Updated: Apr 8, 2020
No one wants to be uncomfortable or feel pain. We all desire those feel good feels. I have several ways I attempt to make my life more acceptable, and methods I use to numb out. My brain just goes on autopilot and a force comes over me. It’s really beautiful how the mind attempts to protect us from hurt and pain.
But check this: the exact methods our brain uses to numb out, cause more pain long term — all in an attempt to reduce immediate pain. I don’t know about you, but I’m choosing long term happiness over momentary discomfort. This hasn’t always been the case. I get how hard it is to sit in discomfort. This is the exact reason I meditate. I am training that mind of mine to be okay feeling uneasy. The trick to get out of these behavioral patterns is to recognize them for what they are — then look at it with curiosity, not judgment.
Ask yourself; what is this compulsive or excessive behavior trying to protect me from? What am I attempting to escape?
I numbed out of my reality on a daily basis through my divorce.
I choose to not acknowledge how I felt.
I choose to not acknowledge my truth.
I choose to not acknowledge who I really was.
All of that compounded with years of stuffing down my self hatred, that lead me to stay in an abusive marriage. This manifested into a very fucked up relationship with food, alcohol, my body, and my mind. Behavior associated with numbing out can be seen as generally excessive or binging.
Can you relate to that?
We all do it so take your judgment cap off. Some of us just have different methods. It doesn’t make you a better human because you use sex to numb out and I used over exercise.
Now that we got that out of the way — why do we numb out?
Well it comes down to protection and safety. Let’s face it, sometimes it’s really hard to acknowledge our reality.
For example you have a job you hate and it does nothing to satisfy your needs, wants, and potential. Or what about that soul sucking relationship. To speak your truth and say “this job is killing my dreams” or “I don’t want to be in this relationship anymore” likely brings up even more discomfort than the actual problem itself.
The problem is when we are numbing out, we are choosing to numb out because all of it feels so fucking overwhelming and so scary. We run from whatever "it" is. Part of us is thinking “I can’t do this anymore” so we deflect that discomfort allowing us to focus our attention on something else.
Here is where process addictions or substance addictions manifest. Our bodies and minds are not designed to harm us. They are not designed to create discomfort. Believe it or not — they are designed to keep us safe, so it reliably protects us by keeping us with what we know works.
The problem is that if you find yourself in a situation within your life, which just doesn’t feel right; it could be a job, a relationship, a health issue — that lovely protection mechanism kicks in, then our mind believes change is on the horizon which can be uncomfortable and what do we do?
I don’t want to acknowledge that, so I’m just going to go and eat a piece of cake.
When we do that over and over again, we embody these detached, disembodied, disconnected, un-fed versions of our true selves.
What are the main things which we might do or turn to in order to numb out?
Any kind of emotional eating, binge eating, over eating, excessive restriction, and starvation can be used as a form of numbing out.
Food becomes your ‘thing’ as you want to turn the channel of what’s really going on
This can get mixed up with food, as we can turn to alcohol in the same way we turn to chocolate cake.
Wine becomes a substitute for relaxation or for feeling content with ourselves — after a manic day, you reach for something outside of yourself.
You end up finding yourself drinking more and more without even noticing the increasing volume it takes to numb out. This happens so fucking slowly the trap snaps down without us noticing until it’s too late.
I’m not judging anybody by the way. This was a huge part of how I coped through my divorce. I reached outside of myself for various reasons until I was ready to do the work.
There is nothing wrong with ingesting small amounts of attractively packaged poison aka wine — but if that is turning into a bottle or two on the weekends, or you find yourself slipping into that binge IDGAF mentality... that right there my friends is your red flag to step away and check yourself.
3. SOCIAL MEDIA
How many times have you found yourself grabbing your phone and you are aimlessly scrolling through Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram?
Perhaps you have some huge ass work deadlines and your stress is maxed out, so you reach for your phone to check out mentally on social media. I’m guilty of doing this and I’m guessing that you might be too. I invite you to be aware of it. As awareness allows us to change.
If you recognize that you do this, start asking yourself why do you grab your phone when you are stressed? Why are you pulled towards scrolling in that moment?
I tend to find I do this when I'm procrastinating with something. Procrastination is essentially a built in stress reduction tool our brains have. Yet like we talked about earlier, our numb out methods usually end up causing more pain than doing anything to help us.
The moral of the story — when social media becomes a distraction, or our primary method to procrastinate, it’s a form of numbing out.
4. TRASH TV
Similar to social media if you find yourself sitting in front of the tv on your couch, getting lost in trashy reality television for 30-40 minutes, that could be numbing out via procrastination, or distraction from your real issues.
So once again, just become aware of it and shine light on it.
Compulsive shopping; where you find yourself wandering into a shop and you’ve spend $100 or come out with a bag of stuff which you really don’t need but you bought it anyway, this also is a form of numbing out.
This one had me pinned until recently. This and the gym, were my primary methods of coping through my abusive marriage. It’s how I distracted myself from the reality of my situation. It fucking worked and it worked well.
What to do?
Be aware of this, acknowledge what you are doing, don’t judge or criticize it — step back and start to question why am I doing this?
What am I trying to gain from this?
What part of my hungry soul am I attempting to feed here. What part of my life am I avoiding?
If you are choosing to numb out of your life at the moment as it is, there is something fundamentally imbalanced? Perhaps there isn’t enough fun, pleasure, adventure, connection, love. I discuss ways to address this here.
When you can find a way of feeding yourself based on these non physical hungers in the mental and realm of the soul — all this numbing out shit will start to disappear all by itself.
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