Once upon a time, I was a very unhappy girl. My marriage was falling apart, 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. My self esteem was at an all time low, 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.
All of these behaviors — comfort eating, shopping, obsessive workouts, always being busy, — were forms of numbing. I was so afraid of feeling the crappy stuff, the sadness, the anger, the frustration, the disappointment, the loneliness, that I was doing anything I could to not feel.
While some of these behaviors seem like good habits, anything can be taken to extreme when you use it to numb your feelings and escape from your reality. Finally, I realized that the running from my feelings 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 shares that her research found that when we numb the dark feelings, we also numb the light. What an ah-ha: there is no such thing as selective numbing. So, if you want to be happy, then you also need to allow yourself to also feel sad.
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. Your emotions are your natural GPS. Each emotion is offering you clues and signals about the direction of your life.
So the question I'd ask you is this: do you want to simply go through the motions and try to survive or do you want to thrive and live a conscious life? If you answered "thrive" then you have to allow 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.
Recognizing, honoring, and fully experiencing our emotions is a huge part of thriving in life because when we suppress and numb our emotions, it's impossible to connect with who we truly are and what we want. What I believe is that you matter and deserve to live a life that is fully engaged.
Ready to begin your foray into feeling? Ready to stop numbing? Not sure where to begin? Let me share my best tools and tricks. Check out ways to work with me. Want to see if we’re a good fit? Schedule a test drive!
Debra Smouse is a Tarnished Southern Belle who enjoys chocolate cake and beautiful lingerie, but never indulges in either to stop from feeling. Visit her website or connect with her on Twitter or Facebook.
More advice on how to be happy on YourTango:
- How To Be Happy With Yourself: 5 Must-Read Tips
- Happiness Happens: 20 Tips To Increase Your Happiness
- 10 Greatest Love Stories Of All Time