O nce upon a time, I was a very unhappy girl. My marriage was incredibly fragile, work was stressful and I dealt with it by shopping and eating. Neither were a good habit to get into, but chips and chocolate and new linens and stuff made me feel better, even if it was just for a moment. I didn’t feel very good about myself. But it was the only way I knew to cope: every time I started to feel, I’d eat, schedule a meeting or buy stuff. It was a way of life.
After a discovery of potential infidelity on the part of my husband, I decided that I needed to “get skinny” in order “fix” things. I turned to a life of control – I counted every single calorie and obsessively worked out. At the height of this period, I was limiting myself to fewer than 1000 calories a day and working out at least 2 hours each day.
All of these behaviors – the food, the shopping, the working out, the busyness, the control of food intake – were forms of numbing. I was so afraid of feeling the ickiness – the sadness, the anger, the frustration, the disappointment, the loneliness – that I was doing anything I could to not feel.
Now, watching what you eat and exercise seem like good habits, but everything can be taken to extreme when you use it to numb your feelings and escape from your reality. The real reality wasn’t that my husband was having an affair because I was overweight; he was having an affair because our marriage was dying.
That knowledge didn’t end my need to numb myself, however. Food, shopping, crazy busy schedules, alcohol, sex, travel…all of those have come into play over the years as ways to handle different stressful periods of my life.
Finally, I realized that all the running away and numbing had to stop. The lesson I learned was that in order to live a life that I loved, I needed to start feeling.
In Brene Brown’s book “The Gifts of Imperfection”, she writes:
“In another very unexpected discovery, my research also taught me that there’s no such thing 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.”
What an ah-ha: there is no such thing as selective numbing. You see, the act of recognizing, honoring, and fully experiencing our emotions is a huge part of living.
What I came to truly understand is that feelings are a double-edged sword. If you don’t feel the shadow emotions, then you aren’t going to be able to really feel the good ones.
I hate to break it to you, kitten, but if you want to create a life that you love, then start allowing all those feelings to wash over you.
I’m not talking about just those yummy emotions like love and freedom and passion and grace. I’m talking about the shadow emotions, too.
I know it’s scary. You may be afraid of getting lost down the rabbit hole of crappy feelings. You may be afraid of allowing yourself to feel the good stuff, too, because the “other shoe” may drop. I’d be lying if I told you I was never afraid of feeling! Over time, you’ll learn that to experience them is truly the best way to live.
Still not sure about this whole feeling thing? Well, darling, each emotion is offering you clues and signals about the direction of your life. If you’re too busy numbing them, you can’t access your inner wisdom. And I learned that when I just go with it – and allow myself to feel (especially those darker emotions like sadness and anger and loneliness) it passes a heck of a lot faster than the process of avoiding them!
The consequence of continually avoiding your feelings – your natural GPS – is huge. It keeps you from living the life you desire – and deserve.
Darling, you deserve to live a life that is fully engaged. It’s how you fall in love with your day-to-day life. And to do that, darling, to feel the love, you are going to have to feel everything else, as well.
In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing more on feeling – how to identify your feelings, thoughts on choosing how you want to feel and creating goals for your life around feelings instead of trying to conform to an outside-in view of the world. I have a new e-book in the works to help you.
Ready to begin your foray into feeling? Ready to stop numbing? There are several ways I can help you:
- If you haven’t yet, sign up for my newsletter and receive my current eBook: Creating Your Compass. The 2nd activity is a Feelings Clarification Exercise.
- One-on-one coaching is always an option. Want to see if we’re a good fit? Schedule a test drive. See what my clients have to say about working with me.
- Clear away the clutter you have surrounded yourself with. If you’re a shopper, it’s probably physical stuff. If it’s food, a good start is to clean out your pantry. A new round of Clutter Busting begins March 24th, and I’d love to hold your hand as we walk through.
- One of the smartest moves I made – and what finally broke my ways of numbing – was to work with a coach. My first coaching experience was with a group and it helped reshape not only how I thought, but I felt about myself. (Make Your Inner Sex Kitten Roar begins a fresh group on April 22nd. )
I’m here for you. And trust me, kitten, I understand more than you can imagine. Are you ready to clear away the layers, begin feeling and fall in love with your life?