Why Do I Feel Emotionally Numb?

When we are emotionally numb, we are choosing not to feel.
When we are emotionally numb, we are choosing not to feel.

What are you experiencing?

See results without voting

"I don't know what is happening. I feel so numb. I walk around like I am in a daze."

"Life is meaningless. There is nothing for me."

"I have this tingling sensation all over my body, like I am connected to an electric current or something."

Emotional numbness manifests itself differently in each person. Some people feel a sense of emptiness while others actually don't feel anything.

Left unchecked, emotional numbness puts us at high risk of self and other abuse. There are many circumstances that can result in emotional numbness. These are listed in the blue square above and addressed in the following paragraphs.

I touch no one and no one touches me. I am a rock, I am an island. And a rock can feel no pain. And an island never cries.

— Paul Simon

Transition

Life is full of transitions, such as changing from single status to married, or leaving college behind after graduation and entering the world of full-time employee or business owner. In these cases, there are definite activities and circumstances. We prepare for them and know what to expect.

And then there are those transitions that happen out of the blue. We receive an unexpected diagnosis of a chronic illness, or someone breaks into our home and takes our valuable possessions. These types of transitions give us no warning, and we don't often know what will happen in the future. We feel vulnerable and unsure of ourselves.

This is usually when emotional numbness sets in. We withdraw into a shell in an effort to somehow protect ourselves from the onslaught of variables that have thrown our lives into a tailspin. We look at others with blank stares, and our friends and family start to worry about us. They know that they need to intervene, but aren't sure what to do.

Transitions are especially difficult when we don't know what comes next!
Transitions are especially difficult when we don't know what comes next!

Separation or Loss

The closer we are to the person that is gone, the more difficult it is to deal with it. We miss them. We long for the familiar sound of their voice, the touch of their hand, and the feeling of their presence next to us. A part of us is missing when someone we love is no longer with us.

This feeling of longing becomes an ache that cannot be filled, a hollow emptiness that makes us feel incomplete. We miss the familiar things we used to do together, and the time we spent with each other. When the pain becomes nearly unbearable, we shut off our feelings as an escape and the result is emotional numbness.

Unfortunately, in our efforts to shut out the pain, we also thwart our ability to feel joy and happiness. We close off our hearts, thinking that we are protecting our precious feelings of self-worth, only to find out that we have cut off the very thing that is giving us life.

Our ability to turn our feelings back on is vital to allowing ourselves to swim through the murky waters of grief, and climb onto the shore on the other side. When we finally are able to re-define ourselves without the person we have lost, we give ourselves permission to enjoy life again.

Moreover, we can’t fully appreciate joyful reunions later without tearful separations now. The only way to take sorrow out of death is to take love out of life.

— Russell M. Nelson

Trauma or Abuse

Emotional numbness is the natural result of trauma or abuse. The things that we have experienced are so horrific that if we do not turn off our feelings, they will consume us. Unfortunately, they end up surfacing in the form of hallucinations, nightmares, insomnia, panic attacks, and thoughts of hurting ourselves or others.

When we reach this point, it is time to get help. Mental illness is like cancer of the soul. It does not heal itself. It is necessary for professional assistance. If we don't know where to start, we can start with our personal family physician or a trusted religious leader. They can recommend and refer us to someone trained in dealing with these types of issues.

In order for us to heal, we have to work through our feelings and re-frame our experiences. This is best done with the supervision of a mental health professional that can guide the process. There is a tidal wave of memories and emotions that is currently being held back by our emotional numbness, and it is best to deal with it one trickle at a time.

The process is not easy, and may require us to experience moments of pain, frustration, and great sadness. At the same time, we are starting from ground zero to rebuild our sense of identity and feelings of self-worth. The Emotional Survival Handbook contains step-by-step instructions that aid us in the process.

The Emotional Survival Handbook
The Emotional Survival Handbook

The Emotional Survival Handbook gives us the tools to rein in our out of control emotions, instructions on how to recognize them for what they are, and affirmations that assist us in re-building our sense of self-worth.

