Numbness, Dissociation and Feelings
Do you feel asleep at the wheel? Do you miss subtle cues about what’s true or how people feel that other people seem to “just know?” Are you feeling numb, depressed, or just not here? Maybe it’s because you’re numb or dissociated. You can’t have a full, vibrant life if you are not in your body. You can’t feel if you’re not embodied. How would you know if this is you?
Numbness feels like the absence of sensation. You’re in your body, but it’s not really responding to stimulus. Perhaps you’re at your birthday party. All your friends are there. There is great food, music, and company – all the things that would normally make you happy. Yet, you’re not really feeling anything. You’re not even all that interested in being here. That’s what numbness is like.
It could also be that you’ve just shut down. Something has happened that has sucked all the juice out of you. You can’t take any more stimulus. Maybe you’re balled up in bed, sitting in the bath, or hiding out in your parked car. You’ve gone here to retreat and shut out the world. There are no thoughts or feelings.
With numbness, you’re still embodied, but you’re not feeling. This is generally situational and temporary.
Dissociation occurs when there is overwhelming stress. This could feel like you’re living in third person. You know what’s going on, but it’s like it is happening to someone else. Or maybe you know it’s happening to you, but you don’t feel what you think you ought to feel in response. It’s almost like you’re not there. Or rather your thoughts and body are there, but your feeling self is not.
Contact with reality can fluctuate. If it’s mild dissociation, you’re fully present, but detached. If it’s extreme, you could have go into full black outs and have complete amnesia. There is a fuzzy, in between state where you just feel zoned out and far away.
Both of these situations occur to keep you from collapsing. The brain is very useful in that way. It has tricks that help you to survive. The problem is that sometimes the things it classifies as dangerous aren’t harmful at all. Or it could turn on the fight or flight signal and then it doesn’t turn off so we’re on high alert for no reason. It takes a lot of energy to do that! In fact, it can be really exhausting.
All this is normal. We all do it sometimes, but if you do this habitually, it could be sign that you have suffered from some trauma and may need more than just a good night sleep, a conversation with a friend, or to cry it out. Unfortunately, it’s not that easy to just bounce back after trauma. Your brain may be stuck on “on” and could need some help resetting. This is particularly true if the trauma was long lasting or very hurtful.
If you think this could be you, check it out with a trauma specialist. Just any old counselor won’t do because they may not have the knowledge to deal with trauma. Trauma is a specialty that requires bypassing talk to reach the deep limbic system and polyvagus nerves. Once these are released and reset, your functioning generally returns to the pre-trauma state. If the trauma happened when you were a child, you may need Dialectical Behavioral Therapy to give you the skills you didn’t learn so that you can function as a healthy adult.
If I can help with either of these, give me a call.