It’s important to feel our feelings. But what happens when we don’t have any? This is a scary situation and here are a few tips for moving past numbness and into the realm of emotion.
Our society is filled with media programming, images, and subliminal messaging that’s aimed to keep us emotionally numb. Phrases like “suck it up” or “walk it off” are part of our everyday life, encouraging us to stuff our emotions down and not giving proper value to the weight of human emotion. Men are especially subject to this kind of societal stereotyping. Men are often told to “be a man” and that “boys don’t cry.” This is unhelpful, to say the least. Conversely, women are often told the opposite — that they are “too emotional” or “dramatic.” This, too, is marginalizing and hurtful. So, where’s the middle ground and how do we step out of emotional numbing in a culture that is so confused about feelings? Here, we’ll explore some ways to move past feelings of emotional numbness and into a life filled with nuanced emotions and joy.
Numbness and Addiction
Many of us come from pasts where we tried to numb our pain with drugs, alcohol, or other addictive behaviors. Eventually, we realize that it’s impossible to only numb our pain. We also end up numbing our joy, excitement, and sense of peace, as well. When we get to recovery, we’re taught many different ways to access our emotions and coping skills for difficult times. This is so important and lets us truly feel like ourselves again. However, it’s not always easy to get access to our feelings and many of us continue to feel numb for a long time. This can be scary, isolating, and disconcerting, to say the least. Some signs that you might be suffering from emotional numbness include an inability to express positive or negative emotions, a feeling of being on “autopilot”, a sense of emptiness or distance from yourself and those around you, an aversion to people who do express strong emotions, withdrawing from family and friends, and a general sense of dissociation and unreality. It’s to be expected that we’d feel this way while emotionally numb, as our emotions are typically our road map for life. They give us messages, tell us what to pursue and what to avoid, and help us feel alive in the world.
Moving Past Emotional Numbness
It’s completely possible to get through this difficult state. And in addition to therapy and group meetings, there are a number of practices you can do to help you get out of this state of autopilot and into a more “real” experience of yourself and the world. One of the most simple and important ways to start feeling again is by getting in touch with your body. Our emotions often reside in our body and when we’re feeling numb, chances are we’re disconnected from our physical selves. Yoga, regular exercise, and tai chi are a few examples of how to get “back in your body.” You can also simply make sure you’re paying attention to your bodily sensations throughout the day. Try naming the sensations that you’re feeling and noticing if there is a correlation between your mental and physical states. It’s a practice and it takes time, but having a deep mind-body connection will serve you well for your whole life. Other ways to access your emotions include deep breathing and massages. Simply paying attention to your breath as it moves in and out of your body will give you heightened access to your feelings and help you feel more grounded in general. Additionally, writing your thoughts and feelings down in a journal can prove very helpful. You can simply start by writing about your day. Journaling and other creative practices will boost your creativity and sense of imagination.
Lastly, taking stock of activities you engage in that might be contributing to your emotional numbness is crucial. Even if we’re not using drugs or alcohol, there are so many ways that we can numb out in our lives. These include excessive TV or social media use, overdoing it at work, excessive caffeine, or not getting enough sleep. Additionally, many of us use food as a way to numb ourselves — whether that means binge eating or eating lots of addictive foods like sugars and salts. Note which areas of your life are contributing to your emotional numbness and try to take steps towards reducing these behaviors.
One Day at a Time
Beginning to step out from under the weight of emotional numbness is no easy task. It’s a process and just like recovery, it’s best to take it one day at a time. Don’t beat yourself up if you’re struggling to access your emotions. Simply accept yourself and where you’re at. Compassion towards yourself and others will serve to increase your emotional awareness and make you feel less alienated and alone. You’re not alone in this journey and you’ve got this.
Avalon Malibu is a world-renowned, California state-licensed mental health and substance abuse recovery center. If you are ready to seek treatment to develop the tools you need to overcome life’s obstacles and be on the road towards happiness, health, and well-being, call us today at 844-857-5992 for a consultation. It’s never too late, and there are people here ready to help you – it’s never too late to begin taking steps towards a happier, healthier life.