Are your feelings buried way, way deep down? 

Working with couples, it’s very common to see a pairing where one partner who outwardly “worries a lot,” and the other one, is “chill,” less reactive and collected. To the untrained eye it may seem like the tightly wound partner has the issue with anxiety. By looking deeper, it’s more often the case that anxiety is usually a feeling they have in common, although the way it’s presented is different. 

For instance, I’m clearly a chihuahua, shaking for no reason, constantly needing reassurance and my husband is like a St. Bernard or Irish Wolfhound, calm and predictable, seemingly unshaken. People think he’s so cool, like he hasn’t a care in the world. It’s not his fault. His internal feelings don’t register easily to his conscious mind. He often doesn’t know that he’s feeling something.

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Numbness isn’t natural

Numbness isn’t a natural state of being, even if you think “this is just the way I am.” Unlike the vulnerable chihuahua, who can’t mask fear, other breeds evolve to suppress feelings well. And, if you are like this, you likely had modeling from family members at home who held back displays of feeling as well, reinforcing that stoicism is the ideal way to be in the world.

Over time, the suppression works seamlessly, burying feelings before you even have a chance to feel anything. As a result, the highs and lows of feeling can be smoothed over, leaving you feeling numb in general. Difficult to experience joy or pain. 

Numbness can happen as you encounter situational stress, like a bad job, relationship or other chronic stressor, or due to a big trauma or loss, like a tragic death or betrayal. You might have picked it up as a defense mechanism as a child, to deal with difficult emotional circumstances and it’s been there ever since, people attributing it to your innate personality.

Analytical types and numbness

I’ve also found that analytical people are often prone to numbness. You are typically a skilled problem solver, so when you tell yourself an answer to a problem, you believe yourself. That’s not great when it’s a complex problem like, “Why aren’t I happy?” and you answer, non-emotionally, “That’s the way life is” and give yourself credibility to be the authority on the subject. There’s no way to go from here this ho hum logic loop.

I’m always irrititatingly correcting people in my practice when they assign a negative assumption and assume I agree, such as, “Sex isn’t that important,” or “I’m the only one responsible for my own happiness,” phrases that they have picked up that rationalize low expectations. This isn’t truth, it’s actually a feeling, disguised as “knowledge.” 

Different degrees of numbness

Numbness can exist at different degrees. You might have packed away your true feelings of joy and pain so long ago, you de-selved, your emotions in deep ice, badly needing a long thaw. Or, you might have just recently gone into numbness, an attempt to cope with overwhelming feelings that your subconscious doesn’t feel you are able to handle. Or, a long time on antidepressants could have created an extended  state of numb.

Finally, you might have just settled for a state of okay, the no man’s land far from too much pain and far from too much happiness. 

In this state of ho hum, you say, “I just want…” “I am only asking for….” “Is this one thing too much to ask for?” “I would be fine with…” Embedded in each of these is the language of settling, bargaining and making do with less. 

The making do mentality isn’t sustainable, neither is prolonged numbness. It may insulate you from feeling too much, but it’s not a great existence. It also makes you inaccessible to the people who love you or could be attracted to you as a potential partner.

Numbness and those who want to love you

Being numb makes it impossible for another person to get all the way into your heart, because it’s not all available, even to you. You leave others wanting more and you may tend to sabotage the relationships with people who are available to love you, and instead, settle in relationships that aren’t very deep or dysfunctional. 

Other people may want more for you, but you’ve got to de-thaw before you’re in the game.

You likely need a little help to do so, to process the past touches that made you need to go numb, and come into the land of feeling. So, you don’t have to google your symptoms as my husband did one day, to realize, “Oh, I’m anxious.” You just have to ask yourself, “How am I feeling today?

It’s fascinating how sometimes we can be so unfamiliar with these fundamental areas of our own selves simply because we never thought to look deeper.

What’s Next for Me?

Your own self knowledge is your most powerful asset in life. Stimulate the conversation with yourself and your loved ones.

Begin by asking yourself:

  • How important are my feelings on this subject to me?
  • Am I being mean to myself?
  • Do I need support?

Read our E-book Love Sex Trust: An Overview

 

Let it all simmer, until you’re ready for more.

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