 
We don't realize how good life is until the opposition we face has been resolved.
We don't realize how good life is until the opposition we face has been resolved.

Chronic Stress

Chronic stress develops emotional numbness over time. We become calloused from the daily grind of life, and end up loosing our emotional sensitivity. We become hardened toward our colleagues and treat them with disdain when they come to us with requests. We turn a cold shoulder to friends and family when their only hope is to receive our love and affection.

We are much more susceptible to illness when stress takes its toll on our physical well being. We no longer pay attention to the subtle warning signs that tell us something is amiss. We simply plow forward unwittingly while chronic illness creeps in through the nooks and crannies of our minds and bodies.

The wake up call will come sooner or later, either in failed relationships, children who shock us with their bizarre behavior, or the doctor shaking his head and handing us a referral for a specialist. All of a sudden, we realize that we have been numbed into thinking that all is well, when in reality, we should have been paying more attention.

It may require us to take a step back, and if possible, rewind the clock, reexamining our lives to see just what is important, and how we can give it the time and attention it deserves. We begin making decisions that have a more positive long-term impact on our lives than what we have done in the past.

Choose faith over doubt, choose faith over fear, choose faith over the unknown and the unseen, and choose faith over pessimism.

— Richard C. Edgley

Trade Emotional Numbness for Emotional Sensitivity

In order to trade emotional numbness for emotional sensitivity, we first have to realize that emotions come and go. They are not static. They change and evolve with our thoughts, responses, and circumstances. The following series of questions from The Emotional Survival Workbook gives us a guide:

The Emotional Survival Workbook
The Emotional Survival Workbook

The Emotional Survival Workbook contains worksheets for use with the Emotional Survival Handbook. There are also printmasters that can be copied for personal use.

 
  • What is happening?
  • What am I feeling?
  • What am I thinking of doing?
  • What will happen if I do it?
  • Is that really what I want?
  • Is there something better I could do instead?
  • What would be best for me and others in the long run?

Remember, emotional numbness is nothing more than shielding ourselves from the pain. Choose today to feel the pain, and then respond in a better way. Joy and happiness will be the result, for your emotional health!

©2015 by Denise W. Anderson, all right reserved. For more information on emotional health, see www.denisewa.com.

More by this Author


Comments 24 comments

billybuc profile image

billybuc 17 months ago from Olympia, WA

Been there, done that, could have written the book, and I'm not returning. :)


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 17 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks, Bill, for sharing your experiences with us. We appreciate the wisdom you have gained in the process!


Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 17 months ago from Oklahoma

It's like the song says, "I have become comfortably numb." People often complain about the shell they put up to the rest of humanity, but it serves the purpose of helping us no be overwhelmed by all the world's sadness.

Great hub.


serenityjmiller profile image

serenityjmiller 17 months ago from Brookings, SD

Thank you for this. Not very often do I run into a "neighbor" from the Dakotas along the ol' Information Superhighway. What a pleasure to discover such rich and thoughtful content to boot. I look forward to seeing more from you.


Kate Mc Bride profile image

Kate Mc Bride 17 months ago from Donegal Ireland

A great hub again Denise. Mental illness is indeed like cancer of the soul as you say. It is a challenging journey to leave it behind step by step. Thanks for sharing this hub. Kate


clivewilliams profile image

clivewilliams 17 months ago from Nibiru

i am always in transition mode....cant find a settling form. Maybe it would have been better for me if i wasn't born a annunaki....sometimes my emotions go on vacation


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 17 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

That is so very true, Larry. We think that when we put up that kind of a shell that we are protecting ourselves from all the bad in the world. Unfortunately, we also keep out all the good that there is to experience. Thanks for your comment and the follow!


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 17 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Hey, neighbor! The Dakotas are the best kept secret in the United States! We still breathe clean air up here! I appreciate your comments, as well as the follow!


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 17 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

The beauty of it is Kate, that we can leave it behind! We don't have to suffer all of our lives, even though we may have a mental illness. I have come to learn that we can still be emotionally healthy, even if we are mentally ill! I know that sounds like a dichotomy, but it is just like saying that we can have a chronic illness, but still function effectively in life. Cancer does not have to eat us alive, and mental illness does not have to turn us into a recluse. I appreciate you stopping by and commenting!


