This month we are going to focus on Dr. Brené Brown’s third Guidepost for Wholehearted Living. This guidepost focuses on Letting Go of Numbing and Powerlessness and Cultivating a Resilient Spirit. I like having a month to work on each guidepost so that I can really break it down. So for this week, I will focus on numbing and ways to let go of numbing.
First, it is important to note that we all numb. Dr. Brown reminded us of this in her now famous Ted Talk. Sometimes when I think of how I numb or after I have engaged in a numbing behavior, I feel shame. This is an important time to practice some of the self-compassion we worked on last month. It is important to remember that we are not alone. And yet if we want to really feel joy in our lives we have to work on letting go of numbing. Because when we numb painful emotions we also numb joy, love, connection, curiosity, gratitude, and contentment.
Now that we have reminded ourselves that we are not alone in numbing, we now need to discover how we numb. What do you do to “check out”? What do you do to “take the edge off” things after a long day? Most of us have our “favorite” ways to numb. I took last week off of posting in honor of National Screen Free week. Going a week with drastically reduced phone use helped me see where I use my screen to check out at times. Some of my other “favorite” ways to numb include: food, helping others, work, internet searches and planning.
Next, examine what triggers you to numb. I numb when I’m overwhelmed and I’m not sure what to do next. I numb when I feel I’m not enough. I numb around certain people who I never feel like I belong with. I numb when I feel some uncomfortable emotions. I numb more when I’m tired. When do you numb?
In order to work at letting go of numbing, we have to replace it with comfort. The numbing after all is serving a function. It is “helping us” to get through a difficult moment. But the help it gives us comes at a cost. However, we still need help and support to get through difficult moments. So we need to find ways to comfort ourselves that don’t leave us numb. Comforting doesn’t lead to shame and guilt. It helps us to tolerate the painful emotion but not escape the pain. I comfort by talking walks, meditating, talking to supportive people, practicing self-compassion, playing with my kids, and reading. These activities don’t numb me, but they do help me to get through painful moments so that I can build a sense of resiliency.
Weekly Action Plan:
Make a list of ways that you numb and then make a list of things that cause you to numb (or want to numb). You could even keep these lists on your phone to add to them when you find yourself numbing or about to numb. Then start a list of ways that you can comfort and try engaging in one of these comfort behaviors at least once this week.