Thoughts on numbing and letting go

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By Hilary Kinavey, MS, LPC

All of us learn to numb. Food, shopping, substances, sex, relationships. TV, phones, overworking, we see numbing all around us and it is not always questioned in our culture. Habitually numbing helps us to not feel so much – sadness, anger, overwhelm, grief – but can also leave us feeling detached and distanced from the most essential and vital aspects of ourselves.

Brené Brown, in her new book “Rising Strong” says

“So often we want easy and quick answers to complex struggles. We question our own bravery, and in the face of fear, we back down too quickly.”

So we numb for a reason.

We numb because we hold painful stories we don’t understand or don’t know how to heal.

We numb because we see difficult and frightening things every damn day and don’t have a place to put them or a way to make sense of them.

We numb because our own internal voice has become unfriendly, commanding, critical, and negative. We need a way to get away from it and numbing offers some temporary distance.

We numb because big feelings and messy authenticity aren’t often rewarded or understood.

We numb because we seek silence in a world so full of noise, clutter, and to-dos.

We numb to seek reprieve and silence. Sometimes, when we can’t access gentleness or peace, we will settle for numb.

This has been a form of coping. You have done what you know to do. When the time comes and you want to change, when the numbing behaviors have become more painful and the reprieve of numbing is not as satisfying, we want you to know there are some common challenges on the path out.

  • Numbing and fear are liars. Numbing, over time, reinforces a belief that your feelings have become too big for you to handle. This is not true and is rooted in fear. You will be surprised to learn how much you can handle.
  • Cultivating an inner anthropologist will help you find the truth. The inner anthropologist is there to study the culture of you – non-judgmentally taking note of what is really happening moment to moment, capturing the details of what has been lost in habit, numbness, and fear.
  • As you let go and awaken, you will likely experience a period of time when you feel like a mess. When your held together places are haphazardly flapping in the wind and all the control you have prided yourself on is out of reach, we invite you to consider this as a good sign. It will not always feel so scary. Keep going. This is what the beginning feels like.
  • Your journey will, without a doubt, take you to places you didn’t see coming, didn’t know were possible. You will grow and experience things you couldn’t have dreamt up in the confines of a numbed or fearful state. Envision yourself choosing a path that hasn’t been well travelled or worn down. The overgrown shrubs and trees will only allow you to see a step or two in front of you at any given time. This is not a sign to turn back, but to go slow, breathe deeply, and trust the knowing that brought you to this path in the first place.

 

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Kinavy.B01Hilary Kinavey, MS, LPC is a therapist and co-founder of Be Nourished. She encourages conscious and authentic living, with the courage to love yourself anyway.