Emotional Overload Is Rooted in Fear
Last week I said goodbye to the phone I’d had for more than 3 years, a phone I was attached to more than I’d like to admit.
I entered a state of complete overwhelm, spiraling between questions and frustrations, between crying and raging:
- How could I possibly learn a new phone?
- Why aren’t there any small phones?
- How will one of the new—BIG—phones fit in my pocket?
- It’s not fair that all the phones are large, while women’s pants pockets are small …
- You mean my old headsets won’t work either?
- Who would think the headset and charger should use the same jack?
- Ouch: the phone’s heavy and hurts my wrist.
- Why don’t my divination apps work anymore?
- If it’s not in the app store, then it’s essentially expired?
- How do I turn off notifications again?
- The phone’s too bright! How do I control the light?
And so on …
My questions and frustrations continued, along with much crying, until I realized that my spiraling emotional state was rooted not in loss or overwhelm but actually in fear. And I came to this recognition through the work of counseling, which I so wish would be widely available to us all (emotional learning and unlearning is critical for interrupting injustice).
Two Buckets: Fear and Love
What does fear feel like to me?
Among other things, fear shows up as anxiety, worry, defensiveness, disconnection, and visceral unease: the very things I was experiencing with the loss of my phone and when facing emotional overload.
In contrast, what does love feel like to me?
Believing, trusting, being patient, holding space, healing, releasing, expanding, committing, connecting, grounding, and visioning. Love feels mobilizing.
While fear leads me to nouns, love leads to verbs.
Fear keeps me frozen in place. Love enables being and acting, creating and imagining.
So, if I’m to embrace love as a motivator, then how might I stop pulling from the bucket of fear and start pulling from the bucket of love—not only in relating to my phone but also in relating with and building a world aligned with justice?
3 Ways to Embrace Love as a Motivator
In the case of my phone, some shifts occurred simply through (1) remembering the conversation about fear and love, (2) noticing that I was operating out of fear, and (3) getting curious about what I’m afraid of. More than missing my gadget (yes, all this emotion over an inanimate object), I was truly fearing that I wouldn’t be able to adapt, connect, or thrive with the new device (and beyond).
I noticed that issues of control and perfectionism were on high operating mode. As such, the lies of internalized sexism and white supremacy were in play, and my fears were rooted in feelings of being not-enough and more-than-enough.
Truly, the moment tapped into hurt over sexism: the large phone and small pockets being two concrete ways I feel my needs are ignored. And this hurt was all wound up with ongoing complicity and damage of oppressive systems that dehumanize and discount people. Fears of being dehumanized and discounted were called up alongside fears of doing (participating in) the dehumanizing and discounting.
Fears abound. Losing my familiar phone highlighted some of mine, while more remain in anxiety and worry, leaving me curious and questioning.
When I calmed down enough to reflect, I used a freewriting exercise that my counselor has suggested, stopping to ask three questions:
- What am I wanting?
- What am I needing?
- What am I prioritizing?
These questions brought attention to me wanting ease, though creating upset and dis-ease, especially as I prioritized getting my frustrations heard by others. But if my need is being heard (listened to and supported), is that not also a desire for connection, which is aligned with love?
From a place of openness, I called up the idea of abundance—that I’m already supported and provided for—and began to notice what the new phone has to offer. Shifting into the love bucket meant recognizing the phone’s better camera, solid battery life, quick speed, and accessibility features. It also meant asking how the new phone’s form (size and functionality) might be asking me to review old habits and set new routines more in line with my commitments.
This shift allowed frustrations to fall away and for me to acknowledge what I miss about the old phone, though without the emotional overload. Now I’m creating a new relationship with the phone, one I hope can be fused with love.
So many of my experiences as an entrepreneur, writer, and educator are full of similar sensations of overwhelm—loaded with all sorts of fears. So many experiences of navigating everyday life—from witnessing injustice to noticing complicity to disrupting the status quo—similarly call up fear.
What else might be possible with intentional shifts from fear to love?
This post is written by Beth Godbee, Ph.D. for Heart-Head-Hands.com. For related posts, you might try “Revisiting Fear Through Walker’s Essay ‘Everything Is a Human Being’’” and “My New Year’s Resolution = Self-Love for Countering White Fragility.”
To invest in ongoing self-work and deep-diving into conditioned ways of living, being, and intervening in the world, check out the self-paced e-course, “40 Questions for 40 Walks: Toward Everyday Living for Justice.”