Numbing out or feeling, which is more painful?!?
Updated: Jul 20
Last week I talked about breaking the pattern of needing to do by being present and experiencing life's joys.
Sometimes however we have been staying busy for very good reasons, because if we stop we start to feel and that can be an uncomfortable place to be.
But staying busy and pushing these unwanted emotions away doesn’t work for long, they just push back at another time because they are there for a reason. For example, fear can let us know that we do not feel safe and steers us away from danger. Anger can be telling us that our boundaries have been crossed and we may need to defend ourselves. Sadness can let us know that we have lost something that we cared about and we want back.
Unfortunately in society there are some emotions that are perceived as ok and others that are not, happiness is one that is accepted, but don’t go too far with it or you may be too loud and asked to tone it down. Jealousy is one that’s often frowned upon along with anger, fear and sadness.
Think about which emotions you don’t like doing?
Personally I’ve had to work at anger and fear, they are both uncomfortable for me and for many years I disallowed them, I had to learn that I could feel and express them and I wouldn’t implode or be abandoned by all the people I loved.
Societies views of emotions have helped many of us become adept at avoiding feeling and so we numb out. But when we do this we numb all emotions, we can’t pick and choose which we numb and which we don’t, so we lose happy ones too.
To numb some of us scroll social media to fill the void of nothing to do in the minutes it takes the kettle to boil or the next programme to start or our friend to arrive while were sat waiting. For some of us we work and achieve, some of us drink, smoke or eat to soothe ourselves when we feel discomfort.
But what if we didn’t do these things to avoid feeling? Would we implode or shatter in to tiny pieces or would we feel something uncomfortable that would soon pass. Please don’t think I’m making light of this, I’ve been there and avoided with the best of them, but what I learnt was that my fear of feeling was always much worse then the actual feeling itself and didn’t last as long.
Many people make the mistake of noticing they are using something to numb and decide they should never do it again. They villainise drinking or looking at social media, but cutting these things out completely can be a tall order and often set us up to fail, which then makes us feel shame (another emotion that society isn’t a fan of) and to numb the shame we hit the alcohol or social media harder than ever while resenting it.
For most of us –unless we have a serious addiction- balance is the answer, its not about never looking at social media or having a drink or eating chocolate, its about doing it for the right reasons. If you find yourself picking up your phone or reaching for the bottle or crisps ask yourself why? Are you using these to not feel what’s there?
If you can pause and rather than go straight into numbing ask yourself what is that emotion? Sometimes it’s helpful to keep it basic and think can you put it into 4 categories, happy, sad, angry, anxious. If you can name it just sit with it for a minute, there will be an important message in there if you are able to listen. For some you will be able to decipher what is there, some may see that they are numbing and still do it anyway (I have to admit I occasionally still do this – but that’s ok, I’m human and so imperfect!). For some this can feel like a new language or completely overwhelming, if that’s the case speak to someone who can help you on this journey, a good friend who is emotionally intelligent or a therapist.
Most of all be kind to yourself when you’re trying this stuff.
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