Feelings are our sensory feedback system. They provide us with vital information that we need to take care of ourselves and keep ourselves on track. But we’re trapped in a blizzard of ever increasing stimuli.
The sensory pressures many of us are exposed to on a daily basis are enough to kill a cage full of lab rats. Sensory overload is becoming a way of life—but are our biological systems designed for this kind of sensory terrorism?
Overstimulation Affects Sensory Processing
Over stimulation occurs when exposure to sensory experiences is too overwhelming for our nervous systems to successfully process.
Picture a busy street, shopping mall or club where the smell of exhaust fumes, smoke, perfume, sweat, food and ‘fresheners’ compete for air space;voices talking, singing or shouting, screaming children, car engines revving, horns blaring, sirens wailing, the crescendo of jet engines, electronic screeches, burps and beeps, mobile ring tones, the drone of television commentaries and public address systems, deafening music, being pummeled, jostled and pushed in a crowd; the visual impact of blinking lights, rapid video sound bites, speeding vehicles, billboard advertisements, a chaotic kaleidoscope of colors, movement and flashing lights, people dancing or running or vehicles roaring by in a blur.
A relentless flood of sensory experiences like these overwhelming our nervous systems can lead to sensory shut down, angry outbursts or irrational behavior, because we cannot efficiently process this level of conflicting stimuli.
Media And Social Stress Add To Overstimulation
Added to this, the daily news media’s drip feed of tragedy and chaos, destruction, deprivation or looming disasters create a palpable level of mass anxiety.
Now pile more bricks onto this relentless load—intense personal challenges like job loss, financial debt, divorce, abuse, disease or death of a loved one. Add the burden of personal trauma, loss or low self esteem and we have a recipe for emotional disaster. We are creating a culture dominated by stress, tension, and fear—a response pattern characterized by high frequency brain waves termed beta waves. We are functioning on high alert all the time. Our senses are in danger of disintegrating in a sea of excess stimulation, while our emotions become mired in confusion, pain and powerlessness.
No wonder many of us have lost contact with our feelings—a vital feedback system.
Because it’s a way of life, these pressures are incremental and cumulative. They build up over time until we’re caught in a spiral of emotional turbulence—or shut down. And since our feedback system has been disabled, we don’t realize how deeply we’ve been sucked into this destructive vortex.
The advertising media then swamps us with a smorgasbord of chemical quick fixes, to further shut down our sensory alarm system! Unsurprisingly, when greeted with the traditional how are you—we respond robotically, fine—even if we’re in the middle of a meltdown or have succumbed to emotional paralysis!
The truth is many of us no longer know how we feel. We’ve just resigned ourselves to being victims of our environment.
In the next installment of this blog we’ll talk about Reconnecting with your Feelings.