A Coaching Power Tool By Douglas Cryns, Confidence Coach, GERMANY
What Counts as a Resignation vs. Recuperation
Showing compassion to let yourself recover from stress and overwhelmedness.
It’s just too much…I give up.
As the husband of a ME/CFS sufferer, I’ve often seen my wife reach the end of her patience, strength and nerves and just want to give up. Besides being sick; the stress of organising doctors, chasing diagnoses, sticking to therapies and getting on with the day-to-day challenges of life with a chronic illness can be accumulative – and when more things pop up than get solved, and life seemingly enjoys throwing roadblocks in your way, it’s human to want to resign and give up. When it happens, the light goes out – motivation is lost, creativity parked away, the ability to enjoy anything withers – all that remains are negative feelings and a debilitating loss of control.
My own personal experience relates very much to balancing work and personal life – a full-time job, my children, and caring for a loved one. When the list of responsibilities and tasks “pulling” on me adds up, much faster than I can work through it, I become stressed – and I cease to be the master of my task list. I begin to multitask, to stretch myself, to rush things inevitably making them take longer. I lose the connection to myself and try to put off my feelings to attempt “just getting through this”. Eventually, I lose and I have to stop – and the feeling of overwhelmedness crashes upon me, so I often need to speak to someone else to begin getting out of it.
I wanted to explore the feeling of overwhelmedness, and the consequences we can choose to follow – of resignation, or recuperation, and share how the shift of perspective from resignation to recuperation can be achieved.
What Is the Difference Between Resignation vs. Recuperation?
If you google the word “Overwhelmedness”, you find the following:
“Overwhelmedness (uncountable) The quality of being overwhelmed – wiktionary.com
What struck me is the “uncountable”. Of course, it means merely that there is no plural of this word – but when thinking of the feeling of being overwhelmed, the word “uncountable” seems to fit very well.
What do you feel when you are overwhelmed? How does it change the way you act? How does it affect your ability to function?
When I am overwhelmed, I can no longer count the things piling up on my to-do list, or judge the size of the tasks that are to be done. Everything is too much, too big, or too urgent.
My wife said, “It’s like I can either do everything all at once or just absolutely nothing”. That says a lot about the nature of the challenge – many, uncountable things, merge into a huge block. This activates either the “fight” (Do everything) or “flight” (Do nothing) instincts.
Ultimately It’s like having control over your actions taken away by a feeling of inertness – of feeling unable to handle and change things.
If you dig a little deeper into the etymology of the word, you’ll find that “whelm” is Middle English “to turn over, to invert, to capsize”. One is literally being capsized by your impression of the magnitude of the things you face.
“…the acceptance of something undesirable but inevitable.” – Oxford Languages
Being overwhelmed is like being under attack all the time. The human body is a master of protecting itself. It won’t allow itself to be attacked indefinitely – eventually, defence mechanisms will kick in and do their best to prevent damage. Resignation is a psychological defence mechanism – designed to divert us away from the attack – at least temporarily.
Unfortunately – while resignation protects us from the immediate danger, it comes at a cost.
Resignation is a daily suicide – Honoré de Balzac
While it may alleviate the pain of facing the challenges resulting in overwhelmedness, it paves the path for other negative consequences – pessimism, lack of motivation, loss of agency, and passivity. It removes our ability to adapt, control and change our destinies because we are simply unable to approach our problems. This helplessness leads to avoidance and we lose control of our lives and our emotions.
- Recovery from illness or exertion
- The recovery or regaining of something – Oxford Languages
To play with words and meaning here – let’s take both of the above and explore.
When we allow ourselves to recuperate, there are several prerequisites that are key to being able to do so:
- We practice acceptance
- We show compassion for ourselves
- We let go of judgement
Recuperation brings with it many opportunities – we rest. We allow ourselves to slow down. We regain the important energy that we need to work in our daily lives.
In an optimal situation – smaller portions of recuperation go hand in hand with exertion and the day-to-day challenges of life, so that we never get so far as being overwhelmed. That is sometimes a hard balance to achieve, so it is important to learn how to deal with this in a healthy way.
The Perspective Shift – Switching From Resignation to Recuperation
Shifting from resignation to recuperation allows us to regain our resolve, retake control, and rekindle motivation and creativity. It brings fuel to everything that we need to take on the challenges of life. It allows us to see previously unworkable paths with fresh eyes, and turn them into opportunities. It lets us take a first, critical step forward that simply involves standing still, regaining clarity of thought, and ceasing fighting. It’s the moment we allow ourselves to breathe and recognise the space we really have. Ultimately, it brings confidence.
We can then move on to the questions and actions we need to address to move forward.
- “How can I break this down into manageable steps?”
- “What’s important now? What is just noise?”
- “What is my next step?”
- “Is there an opportunity here?”
- “Do I need help, where can I get help?”
Resignation vs. Recuperation in Coaching
In coaching, our clients come to us for help to achieve their goals. The clear goal when feeling resigned is to stop feeling resigned and take control, and find direction. At any given time during the coaching journey, feelings of overwhelmedness can appear, especially in times where there are many actions on the table, or perhaps actions have become backed up due to a challenging period in the client’s life.
Our goal as a coach is to facilitate our clients’ path to taking a step back from their obstacles, from the “uncountable” things that they have on their minds. Being overwhelmed often comes with a feeling of acceleration in the tasks at hand and a loss of control. During coaching, the first step is to give the client space to slow down, to invite them to view their situation from a different perspective and to be able to identify a different approach – to take them from resignation to recuperation, to regain and feel the energy they need to design a path forward.
This involves inviting them to take the pressure off themselves. There are many ways to achieve this, each individual needs something else. A common path can be to invite the client to take a step to the side of this “impossible” situation and recognise the options available – for example by using the Miracle Question. The miracle question involves inviting the client to imagine a world where their problem – the feeling of resignation – has been lifted by a miracle. Then asking the questions to open up their perspective:
- How will you know the miracle has happened?
- What will others notice about you that makes them aware things are better?
- What would you do next?
- What would we see (feelings, thoughts, and behaviour) if we compared a before and after picture?
This takes the client out of their resignation – begins to lift their overwhelmedness as they discover agency – a power to change things and to see things more clearly, to design the path forward – and thus into recuperation. Recuperation of energy, resolve, direction and of control. The power to decide on the next step, to define “what’s important now” and to be able to bring order to the noise.
This resolve and energy have a cumulative effect – the more the client can take back control, the more they can bring order back to the “uncountable” and approach a solution-based mindset.
As a coach, there are pitfalls to this approach that we need to support our clients on. Coming out of a feeling of resignation and overwhelmedness, only to create a new, similarly, the large to-do list is counter-productive – it’s what got the client in their situation in the first place. It is key to concentrate on creating the space to breathe, regain control and set realistic goals – stepping away from the “do it all or nothing” and moving towards “do the next thing” and concentrating on clear, measurable and manageable progress – before moving forward and taking on the next, “what’s important now” task.
Image – https://www.flickr.com/photos/andresthor/ https://www.flickr.com/photos/andresthor/3963368371
Resignation as a defence mechanism
https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/defence-mechanisms / https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0166411504800463
Negative effects of resignation