People sometimes seek counselling for emotional numbness – stating they feel nothing, or feel detached from themselves, a sense of boredom about everything that they are involved in, even feeling that they are watching their lives rather than living them.
What is going on?
Emotional numbness can be a component of depression. The experience of depression varies from person to person. Our usual understanding of depression involves the feeling of sadness. Some other symptoms of depression include feelings of hopelessness, pessimism, emptiness and numbness. Usually depression involves a person’s distortion of perception and loss of perspective . People may feel something is wrong, but cannot identify what it is, describing it as a general sense of pessimism.
When people experience depression-numbness they don’t feel much at all. They experience life without active engagement. In my experience, clients who wish to break from this pattern are often men, perhaps because of the process of how the numbness is developed.
Why/ How does this happen?
Emotional numbing is not a deliberate or conscious choice by individuals. Sometime the reason for exists in your childhood. Children may have faced extreme situations and, as a consequence, believe that expressing emotions or sensitivity would be responded to negatively. This protective reflex continues longer than was originally necessary, even when danger or judgement has been removed. It can become a permanent way shielding to feel nothing.
What is a proposed treatment?
The path to numbness is complex, as is the path out. Part of the challenge is understanding personal and deeply seated motivations to avoid the experience of emotions due to a fear to being overwhelmed by feelings. While you may not like the numbness, the alternative may seem terrifying.
Therapists working with emotional numbness will help clients safely identify emotions, experiment with small (safe) doses of emotional identification, which help thaw through the protective shell that has been developed. Clients have to believe there is a benefit to learning to feel again. The benefits are recovering and accepting yourself, learning to love your life, and perchance, to experience true happiness.
If you feel you are struggling with emotional numbness please consider counselling. Be patient with yourself, it does take time to feel again.