- Jaime Lang
Feeling emotions can take up a lot of energy and in some cases be associated with being overwhelmed by pain. In a society that values production and achievement the thought that emotions are at best a waste of time and at worst some horrible monster ready to knock us into a state of chaos can be understood.
These ideas combined with the idea that we should escape pain contribute to the view that we should push away our feelings and embrace numbness instead. Honestly, when you are experiencing a level of suffering that is intense, temporary numbness is a wonderful gift (just think about how anesthetics during surgery save lives), but we create a new challenge for ourselves when our primary mode of existence is one of being numb.
The challenge is that if you are numb you are missing out on much of the experience of life. You could argue that going numb is necessary to allow you to produce and achieve more. For example, if a runner is injured pain killers can help them continue to run by removing the pain. If a person is working themselves to death to achieve status, going numb means that they don’t feel the loss of all the parts of their lives that they are forgoing in that pursuit which could include: health, relationships, and hobbies.
If numbness is used temporarily to go deep into pain and resolve some of it then it can be extremely beneficial, but if numbness is the state of existence to avoid looking at the consequences of decisions or completely eliminate discomfort it can quickly become a hinderance. Why?
Because if you use numbness as your primary coping mechanism you aren’t listening to the message that pain is trying to bring you about the direction your life is going in. You are less likely to make changes that could improve the quality of your life and the quality of life of others. You are also blocking out experiences that truly feel good and make life pleasant and worth living.
Emotions can be amazing motivators. They color experiences and push you towards some things and away from others. Most of what we want to experience is wanted because of the underlying emotion we believe we would feel in that experience. We aren’t just looking for success, achievement, purpose, or connection, we are looking for joy, love, and peace or to escape fear, insecurity, sadness, loneliness.
Emotions bring color into life. They tell you about your experience and are integral to the fabric of experience that is part of being here.
The solution for living a full, happy, meaningful life is not to divorce yourself from your emotions. It is to embrace them enough to understand what they tell you and the integral role they play in the experience that we get to live out.