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If I had to choose one word to describe the emotional state of the modern man then I will bet my money on this one: OVERWHELM. According to the dictionary “overwhelmed” can mean one of the following:

  • To be affected or affect someone strongly
  • To cause to have too many things to deal with
  • To defeat someone or something completely

Not only do we often feel overwhelmed ourselves but there also seems to be a tendency or need to constantly affect others strongly. This trend can be followed on most social media platforms and the media. We don’t have to look far in search of evidence. Simply open your Facebook account and scroll down for a few seconds in search of news that will crash over your mind like a tidal wave and leave you with a feeling of hopelessness and despair. https://youtu.be/o8ky8PDLBRw

Many years ago, before the technological age of mobile phones and television, people only heard news about local events without a feeling of utter despair, because everyone could assist and help out. It was physically possible to get involved. The main reason for sharing bad and good news was to invite direct participation and only to those who were directly involved. The picture today is very different.

Nowadays we are exposed to (mostly bad) news from any part of the world and the emphasis is on SHARING, not PARTICIPATION. Time and again I scan through something horrible that happened, like an armed robbery, followed by two pages of hate speech from readers reacting to the post. I always check the date of the original post and often see that this event took place three of four years ago. Someone shared it again as if it happened recently. Very few people on the chat notice the original date. The masses simply jump in to add their feelings of disgust and press the SHARE BUTTON ONCE MORE.

For what reason do we do this?

Maybe we are after the reactions. Even the likes. Maybe we are after the adrenalized, addictive excitement that goes with being heard and supported by a sea of followers. Or do we simply enjoy to divide people?

I stand for none of this.

I am not trying to sugar coat our world. There is a lot of killing, stealing, raping and more horrendous acts going on in my town, my country and my world. I am simply saturated by the way we portray it, share it and in some sick sense feel the need to affect as many people as possible, people who cannot do anything about it.

This causes the messenger and the followers to have too many things on their minds to deal with and at the end of the day leads to a disempowering emotional defeat. If sharing bad news over and over and over again inspired people to compassionately reach out and participate, then our world would be very different. Ironically, it has the opposite affect.

People give up.

They are simply overwhelmed by the amount of injustice in a world that is too big to control or change.

The battle is lost.

This my dear friend is the grand fruit that grows from overwhelm. Negative, pessimistic passivity. A hopeless worldview.

We become more and more aggressive and verbally abusive citizens and less and less compassionate participating problem solvers.

We once had an incident where a young adult boy broke into our house and stole many of our possessions while my husband and son were in the house. He tip-toed around them without being noticed while carrying our stuff out of the house. I came back from town, walked up the stairs and looked into the eyes of this “unexpected guest”. My brain found it hard to put the pieces together because everything seemed so peaceful. He ran off (he left his shoes in my husband’s cupboard – exchanging it for a more expensive pair).

Long story short, we discovered that he must have been in the house with them for a while, carrying stuff into the nearby bush. The most interesting thing happened a few days later, when I bumped into someone from the opposite side of town who had heard about this from a friend. He expressed  rage at the “group of men” who had raided our house. I tried to correct him by saying it was just one person, but he did not pay any attention and seemed to prefer his version of the story.

I want to emphasize again – I am not trying to sugar coat bad things that happen in this world. I feel deep sorrow for all the innocent people who get affected by it.

What I do want to do is to highlight the fact that we are part of the problem if we constantly share only one side of a far greater reality.

Dr. Rick Hanson states the following on the negativity bias of the brain: “The brain is like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones”.  So the brain registers negative experiences immediately in emotional memory, whereas positive experiences – unless they are very novel or intense – have standard issue memory systems, requiring something positive to be held in awareness for many seconds in a row in order to transfer to long-term memory.  if not, these positive moments of enjoyment or encouraging feedback just flow through the brain like water through a sieve.

Humans are therefore easily drawn to negativity.

If we don’t make a deliberate choice to look out for, take note of, record and share the other side of reality then we set ourselves up for a hopeless form of overwhelm. https://www.goodtherapy.org/learn-about-therapy/issues/emotional-overwhelm

There are more positive things happening each day in my neigbourhood than negative ones. We have numerous chat groups about crime (I am not saying that this is not useful or important) but not one platform to share beautiful stories about how we get along, co-exist and support each other in a multitude of ways.

I often cry with laughter at the remarks of a gardener from our area. Nobody can make me laugh like this guy. He thanks God for rain because he is proud of the garden he takes care of. He lives a simple life and sometimes shows me how I complicate my own.

I will never ever forget the elderly African lady in the long queue at Home Affairs where I had to collect my ID book. She touched my arm in a warm motherly way and told me that it is a privilege to have children. Raising her own included great struggle. She was not always sure how she would feed them but she still felt blessed to be able to raise these children and see them grow up as fine young men and women. I must see my children as a blessing from God, she said.

We were just two human beings sitting next to each other in a public space where both had to wait for the same thing. She decided to use the time to uplift me. Her spirit was not complaining about anything because she flooded it with gratitude. I want to post her face to the world and say that I look up to her strength, dignity and power. She used it to reach out and positively influence even a stranger’s life.

I would like to report on every good deed that is happening in our friendly city Port Elizabeth. Why must we only give publicity to what goes wrong? Why can’t we balance the scale by speaking up and allowing another side of our truth?

A side that reflects how people are committed enough to walk to their jobs in the dark (when there is a country wide bus strike) because a family needs them to look after their children, or there is a deadline for a house to be built. For every one person who shouts out that they hate another human being there is a thousand people who keep silent about their compassion for others and how well some of us get along and live in close community.

When we don’t steer ourselves away from overwhelm we will reach a point where:

  • we shut the feeling centre (heart) down, turn it into stone, enabling us to treat others inhumanely.
  • we shut the thinking centre (mind) down, and lose all forms of clarity, enabling us to justify irrational behaviour.
  • we lose our zest for life, our energy and the ability to impact our world.

I RECLAIM MY LIFE. 

From now on I choose to focus mostly on sharing good news, giving a voice to human beings that choose to bridge the gap.

I deliberately want to bring my energy, attention and focus to what I can do and not what I can’t do. This is so easy to do. In the past I used to feel overwhelmed by the options I had to impact the world and make it a better place. Do I sign up with a political party? Do I jump in with a group from church? Do I serve at a soup kitchen or one of the amazing movements that strive to alleviate poverty?

My picture of where I must fill the gap does not align with any of these options. I am just a normal mom of three beautiful energetic children, married to a husband who works very long irregular hours. I am also in the process of setting up a new career path. One morning I had a few unscheduled hours and spontaneously decided to buy a few groceries and warm winter socks with a portion of my Life Coaching money. I took recyclable boxes and filled them with the goodies. The next morning I took a ten minute drive and surprised a few men who stood next to the road, seeing whether someone would hire them to do some gardening or painting.

Another week I decided to give a lift to all the domestic workers in my area on my way to town. Both these actions empowered me. It really does not matter if one or two people on the receiving end of my act of kindness appreciated it or not.

The vast majority not only repeatedly thanked me, but also asked that God would bless me. Why will I not focus on this and share it with the world? I decided to include as many spontaneous actions of kindness as possible. In this way I will do my bit to bridge the gap and spread my positive energy.

I want to break my silence about the blessings in this world. It is a wonderful time to be alive and to be able to influence others to appreciate, guard and build relationships between human beings. It is a choice.

NEVER WORRY ABOUT THE NUMBERS.

HELP ONE PERSON AT A TIME AND ALWAYS START WITH THE PERSON NEAREST YOU. 

Mother Theresa