By Dr. Frank Carter
We typically describe the feeling of being overwhelmed as the result of having too much to do and not enough time and energy to do it. And we think the way to solve this feeling is to simply think more clearly, or to think more and more and more. We are also commonly counseled by family and friends that in order to become less overwhelmed we need to change our perspective, to let go of the small stuff. Does that sound familiar?
The truth is that feeling overwhelmed actually stems from our memories and experiences during childhood. When we feel overwhelmed, it means that too many problems went unresolved during childhood and that same feeling is being triggered emotionally, today. We feel like we have too little energy to resolve them because of deep historical beliefs that were acquired in childhood. As a child, you did not have the ability to resolve many of your difficulties, but today you do. You just don’t believe it.
I know this might sound like hokey psychological babble, but think about it: you have probably felt overwhelmed multiple times during your entire life, but have never been defeated. However, as you get older, the problems become more challenging, because they involve other people. As a result of career, family and community obligations, you run out of energy to continue to deny the truth: you can solve these problems. The truth is that feeling overwhelmed and alone is not the fault of the person feeling those feelings; it is an example of a feeling from childhood that you are re-creating for yourself in order to feel normal.
In addition, living in a Western-style existence, our competitive, capitalistic culture can also contribute to the feeling of being overwhelming. It can certainly be alienating with regards to the necessities of providing for a family, the obligations of marriage, and the participation in acts of community. As living in America continues to pressure the population, more and more men and women feel that they are inadequately fulfilling their obligations to themselves and their children. And what is even sadder is that as the population succumbs to the pressure of dual wage earners, increasing taxes, and less individual time, the sense of feeling overwhelmed and alone continues to be modeled in everyone’s home for the children to witness and then to model themselves.
We would do well to take it upon ourselves to fight back: to fight the models of our childhood and to fight the pressures of our ever-present competitive reality. People who feel alone and overwhelmed can be helped—not by being told they are thinking irrationally, but by understanding where their irrational feelings come from, accepting that those values are counterproductive today, and then by committing to change something about themselves in order to feel like a winner for a change.
When our internalized words and actions are well balanced with the sensory information we are receiving from the environment, we feel safe, we feel happy, we feel satisfied, and we feel accomplished. This is what I call feeling “triumphant.”
I teach my clients that the objective in life is to enjoy the day, and I teach them how to do this. It takes practice and discipline to be able to make the change from experiencing every day as painful to experiencing every day with satisfaction, but it’s possible—and it’s unbelievably worth it.
If you are experiencing feelings of being overwhelmed and alone, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Visit me at
or give me a call at 858-454-2828.