Many of us experienced trauma so intense and so shocking to our systems that it caused us to shut down our emotional responses. The trauma was so destabilizing, so painful and so powerful that we stopped allowing ourselves to feel our emotions, either consciously or subconsciously. Deep down we wanted to spare ourselves more pain and therefore blocked ourselves from having to feel it again. We gravitated towards the substances, relationships and behaviors that allowed us a way to self-medicate, escape and numb our pain. These often form the basis of our addictions. We develop a relationship to our pain based on avoidance and escapism.
Many families and cultures have developed ways of blocking their feelings that inform how they operate emotionally within themselves and with each other. They might discourage talking about their feelings. They might never address difficult issues, and they might leave conflict to fester unresolved. They might prohibit crying and other expressions of emotion. They might tell their children that crying is a sign of weakness, to buck up and be strong. We learn to associate strength with silence, with suppressing our emotions, with stoicism. We don’t allow ourselves to feel our emotions lest we be overwhelmed or overtaken by them. Attempting to numb ourselves from our painful emotions prevents us from developing healthy coping mechanisms to deal with them. We bury our pain under years of forced silence and numbness rather than actually facing it and coping with it.
Our emotional responses in life often have to do with our fears. Our emotional numbness can be related to our fear of being unable to control our emotions, the fear of being out of control, the fear that our emotions will get the better of us and destroy us from within. Our numbness can come from our fear of having to face our emotions because they are so painful we’d rather avoid them than face them. It can also come from our fear of having to resolve conflict with other people. It feels insurmountable so we shut down instead.
The various forms of therapy and different support groups we offer at Riverside Recovery can help you access your emotions and cope with them in healthy ways. Call (800) 871-5440.