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 17 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

What an interesting state, that of transition! I don't know what an annunaki is, but I know what happens when my emotions go on vacation! I end up having major issues in my relationships with others! Sometimes I feel like I am transitioning from one transition to another. It is no fun! I appreciate your comments!


Kumari Valentine profile image

Kumari Valentine 17 months ago from Valentine

Fantastic article Denise - very useful info here that I will be sharing with clients. Thanks heaps.


Dr Pran Rangan profile image

Dr Pran Rangan 17 months ago from Kanpur (UP), India

Great write up on emotions. I liked the closing paragraph - Remember, emotional numbness is nothing more than shielding ourselves from the pain. Choose today to feel the pain, and then respond in a better way. Joy and happiness will be the result, for your emotional health!

Thanks a lot for sharing.


florypaula profile image

florypaula 17 months ago

The human mind is amazing. It can give us the happiest moments and emotions of our life and the lowest and most deep diseases that we feel like they are eating us alive. Great article Denise.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 17 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks Kumari. I'm glad that something I have written will be helpful for your clients. These principles are so important, and the more people who know and understand them, the better our society will be. Take care, and my best to you!


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 17 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

That is the best way to summarize it, Dr. Pran. We think that emotional numbness is a complex issue, but it is simply turning off our emotions rather than allowing ourselves to feel them. Unfortunately, this does not make them go away. It only keeps us from working through them and moving forward. I appreciate your comments.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 17 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Well said, florypaula! Our brains can be our best friends, and our own worst enemy! There are many things that can be amiss, especially when it comes to our thoughts, desires, and emotions. Thankfully, as we grow in our understanding of how these things work, we are less likely to be eaten alive. Thanks for stopping by!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 17 months ago from The Caribbean

Thanks for your very helpful advice. I can testify to the the fact that feeling the pain is more beneficial than hiding from it. I especially appreciate the warning on chronic stress, and I like the Edgley quote very much.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 17 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks, Dora. I appreciate you sharing your firsthand experience on this matter. Sometimes, we are afraid to feel the pain. We aren't sure if we can handle it. But, like you said, that is the only way to work through it. I know from my own past experience that chronic stress can be a killer, especially when it keeps going for long periods of time. I'm glad that you liked the quote!


ChitrangadaSharan profile image

ChitrangadaSharan 17 months ago from New Delhi, India

The unexpected transitions are difficult to handle but one who learns to deal with them as part of life, can overcome the emotional upheavals smoothly.

Wise thoughts there in your hub as always. I believe a terrible end is better to handle rather than no end at all as far as unexpected transitions are concerned.

Thanks for sharing this insightful hub, voted up!


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 17 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

That is an interesting point, ChitrangadaSharan, that if we accept unexpected transitions as a part of life, we can get through them much more smoothly. I also agree with you on the "no end at all" part. When a transition hangs on without resolution, we are left "in limbo" and end up having many more emotional issues then one that ends badly. At least we know where we stand, and can move on with our lives! Take care, and thanks for your insightful comments!


MGWriter profile image

MGWriter 17 months ago from Western Washington State

I like this article, it seems to get right to the meat of the issues. Your writing is easily understood.


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 17 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

Thanks, MG. I do my best to simplify the complex issues we face with our emotional health. I know that is what I needed to get me back on track when I was having trouble, and I hope it can help someone else as well!


Kate Mc Bride profile image

Kate Mc Bride 17 months ago from Donegal Ireland

I read this again Denise. It is a great pactical hub full of hope. When I was emotionally numb it inhibited my reflexes and natural instinct. It is good to mend and be on the road to recovery. Thanks:-) Kate


denise.w.anderson profile image

denise.w.anderson 17 months ago from Bismarck, North Dakota Author

I'm glad that you were able to overcome it, Kate. Being emotionally numb inhibits our responses in life in many ways, and can be especially detrimental in our relationships with others. We are not able to make wise decisions about our future. I appreciate you sharing your experiences!

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working