There are a number of reasons that a person might shut their emotions down. Either consciously or unconsciously, people have a tendency to wrap up and turn off their emotions.
Some people do it in response to trauma, while others may wear themselves down through fear, stress, or responsibilities. It’s a complicated thing, but we can all agree that an open heart with full emotions is preferable to one that’s numb.
We’re going to talk about emotional numbness in this article, giving you some tips on how to notice it and, hopefully, overcoming emotional numbness.
Let’s take a look.
Overcoming Emotional Numbness
To start, we have to take a look at what “emotional numbness” is and how it works.
Numbness can present itself in a number of ways. When something is “numb” it’s void of feeling. For example, you might say that your leg is numb when it falls asleep. You could say that your mouth is numb after a shot of novocaine, or something similar.
We numb things on purpose to avoid pain. Whether it’s a wound on our bodies or a feeling in our minds, numbing something is a defensive tactic. It helps to prevent additional or future pain.
In many ways, numbing something is the best way to avoid the difficult feeling that it’s giving you.
The trouble is that numbing works when we’re dealing with a physical issue, but mental issues are far more complicated. Many times, the initial impulse to hide or shield ourselves from mental pain isn’t the best way to grow and resolve issues.
We think that numbing is the simple solution to emotional pain, and our brains often take care of the numbing for us.
Do you think, “am I emotionally numb?” That’s a question that you have to answer with yourself or a professional because there’s no real emotional numbness test.
The Logic Behind Numbness
If you think of life as an effort to dull immediate pain and avoid future pain, feeling emotionally numb is an intelligent choice.
Numbness to the actions and emotions of other people will remove the chance that you’ll be hurt. That avoidance can shield you from all of the emotional risks that close relationships pose.
On the other hand, we can’t develop close relationships when we’re numb. Intimacy and love come when we’re open with our emotions and have the ability to feel. We need to feel in order to enjoy ourselves, make others happy, and enjoy the company of the people in our lives.
If you think you’ve numbed yourself, you might have noticed a lack of joy in your life. You may notice that people aren’t as fun to be around, and you’ve responded to in a negative way.
We experience trauma and we shield ourselves. Without knowing, we insulate our personal experience from the sorrow around us. When we do that, though, we also cut out the potential for joy.
The beautiful thing is that we can recover our emotions. You might be numb now, but there are lots of ways to rekindle the spark in your heart.
Let’s take a look at your options.
1. Identify The Source
There tends to be something, or a group of things, that produces the impulse to numb our emotions.
Maybe a loved one passed away and you never want to feel grief again. You might have been rejected by a potential lover and decided to shut down the idea of love. Maybe your friends were unkind to you, leaving you shattered and unwilling to open up again.
There’s a lot of potential for emotional pain in this world. In most cases, the source has something to do with people in our lives. Love and lack of love can all cause us to turn away from our emotions.
It’s not a general thing, though. There’s something specific that causes it in every person. It may be a period of a few months or a very specific instance.
Whatever it is, it might be hard to remember. Along with numbing, our brains help us out by repressing difficult memories.
It makes sense, too. If we walked around remembering the full intensity of grief all of the time, it’d be hard to do what we need to do in order to survive. So, don’t be angry with yourself if you can’t remember your rosebud right away.
Give it some time and try to figure out when and how you started to change.
2. Notice What Changed
There was a time when your emotions were front and center.
For some, that time might have been when you were a child. Emotional availability might have lasted a lot longer for others. In any case, very specific things have changed.
Mental health issues and difficult emotions have a way of turning little things into big grey clouds. For example, instead of recognizing that you’re having a hard time relating to your friends, your brain might scream that “you’re uncomfortable to be around and you always will be.”
Instead of dealing with a difficult social situation, your brain might say that “you’re weird, and you’ll always be a failure.” The result is less of a specific issue and more a sense of impending doom.
Whenever you’re thinking of things in those terms, try and narrow down the specifics. You’ll find that that big grey cloud is actually just a few raindrops. We blow things out of proportion in our minds to avoid the pain of dealing with them.
When something is insurmountable, you have no obligation to defeat it. That might be why the brain avoids slight emotional pain by ascribing a massive issue to it.
So, pick away at what’s changed.
You haven’t become a loser. You’re not unlovable. You’re not boring or awful to be around.
Those are big grey clouds. They’re not real. Instead, look for the particular raindrops that you might be avoiding.
3. Talk about It
You’re in a tough spot emotionally. You’ve been hiding away and your relationships might have changed a little bit. That might make you want to hide away even more.
Odds are, though, that the people you’ve been away from are really missing you. They loved you, and they still love you. That emotional numbness might have shielded you from the concern and interest that your friends and loved ones are showing you.
All you might see is a bunch of disappointed faces, reflecting back to you what you’re feeling about yourself.
Talk to them. Open up and tell them how you’re feeling. Tell them you feel that you might have shut something off.
They could have a few insightful things to say. They might even give you a reminder of the way you used to be and open your emotional flood gates. If you’re lucky, you’ll shed a few tears.
The point is that our emotions are expressed and developed through talking. We can relay emotional states in different ways, but none of them are quite as direct and impactful as talking is.
In particular, talking to someone you love about your emotions is a direct way to stir them up, get them out, and understand them. The thing is, though, that it’s hard to start talking about them.
You can do it, though. It won’t be as uncomfortable as you think it will be, and your close friend will be happy to hear that you’re trying to come back around.
4. See a Professional
A mental health professional is probably the best person to talk to about emotional difficulty.
Therapists aren’t just there for people in extreme situations. They’re also there for everyone else who hits a rough spot from time to time. In other words, they’re around for everybody.
Talking with a professional can help you melt the ice in a number of ways. First, they’re a perfect ear to just vent to. Talking about what’s going on inside of our heads is a big step to understanding it, even if we’re just blathering on and on.
Who else can you talk to without fear of judgment? Close friends are there, but sometimes the intimacy of those relationships can cause fear that makes you hold back.
Second, therapists are trained to deal with the very issues that you’re experiencing. They’ve read the books, gone to the classes, taken the tests, and committed it all to memory.
They know how to work through these things and come out better on the other side. Third, they’re going to have insight that you wouldn’t have. They’re able to see things from a larger scope and address potential reasons that you might be feeling this way.
Their reasons aren’t always going to be what you want to hear, but they might be true. Those subjects are tough to tease out of your own mind, and close friends might not know how to approach them with you. A counselor is an impartial third party that can address emotional numbness head-on.
Want to Work on Your Mental Health?
Overcoming emotional numbness can be difficult at times. It’s worth it, though, and you’re capable of making it all of the way through.
We’re here to help. You don’t have to go through it all alone. Explore our site or contact us for more information and resources on ways to improve your mental health.