Saturday, December 22, 2012

Brave New Kitty - On Numbness

I just found this post on Brave New Kitty (great blog, by the way) and I'm sharing it mostly for selfish reasons - so I'll be able to revisit it any time I want. Because it describes my issues perfectly.

Here's the part that basically describes me:

"Numbness protected us as children by allowing us to tune out our parents fighting, or not question their shame and ridicule, or feel nothing but the physical pain when we were backhanded, slapped, or worse. Numbness allowed us to pretend the experiences didn’t happen or that they happened for reasons that were valid, but beyond us. These are the only choices a child has. She is not capable of the complex thought required to sort out, and emotionally separate from, abuse and cruelty at the hands of the people who are supposed to be nurturing her and protecting her from such things. Numbness offered a much-needed escape. In an environment where a child’s emotional needs are not being met, numbness is necessary.

According to every definition I’ve read of post-traumatic stress disorder, emotional numbing is a key factor in dealing with stress and trauma. But other than as a way to function during traumatic events, numbness is not necessary for adults, and if it fits certain patterns, it can be indicative of disowned feelings. Often, precisely because of the numbness, people can have trouble determining if this applies to them; people who’ve learned to numb out are often in the position of guessing at what they’re feeling. If you think you might be in this category, but aren’t sure, here are some indicators to look for:
  • feeling tired and drained around relatives
  • feeling out of control of your emotions
  • feeling powerless over your life or clueless about what you want
  • depression
  • compulsive behavior/addiction
  • unsatisfying relationships, wanting to feel closer to people but not knowing how to
  • confusion about what you feel or guessing at what you’re “supposed” to feel
  • having “emotional amnesia” about past events; having no feelings about something you know was painful
  • inappropriate emotions: laughing about something that was painful
  • blanking out chunks of your childhood
  • feeling like something’s missing from your life but not being able to identify what it is."

I hope she won't mind.


  1. ^That's what I meant by "Thawing Out." It seems you're on "Defrost" at this time, PA.

    1. Sure hope so. Don't always necessarily feel like it. Thank you.

  2. That described me perfectly when I started counseling almost 10 years ago. A lot has changed since then. Defrosting takes time and each time schedule is different. I sometimes tried to rush the process and learned through painful experiences that a slow warming to emotions is more comfortable and just as effective. Kind of like not putting your cold hands under hot water. Using warm water does the job just as well and with less trauma. No need to re-traumatize yourself in the process of learning to feel again. I still have times when I disconnect my feelings but I am in control of when I do that. You can do this too.

    1. Sounds great. I think I'm slowly and steadily melting. It's a process, not an all-or-nothing, black-or-white thing.

    2. From your writing I would say you are making more progress than you realize.


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