My Butterfly Dream

Crazy thoughts and not so wild ideas

Numbing the pain and joy away.

The year I got divorced I was at my fittest; running my fastest 10 kilometres, getting up for runs before the sun was out and planning the next one before the current one was over. If anyone had looked at me then they would have thought I was dealing with things well. I was following all the “right steps” one is normally expected to when going through a life changing moment such as this; I was going for therapy, exercising, eating well, meditating.

“Most of us engage in behaviors (consciously or not) that help us to numb and take the edge off of vulnerability, pain and discomfort.”1

The truth is I wasn’t dealing with anything.

When I walked into the courtroom I felt nothing. Not a single thing. One of my friends (who insisted on being with me because I was so switched off that I didn’t think I needed anyone) was sitting next to me but I couldn’t feel her there. The only time any emotion was shown was when I was asked questions by a lawyer I had met only a few hours earlier. I remember a few tears trying to force their way through but alas, inside is where they stayed.

As I read Brown’s book, I finally understood why numbing the pain does not work. It isn’t only because of the self harm caused (I couldn’t go to work one day weeks later because my blood pressure was so low I couldn’t get out of bed. To get me to a doctor took hours and I strongly believe this was my body trying to tell me, enough is enough); numbing the pain doesn’t work because it numbs all the joy as well. The same year I was divorced, I graduated and I travelled to Asia and yet I sometimes forgot about these occasions. It was hard to remember feeling anything, good or bad, during those times.
Why even bother doing these things if we can’t feel anything before, during or after? What joy is to be felt if we cannot feel anything at all?

“…there’s no such things as selective emotional numbing. There is a full spectrum of human emotions and when we numb the dark, we numb the light. While I was ‘taking the edge off’ of the pain and vulnerability, I was also unintentionally dulling my experiences of good feelings, like joy.”
2
Numbing the pain strips so much from our lives that I do not believe we could call it living. We have to continue tolerating pain to feel all the good emotions as well or everything will pass us by; good/bad, pain and joy. As I try to come back to a world of feeling, and not just processing feelings through thinking, I look back and a part of me thinks “what a waste.” All these things done and no attachment made. Or. I say:
This journey has taught me so much, the most important being that numbing the pain is a waste of life because no amount of joy can be felt if we sometimes cannot feel the pain too.

“Joy is as thorny and sharp as any of the dark emotions. To love someone fiercely, to believe in something with your whole heart, to celebrate a fleeting moment in time, to fully engage in a life that doesn’t come with guarantees – these are risks that involve vulnerability and often pain. When we lose our tolerance for discomfort, we lose joy.”3

1. Brown.B. The gifts of imperfection. Halzeden Publishing. 2010:69.

1. Brown.B. The gifts of imperfection. Halzeden Publishing. 2010:72.

1. Brown.B. The gifts of imperfection. Halzeden Publishing. 2010:72.

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