Does it all feel like too much tragedy, too much upset and instability?

Does it all feel like too much tragedy, too much upset and instability?
October 4, 2017 Ann Weiser Cornell
How to manage overwhelming feelings

Focusing Tip #579 – “How do I handle how overwhelmed and anxious and sad I feel at the terrible things that are happening?”


Many of you are asking:

How do I handle how overwhelmed and anxious and sad I feel at the terrible things that are happening?

How do I engage with my day-to-day life when I feel like the world is such a chaotic, aching place?

How do I keep functioning when there is so much sadness and grief and instability out there?

How do I deal with my longing to help when there is so little I can do?

Dear Readers:

It all feels like too much. Earthquakes, hurricanes, mass shootings, war, the news of people with no food or housing, people whose lives have been overturned and who don’t know how to cope, people with an aching hole in the middle because a loved one has been shot. People like us.

It’s very tempting to turn it all off, to try to numb the pain and sorrow we feel, to try to shut down our compassion and empathy which hurts so much because the little we can do feels so small compared to the enormity of it.

And then there are the feelings of rage and frustration when those who are in a position to do more are not doing it, or not doing it well.

I do not have answers.

But I do know this: Our ability to respond to tragedy with sorrow and compassion is precious. We would not want to shut down these understandable and fitting feelings.

Instead of trying not to feel, let’s talk to each other.

At my workplace today we took thirty minutes today to share our feelings. We felt better. There is an alchemy that happens when feelings are shared.

Face to face and in person is best. Facebook offers a pseudo-intimacy that is addictive because it doesn’t meet the need for real closeness.

So I would say this: turn to a friend and say, “Can I talk to you about my feelings about what is going on? I’m not asking you to do something about them. In fact I’d rather you didn’t try. Let’s just talk.

Having feelings is actually a way of processing what happens. Allowing our feelings to emerge and be felt helps us deal with events in a genuine way. It’s OK to cry… and to rage.

When we stop our feelings, nothing comes next except frozenness. But when we allow our feelings, and give them company, the next genuine steps can emerge.

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