March 14

Do You Know Someone In The Evil Vortex of GTMF?




Last week, I asked people to email me with any issues that are on their minds, and there was one issue that came up three times and I think deserves a post of its own.

The issue is The Evil Vortex of Giving Too Many Fucks: It can suck any one of us in at any time.

We’re strange creatures, and we often behave in exactly the opposite way to which we design our machinery; when we build an engine, we fit it with all sorts of dials and pressure gauges to alert us to when something isn’t right.  When we see a warning light we stop the engine and get it looked at – we don’t try to work on it while it’s still running, and we certainly don’t go full throttle while all the lights are flashing and the alarms are sounding.

But we do it to ourselves.  Not all of us, granted, but lots of us.

Me? Oh boy! I’ve been in The Vortex.  I am very aware of my warning lights now, but there was a time when my dashboard was lit up like a seventies disco, and I pushed myself harder and faster and got sucked further into the whirling mess of crap until it spat me out on my arse and I crawled pitifully to my bed.

I had nervous exhaustion.  My body packed up because my head was screwed.

I’ve seen it happen time and time again to people around me; it starts with coping with a bit of bad luck; something goes wrong in life – as it does for everyone, but then something else and something else…

I hate to quote that old wives’ phrase “Everything comes in threes” but sometimes it seems like that (and quite often it’s nines and tens); you get made redundant, then your cat gets a tumour, then, when you think things can’t get any worse, you fall off a pavement and break your ankle.

You look up to the heavens and shout “I don’t know if you exist or not, but if you do then I think you are a sadistic bastard!  Would you please spread some of this shit out, because I’ve had enough!”

And then, just when you should really be taking time to be kind to yourself and rest up, you get the voices in your head that say “You really should be doing this now”, and “What will so-and-so think if you don’t do that…”, and “That person is depending on you – you need to get on your crutches and go and help them (after you’ve collected the cat from the vet on a pull-along trolley, and cried about how you will pay the bill)”.

You basically start giving way too many fucks about every tiny little thing that a: isn’t perfect in your life and b: needs doing, and c: what you think other people are judging you about.

Then you go into overdrive; you start to believe that other people’s lives will fall part if you aren’t holding it together for them.  You take on more than you need to because of a perverse compulsion to achieve, mend, finish, tidy and nurture, when you are falling apart yourself.

The more the pressure and speed picks up in the vortex, the less able you are to stop and gather your wits.

Until The Vortex throws you out on your arse, in a dribbling, bloodied mess and you abruptly stop.  Your body says “No More!”


It’s at that point you realise that you don’t need to do everything, and the earth keeps turning without your direct involvement.  People cope without you. Some stuff doesn’t get done and the world doesn’t end.

Life goes on.

And people are there to support you.  And you slowly but surely gather your strength and join life again at a gentler pace.

While this can be a valuable learning experience, you don’t have to be spat out by The Vortex to get better.  You can learn to develop self-awareness like any other skill.  You can become aware of the warning signs early on and put strategies in place to protect yourself.

Sometimes you will be right up against it, but there is very rarely a situation where you can’t tell the world to stop for an hour or so every day, so you can gather your thoughts.  Quite often, that’s all it takes; a bit of time each day where you stop and breathe and get the logical part of your brain to make lists and prioritise. Ask yourself what are the most important things you need to do, and what you can shelve or delegate.

The classic life-coaching analogy is the oxygen-mask on a plane:  In an emergency, you are told to put your own oxygen mask on first before you try to help anyone else.  It just makes sense; when you are looking after yourself properly, you are more useful to those around you.  It’s not selfish, it’s common sense.

If you feel The Vortex doesn’t mean anything to you, and you are unlikely to get sucked into it any time soon, then be a good egg and keep a look out for others who are starting to spin.  People are getting sucked in everywhere. It may be work colleagues, friends or family members.  Just gently make them aware, and maybe even give them this to read, so they can start to recognise it in themselves.

Quite often, just a good chat with someone who is understanding and non-judgemental can be enough to help them out of the spin. Let them know it’s OK to apply the brakes and take themselves off for repair.  The world will keep spinning while they are standing still, and they will feel more able to take on the challenges when they have had time to “oil” their brain.

Spread the luuuurve, baby – you may never know how important this message could be to someone who needs to hear it!

I send out life-coaching tips like this every weekday to my email group – if you’d like to get some good stuff in your inbox that will help you get the best out of your life, then enter your details in the form opposite and join the gang…

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