Some years ago, I started to have phases where I didn’t feel anything. It was really weird because it was new to me. It felt wrong and left me with no motivation to do anything. Emotions are my motivator. Why should I do anything when I neither like nor dislike any of the possible outcomes?
Now, several years later, I am learning to feel again. That sounds really strange. Fact is, I cannot really control whether I feel anything. It usually depends on how stressed I am and some other factors. And even when I feel something, it’s rare that it has the intensity and rich facets my emotions used to have.
Like I said: no emotions, no motivation. I also struggle to remember days (and months, and years :/) when I didn’t feel a lot. And well, you don’t feel good. So I’m trying to get my feelings back.
Step one was the realization that I should feel my feelings.
All of this sounds really strange if feelings are an integral part of your life. But as long as I’ve been depressed, my motivator haven been my thoughts. I am over-thinking and analyzing everything. I am trying to think my way into feeling better. That’s really difficult. And, you know, also not really healthy after some point.
But the sentence “feel your feelings” really helped me because not feeling anything was a sign, I realized, that I was suppressing feelings. – This makes sense, as my numbness started when I felt really really trapped and desperate while still living with my parents. I couldn’t get out so I had to turn my feelings off or I wouldn’t have been able to deal with the awfulness of the situation and the fact that the people who created the awfulness were people, who were supposed to care for me.
So what did “feel your feelings” do for me?
It opened a pit of despair, fear and sadness. – Okay, I know, this does not really sound like you want to go through that. For me it meant, beside some other things, that I felt scared for two straight days without knowing the source. I also cried repeatedly for a long time because I realized just how much I felt left alone and without support from my mother. I was angry and just really sad and infuriated that I didn’t have parents, who were supportive and caring. Instead they were self-absorbed and full of so much fear they didn’t think about anyone else.
At the time, I didn’t know when it would end. But not facing these feelings hadn’t worked so I might as well face them?
As I said, I cried repeatedly and the last time I did, it felt like I would again and again because everything was SO fucked up. But. I didn’t. Turns out, I had grieved enough. (At least concerning this particular topic.)
Feeling these strong feelings did have positive effects. I noticed that the symptoms I had due to stress got at least a bit better. It opened the possibility for me to feel nice feelings that don’t hurt. (Sometimes.) It stopped some of the thought cycles because they were no longer fed by these emotions that desperately tried to come out. And the numbness went away, at least a little bit. You cannot suppress difficult feelings and keep the nice ones.
You can only suppress all the emotions or feel all the emotions. There isn’t really much in between.
I will write about the more nuanced approach I follow now another time. But I want to say one more thing: Feelings are not your enemy, even if they make you feel like shit (like, I dunno, grief and fear). They help you navigate your surrounding in a save way (fear) and help you stay emotionally (and in concequence also physically) healthy (grief). It can be really hard to let them be, but there always is a way through and the way through is what you need to take to get to the other side, feeling better.