Recently, I made a short reel on Instagram, only a few seconds long, on the subject of overreacting. The algorithm liked it. It got over 20,000 views in a couple hours, it even got trolled.
What I said was “before you tell a woman she’s overreacting, keep in mind that her capacity to feel is the same as her capacity to love, you can’t have one without the other” . . . It hit a nerve, and that’s the point. It was relatable, or triggering, or any number of things all at once, depending on who you are.
I’m curious why only a few seconds of content can resonate so much with us. I think it’s because we’re packing a very big concept into something bite-sized. Oftentimes we just leave it at that. We send it to a friend, we give it a thumbs up, a heart, or whatever. Maybe we comment, maybe we save it. But I don’t think we’ve done enough in these cases. We are under-reacting.
These resonant little morsels are the concepts that deserve further unpacking. They deserve a deep dive. (I’m a huge fan of deep dives. Give me one intelligent friend, some coffee or wine, and a few hours to spare in a comfortable seat and it’s my personal heaven.) So let’s look at this idea of overreacting.
The myth of overreacting is fully subjective.
There is no objective measurement of overreacting.
I’m not talking about extreme cases such as homicide, road rage, etc. Let’s assume we are decent humans here who understand ethical and legal limits on behavior. But for a concept that is flung around all over the place, overreacting is quite the snake eating its own tail. The concept can’t actually exist. There can’t be an overreaction if there’s no objective measurement for appropriate emotional reactions to any given situation. The word is a paradox.
But the reason this little bit of social media content got so much traction points to something much greater. I didn’t realize this at the time that I made the reel. It points to the small range of emotions that we are allowed to operate in by the culture, as dictated by the people around us, by our parents, by our romantic partners, our colleagues, bosses, friends, etc. We’re operating in this tiny little range of vaguely socially acceptable affect. And that tiny range is ineffective. Autocorrect doesn’t even want me to use the word affect as a noun. Culture is choking our emotional capacity.
The other weak myths are concepts like “too much” and “not enough . . .
A few days after making the reel, I read Unbound by Kasia Urbaniak. She calls this little tiny space that we’re trying to operate from The Smush. It’s the fine line between being “too much” and “not enough” . . . it is a tightrope. When we try to stay in that little place and go after the things we want, we are not that effective. We cannot communicate effectively from that little island.
Trying to exist in little space forces us to cram and mix dominant and submissive characteristics of speech, body language, tone of voice, and so forth, in a way that is really uncomfortable for everyone involved and ultimately problematic. It doesn’t feel good to us, and it doesn’t feel good to the person witnessing it. It may just be the root of all conflicts and misunderstandings in our human relationships.
If that sounds extreme, honestly, I’m not joking. I don’t think I’m overreacting. Ha.
The idea for the reel about overreacting came from an experiment I’m doing this month. The idea is to follow Muse. So anytime I get a content idea that has that exciting inspired quality to it that is typical of Muse, I run with it. I tell inner critic to shut the f**k up. I don’t judge myself or question it. I just do it.
That has resulted in an interesting hodgepodge of reels. And also some phone calls and messages from old friends from 20 years ago wondering what the hell I’m doing. And probably a few raised eyebrows. That’s all fine with me, because what I’m actually doing is an experiment in not operating from The Smush.
I’m not smushing myself into some tiny safety zone of acceptable self expression.
I will probably write a more thorough book review about Unbound as I apply this powerful knowledge to my life. But for now I will say without a doubt that it is way up there on my list of life-changing books. It helped me re-frame a lot of the dynamics that I’ve experienced my entire life into language that is clear and relatable. It also gave me new tools I can use to create change and go about things differently from here on out. I am not the same person I was before I read that book. We shall see how this impacts my life, my relationships, I’m sure I’ll report back so take a moment to follow me on Instagram, Facebook, or subscribe here.