Confused about relationships. Confused at work. Convinced that those with the gift of gab have more figured out than we do.
Is it helpful if we can view it differently? What if we acknowledge that confusion is a natural response to too many inputs to process, too little time to sort them out, not to mention an abundance of conflicting data and opinions?
We know it isn’t comfortable, it isn’t efficient, and it can leave us spent and dispirited.
So how do we manage confusion before confusion begins to manage us?
Is Confusion a Feeling or a Mental State?
Care to know the definition of confusion, other than yours truly attempting to decipher the latest health reports on the pros and cons of coffee or Tylenol?
Try this (generic) definition on for size: lack of understanding, bewilderment, uncertainty… That sounds about right to me. Shall we add anxious, frustrated, and daunted as possible consequences?
Incidentally, there are medical definitions as well, that describe confusion as a symptom of other conditions that result in an inability to think clearly, a feeling of disorientation, and with signs of confusion that include:
… long pauses during speech… lack of awareness of location or time… sudden agitation…
Setting aside the onset of a medical problem, what about our everyday bewilderment? What about the tendency to be overrun by information that isn’t filtered for relevance? What about unrelenting pressure to perform with no data, poor data, or TMI? Don’t we find ourselves in a blended state of feeling (lousy, panicked, frustrated) and thinking (poorly)?
Now I’m confused about being confused.
Confusion During Transitions
Transitions? You can bet confusion is part of the package. The more significant the transition (and the “overwhelm” from too much or too little information), the more likely it is that we’ll feel confused.
- A new relationship comes to mind, when we want it to work and we’re still learning to read signals.
- A new house is an obvious example, as the disarray of a move can be jarring as we try to re-establish routines and get ourselves organized.
- Marriage? Divorce? New job? These certainly qualify.
The good news about transitional confusion, however, is that it’s typically time-based. We know it will settle down.
Brain on Overload = State of Confusion
When I’m overtired and under the gun, I eventually hit a wall that leaves me unable to process with my usual efficiency. So whatever the cause of the confusion – transitional or otherwise – any question, request, or need for a decision pushes me into the Red Zone. The brain on overload under stress? Kiss clarity (of thought or judgment) goodbye, say hello to overwrought emotions (anxiety). The essence of confusion.
Calm Clinic has a few words on the subject. “Overcoming Anxiety and Confusion” addresses anxiety disorders that result in confusion, recommending practical ways to restore some order to the mental and emotional state that results. Included are:
… taking notes… reality exercises (to keep yourself “in the moment”)… exercise…
Sound advice. But what about those scenarios that we could refer to as “just life?”
No Signposts Through the Daily Wilderness
You start a new job and you don’t know the drill. You’re confused, but it’s predictable and likely with a time limit. You spend two months, maybe three, and you get in the groove but now your hubby or wife seems to be in a funk, isn’t talking, and you can’t put your finger on it.
Four months later that situation seems to have straightened itself out (though you don’t know how or why), but your teenager is having problems in school and you can’t get a handle on what’s going on. Her teachers? They tell you they’re operating in the dark (like you), and besides, they have 60 other kids to worry about and there’s no indication of substance abuse problems so it’s just “typical adolescent stuff” and you’ll all muddle through.
Life Itself Is a Perfect Storm
Muddle through indeed.
You’re watching your kid like a hawk but from a respectful distance, attempting patient conversation to break through her walls, and now you’re experiencing a few medical challenges: aches and pains, migraines, sleeplessness that you sense is impairing your performance at work. And speaking of work, the boss who hired you has just been let go; the guy who replaced him has a completely different set of expectations for you; once again, you’re confused.
Perhaps life as we know it is the perfect storm, at least, for bewilderment, lack of understanding, and uncertainty?
Life Decisions Are a Best Guess
There is no flow chart, no road map, no decision tree through relationships of any sort that will land us on the happy destination of our dreams. That is in part (of course) because our relationships are a moving target, an experience, and yes – however cliché – all about the journey, not the destination. Likewise, our working lives with innumerable factors that can alter what we accomplish, how we are perceived, and our experience of the daily details.
How can we not consider the role of the pace we keep up, the seemingly limitless capacity (we demand of ourselves) to juggle whatever hits, the way even strangers offer (unsolicited) advice about handling our kids? What about the “trickle down” of a complicated economy that leads managers to drop unplanned tasks on supervisors who then pass along their rushed and insufficiently explained assignments to the next guy down the food chain. And the next guy… to us.
Slow Down! Simplify! (Say What?)
Confusion? As a monkey wrench is regularly tossed into our best laid plans, aren’t our judgment calls and decisions bound to be less than clear?
I tell myself to slow down, to simplify, to step back and reorient by focusing on priorities. And in the process of doing so, I see the societal disarray around me. I am witness to it in doctors’ offices, the patients biting their lips and checking their devices, the physicians themselves hurried and stressed. I see it in the latest traffic jam, and hear it – as commuters yell or lean on their horns. I can’t avoid it in the weary face of a teller at the bank or the cable repair guy (again) or the delivery person at the door, passed from extension to extension on the phone (then disconnected), unable to reach his supervisor over my missing merchandise.
Try as we might to simplify as individuals, confusion reigns as systems fragment, as nerves grow frayed, as we labor under expectations that may no longer apply.
My Confusion Manifesto
I was far more impacted by confusion when I was younger. In other words, if lack of comprehension or conviction plagued me, I blamed myself. Maturity and experience permit another view.
I’ve come to anticipate, recognize, and allow a measure of confusion understanding that it isn’t always about me. I’ve disconnected my sense of competence from what has become, in my opinion, a routine albeit irritating state that is survivable if not pleasant. It is also part of a larger set of “systems” that entangle all of us. Some days we navigate through with greater ease, reliant on the systems we put in place – that work. And when we don’t, maybe we should cut ourselves some slack. Or practice that gift for gab so we convince our little universe (and ourselves) that we’ve got things covered.
How do you manage your confusion, or minimize it? How do you pick your way through information overload constant flow of decisions?
You May Also Enjoy