On the show today I talk about how we can create too much “busy” in our lives because we may be running from feeling and/or facing things we aren’t ready to deal with yet. Or at all. We may not even realize we are doing this either, because of course, we are too busy to sit still and notice. It’s often when things hit critical mass, or our health takes a hit and we must finally stop, do the feelings follow.
But why numb out when you could just face everything head-on and be done with it and not take the scenic route and end up with even more to deal with? Because, in essence, you would if you could. Metabolize it, that is. To be able to deal with perhaps big feelings around loss, a toxic situation you’ve found yourself in, the need to make big changes, or to face some other reality that will point back to how you’ve failed somehow. Deep fear, guilt and shame can seem so overwhelming – they will swallow you if you even stick your big toe in it. So, you don’t.
Instead, you distract with things to do that actually give you some sense of control in your world, and maybe even a better identity of doing good in the world. Helping others. Making a difference.
We can learn how to numb early in life when trauma, either low-level daily fighting and chaos in the home to actual traumas overwhelmed our brains and our ability to process in the moment. Added to this is the concept of it not being safe emotionally to share said feelings anyway. Top that off with the belief that being vulnerable around some folks may not have been the wisest choice anyway and being strong and stepping over feelings to pushing through it meant survival. Sometimes literally. That is why traumas later in life such as being in a warzone, being sexually assaulted or robbed can do the same. Stuff it down to keep it at bay, because we have mortgages to pay and kids to raise.
So now that you may recognize you numb out and become a human doing, how do you begin to break away from this coping skill? Well first, if there is unresolved trauma grab some counseling and support. Don’t go it alone. If you have already done some of that work and still numb out at moments, work at the following: first make sure there are boundaries in your day where you have some quiet so the feelings can surface. Then validate them. Tell yourself WHY it makes sense. That anyone would be feeling X because____________. Then, let yourself sit with the feeling(s). Don’t be quick to brush them aside. Take some time to really feel the sadness, the anger, the fear. You don’t have to give them tons of power to take you down the hole. Just honor them. Then, figure out if there’s anything to do…such as grieve it, set a boundary or look at changing something.
Staying productive and purposeful in our lives is a wonderful thing. It energizes us, can provide belongingness to good people and causes, and help us feel grounded. Too busy that entails running from feeling is not a good thing, and usually comes crashing down somehow anyway. The key is boundaries around our time, awareness of what’s going on, and the willingness to sit with our internal reality and to honor it.