Some of us have been through so much that in order to survive we stopped feeling. We left our bodies in favor of saving our lives. When you are faced with the decision to break mentally in the face of an inescapable situation or to numb your feelings, I bet you chose the latter option. Regardless of what you may tell yourself it was about your literal survival. Your brain did what it needed to do to keep you alive. I want to help you feel again when you are in a safe environment. This post will outline how I have allowed myself to feel again & I hope it gives you some tools to do the same.
Trauma Survivors & Their Inability to Feel
It has been my experience that the initial issue with Trauma survivors is that they feel "too much". This causes us to disconnect from our feelings in order to survive. If you have experienced trauma & not had a support system to help you move through how you feel, then chances are you walk around feeling numb, depressed, or have a lack of interest in things & people in your life. It is entirely possible for someone to experience trauma & not develop PTSD, CPTSD, or other mental health issues with more long term implications. What makes the difference is the support you have to restore safety into your life. Without that critical piece you are likely to develop issues & distance yourself from how you really feel about it for your safety.
Believe it or not it's dangerous to re-experience those feelings without the proper tools to access them safely (meaning ground work that establishes a safe relationship with someone who can help you process such as a therapist). To put a person back in that situation without teaching them coping skills & making sure they are ready is to harm them. I've seen this when it comes to addiction. Most people do not understand that addiction is a very effective coping mechanism. It numbs the overwhelming feelings that the person has about their experiences. Most people who are wanting some one who is addicted to stop right away don't see the beginning of the cycle of addiction when it helped that person to feel better about things they may not even remember. So we end up in a space where we cannot feel because it is unsafe to access those emotions & if you choose to numb one emotion for protection, you numb them all. There is no selective numbing of emotion.
Are You Unable to Feel?
Have you found that you are numb & can't really feel anything? Is it hard to emotionally connect to other people? Have you experienced trauma? You may be answering I don't know to all of these questions. If your answer to how you feel is frequently I don't know then it's possible that you are numbing your emotions & you did it too early in your life to realize it was a coping mechanism. You can begin to feel again by developing your emotional muscles. So let's talk about how to build those muscles shall we?
Building Your Emotional Intelligence
So you are having trouble articulating what it is you feel or even interpreting it for yourself. How can you begin to develop emotional intelligence? It all begins with you. Try these 5 steps to see if you can begin to build your emotional intelligence. As always please be gentle with yourself & wherever you are in your journey.
1. Can you pinpoint your most prominent emotion(s)? Is it anger? Is it fear? Is it apathy? Is it happiness? Is it sadness? Name your most predominant emotion AND write it down.
2. Write about when you feel this emotion. What are the circumstances? Does it always seem to be there? Does it come & go?
3. How do you feel about this emotion? Do you reject this emotion or allow it to flow? Does the emotion make you feel icky? Is this emotion connected to an experience? Do you feel anything at all?
4. Can you allow the emotion to be without immediately trying to change it? Why or Why Not?
5. Look up emotions & feelings. Here is a list of emotions & feelings created by the Hoffman Institute.
If you ask yourself these questions & get curious about your emotions you will notice that you begin to recognize what you are feeling more often. You may also notice that this emotion is attached to another emotion. In this way you can start to build your emotional intelligence & you may realize that you feel quite a bit, you've just taught yourself to ignore it for reasons that were connected to safety & security.
What are your experiences with feeling? Let me know your experience with the above exercise.