When life’s pains push you to the limit, you may retreat into a state of emotional flatlining as a temporary refuge. But what does this mean for your long-term wellbeing? Discover how to break the cycle of numbness and reconnect with your authentic self.
In my recent blog, ‘The Language of Pain’, I discuss the idea that understanding physical pain in our bodies is the first step in identifying the root cause of the pain. Imagining physical pain in your body and getting to the root of it might be easy, but the same is also true for emotional pain.
You are probably familiar with the age-old doctor’s saying “tell me how much it hurts on a scale from 1-10”, with the idea that the more painful a situation is, the more serious it is.
Today I want to talk about what happens after you get to number 10 – what does your body do when the pain gets so intense that it becomes intolerable? It goes numb. But what does it mean to become emotionally numb? Is it an emotional flatline or a secret survival strategy?
A really tangible example of this is in severe cases of hypothermia. Cold and shivering is a sign that something is wrong, that you need to warm up. But it’s only when the shivering stops that you know you’re in serious trouble. Once the body becomes unable to process any more sensation, and its messages stop getting through, the next progression is to go numb. This is only temporary pain relief, of course – what it really means, though, is you are in danger.
Sometimes you may feel numb to the world around you or like you are moving on autopilot. In your daily life, when you encounter moments of emotional pain, whether it’s from the loss of a loved one, the end of a relationship, or even a disappointing event, it’s natural for your first instinct to be to avoid these feelings and seek refuge in numbness.
This refuge can be a defence mechanism against feeling deeper pain. But the more you rely on an emotional or physical crutch to override what you experience as a negative emotion, the more protective cotton wool you stuff around yourself. You end up dulling your connection to your emotional self in all aspects. By being numb to pain, you are also numb to pleasure and emotional connection, which inevitably leads to feeling empty and isolated.
I believe there is true beauty in the rollercoaster of human emotions. Without feeling the lows, you are unable to really feel or value the highs. By being present in all your emotions, you become more authentic, which allows you to grow and heal.
As philosopher Albert Camus wisely declared, “In the midst of winter, I found there was within me an invincible summer.”
Or as another fabulous philosopher, Dolly Parton, puts it “The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain!”. However, although I personally happen to love the rain, rather than meaning that the only way to happiness is through endless suffering, Dolly is saying that life’s rainbows come from embracing the natural ebb and flow of all life’s experiences.
By owning your truths and learning to process and transform your emotional pain, you can begin to move forward with greater resilience and wisdom, embracing the colourful labyrinth of human emotions!
No doubt you’ve heard the saying that “time heals all wounds”, but until you empower yourself to envisage a future beyond your pain, you will often find yourself in a rinse-and-repeat cycle of unprocessed trauma.
Physical numbness often parallels emotional numbness, and your fascia, the connective tissue throughout your body, becomes an unintentional fortress, locking away your discomfort.
This physical manifestation of emotional suppression requires just as much attention in your journey to heal. If you’re new to the concept of fascia release or unsure about how to incorporate it into your healing journey, feel free to leave a comment below.
Hippocrates said, “Healing is a matter of time, but it is sometimes also a matter of opportunity.” It is your responsibility to create this opportunity. Start by removing your protective cotton wool and acknowledging that being numb is no permanent solution to pain, and open yourself up to the potential for healing.