot
dogs, a hot stove and the sight of George Bulman's friendly smile and
always ducking head?
I remember one time when I "had the puck" and Doug came over and
"lifted my stick" with that amazing strength and quickness of his--and
my stick went 20 feet in the air. He laughed and chuckled and said,
"You better hang on tighter to your stick". I think I decided right
there that the NHL was not for me.
Doug's rink prepared me for my future psychotherapy career. Late every
Spring, we would arrive to a rink that was covered in a foot of water
and there would be no hockey for 6 months. And so we had to handle
our depression and sadness at the passing of time and the thawing of
our ice, our play, and our hockey dreams.
About a mile away from that rink was the church where we would hear
about the possibility of salvation. The church was filled with good
people but it was no where near as enchanting as Doug's rink. But it
did teach me about love and kindness and Easter hope of heaven and I
can tell you all today that I wish Easter strength and renewal for all
who miss him and I send my love to Marje who held me tenderly and
cleaned me up after a puck in the mouth and always was so happy to see
me; to Beverly who was always so cute in her white skates, and to
young Carl who was always a better hockey player than I was. Your
husband and dear father was always an 8th wonder of the world to me
and so, for me, heaven will not be heaven unless it has Doug's rink in
it and though it is always Spring in heaven the ice will never thaw
and, look, quick, there down the ice runs Doug Hamilton with his coat
flying, his pants tucked in and out of his boots, and he is laughing
and shouting for the puck.