How to deal with emotional overwhelm

‘Tell me one last thing,’ said Harry {to Dumbledore}.  ‘Is this real?  Or has this been happening inside my head?’ Of course it is happening inside your head,  Harry,  but why on earth should that mean it is not real?’

Quote from “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows,” Part 7; p 579 by J.K. Rowling
Photo credit:  Wikia 

What is real?

As I have been reading the Harry Potter series,  I came across the above quote near the end.  It is a question that swirls through my head on a regular basis.  Recently many memories are coming to the surface.  Neither real bad,  nor very pleasant.  They just are.

Just like Dumbledore I know that my thoughts, feelings,  understanding etc. from those memories are real.  And as such they are part of my truth.  It is my perception of that event when it happened.  Even though my parents perception of that same event completely differs,  my experience is still valid ánd real.

Then,  something occurs,  that emotionally overwhelms us,  we overreact and don’t understand what is going on.  To make life more complicated,  we can overreact because of two reasons:  because of how our bipolar mind works,  and/or because of past traumatic events.

What we have to realize,  is that an occurrence today will also tap into our emotions from the past and emotions trump.  It means that the two merge and cause our emotions to intensify and overwhelm us which in turn causes our response to be much stronger than the present situation warrants.

The challenge is this:  to respond to todays event with the appropriate action without being able to trust our emotions.   In other words,  to be aware that an event is a trigger to past events,  check ourselves and keep a reign on our emotions.

how to dealw with emotional overwhelm

How do we achieve that?

I find I have to step back sometimes when I feel overwhelmed.

Being aware of our bipolar and trauma triggers.  I can never stress it enough:  we need to be(come) students of our own life!!!

Once we know what is triggered,  it is important to attribute our feelings.  If it is the bipolar disorder brain or if it is an overreaction because of,  for instance, a certain trauma,  we label it accordingly.  Then we give it value:  do we want it or not?  Is it in our best interest?  Maybe we have to take note and work on it with a counselor or talk it over with a friend or support group.

The next step is to focus on the here and now and practise mindfulness.  Why the here and now?  Because a bipolar mood as well as unprocessed trauma will always drag us to the past or the future.  The past might be full of memories that trip us,  the future is full of ‘might-be’ and ‘ifs’ causing anxiety and fear.  It all feeds into our emotional system and as a result we get easily overwhelmed or hijacked by what we feel.

Real life example

As far as I can I have made peace with the total abandonment my mother subjected me to.  I am in a much better place than I have ever been.  Yet,  if something happens that triggers those feelings of abandonement… it is still a hard nut to crack!

Recently I met an old friend,  we used to have a deep friendship that stopped quite a number of years ago.  We made an appointment for coffee later that week.  

Afterwards,  my emotions were out of whack and I wondered what was going on.  I figured (amongst some other things that were happening) that the old emotions were surfacing of the time our friendship shipwrecked.  I was really angry.  More than the situation warranted.  

So I thought some more and realized I felt abandoned by her… and that triggers the abandonment issue with my mom which is very strong powerful stuff.  

I decided to use my anger in the here and now to keep a safe distance between her and me.  I also figured out what I wanted to say if the issue came up.  

When we met for coffee I was calm and I had a strategy in place to end the time together early if I felt I needed or wanted that.  It worked out fine – in that the issue came up,  I calmly explained my side and we will see what happens next.  

Afterwards I talked the situation over with my counselor. 

When we apply these steps,  like in my example above,  it is possible to deal with triggers and the emotional overwhelm it causes.

Step back, take stock, be mindful and live in the here and now!

Photo credit:  dvs

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “How to deal with emotional overwhelm

  1. Sorry peeps for bleeding your eyeballs….

  2. What a powerful and stirring read! Thanks for sharing, and may you incur many blessings on your long journey. :)

    • Maragete, thank you so much for your kind words and encouragement!
      BTW I think it’s so cool you have your own business online! May you continue to be succesfull.

  3. Hey Fenny. How are you lately? Busy doing more fun things than blogging I hope. ;D Shah. X

  4. Pingback: Action Strategies to Help You Stop Overreacting | Create Your Life By Design

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