We often say to ourselves, “last last we go dey alright”, “it is well’ “such is life” and all manner of things just to give us the latent strength required to live through to the next day.
However, is it really well and alright?
These and many more questions overwhelm our minds and thoughts daily. The mind is elastic, and our minds don’t have the same level of elasticity. For most people, the ‘best’ approach is to employ a defence mechanism called Emotional Numbness to avoid these intense and overwhelming emotions and thoughts; fear, hatred, jealousy and grief.
When you become emotionally numb, you lose the ability to feel and experience your emotions on a psychological and emotional level. In this sense, emotional numbness is often clinically connected with dissociation, which is the disconnection from one’s memories, identity, environment, body, or senses.
Feeling emotionally numb can result from many things; whether you feel depressed, anxious, or you’ve experienced a trauma or a general lack of emotion, it can be a symptom of several different medical conditions or a side effect of some medications. It can cause a sense of isolation or emotional disconnection from the rest of the world. The numbness can be unbearable for many people who experience it.
The danger of disconnecting from your emotions is that it can lead to a host of mental, emotional, physical, and spiritual issues. Such issues may include obsessive compulsions, depression, spiritual emptiness, and inability to enjoy life, inability to form close and fulfilling relationships, disconnection from the inner self, confusion, irritability, fatigue, and addictions.
Like any psychological defence mechanism, emotional numbing can be complex to deal with, and often requires support from a trained professional or a mental health specialist.
For the time being, I’ll highlight here some helpful practices which will help increase the ability to feel, cope with, and express strong emotions and even get better:
1. Connect With Others
Avoid isolating yourself from people you love and the things you enjoy. When you disconnect from people and activities, it can increase feelings of loneliness and make you feel worse. Connect with friends and family regularly, especially face-to-face. You don’t have to talk about your feelings, but it can be helpful to be around people who support you.
If you don’t have friends or family near you, participate in local social activities, volunteer, and make some new friends.
2. Identify Your Emotions
You may feel emotionally numb because you don’t know how to identify how you feel, or you feel obligated to be a certain way, like always in a good mood. Focus on identifying emotions that arise. For example, if you’re going into a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable, you might get ‘butterflies in your stomach’ or tension in your shoulders. Notice subtle changes in your thoughts and behaviours that might impact the way you feel.
If you feel lonely, acknowledge that you feel lonely. Notice what this feels like in your body and how it affects your mood, thoughts, and behaviours.
If you’re purposefully closing your emotions out to protect yourself, don’t rush the process. This can overwhelm you and lead to panic.
3. Express Your Feelings
Once you’ve identified your emotions, learn to express your feelings in a positive way. Many people talk about their feelings to gain clarity and express their feelings, but this doesn’t have to be the only way. You might write, dance, play or listen to music, paint, or meditate as a way to express your emotions. Creative expression can help improve your health and well-being. Find a meaningful way to express whatever emotions arise.
Let your emotions out instead of bottling them up or pretending they don’t exist.
If talking about your feelings helps, confide in a good friend or see a therapist.
4. Do Things That Make You Happy
You might feel like a part of you has left and you cannot connect with your emotions. This can lead to feeling numb from both good and bad emotions. Do things that previously brought you happiness. For example, go to the mall or cinema, jog, visit a friend, or even cook.
Even if you don’t want to do activities at first, try them. You might feel more connected once you start. Remember that you are never alone and seek help as soon as possible.
— Onyedika George