Our Ways of Numbing



Over the past several weeks I have been devouring a few books on self discovery, raising our standards and moving beyond our blocks.

One of the common topics is numbing.

Numbing is when we consciously or unconsciously do something whether it be eating, drinking, watching tv, shopping, or staying crazy busy to ignore processing our current emotions, and deaden the pain or discomfort. I can check all of those!

We numb when we feel inadequate to keep up with the demands of life. We numb when we feel vulnerable. We numb because we feel disconnected. We numb to take the edge off.

Earlier this week I had a difficult conversation with a friend. The end of the conversation was rewarding,  but during it many uncomfortable emotions arose. I felt anxious from the conflict, a fear of rejection, the overwhelming sense of change and cried several times.

Afterwards, I called Chris and asked him to pick up a pizza for dinner.

He loving asked if that was really what I wanted to eat. I have been working very hard on taking good care of my body and he knew that I was using it to numb. I told him that I wasn’t even that hungry, but was really emotionally drained. I needed something to soothe me.

Chris suggested I take a bath. I agreed, and then came up with several reasons why I didn’t need to do that. “I’m fine.” “A bath is too much effort” “I’ll just watch a tv show instead.” etc. However, something inside me knew that I needed a bath. I turned the nozzle to the red, and poured in a cup of epsom salt and a few drops of my favorite essential oil. I lit the candles, turned off the lights and settled in. Ahh….. this is exactly what I needed.

Something profound happened. In that moment, I choose not to numb, but to actively engage in listening to my body. What did I really need to soothe myself from the onslaught of emotions? I was able to ask myself what emotions I was feeling. I was able to exist in the vulnerability of conflict and resolution. I WAS PRESENT.

I ended up having a beautiful conversation with Chris and we ended the night laughing and experiencing joy.

Numbing vulnerability is especially debilitating
because it doesn’t just deaden the pain of our difficult experiences; numbing vulnerability also dulls our experiences of love, joy, belonging, creativity and empathy. We can’t selectively numb emotion. Numb the dark and you numb the light. -Brene Brown 

When we choose to swap our numbing behavior with another behavior that actually addresses and deals with the emotion, or a behavior that gives back to us and comforts we can learn to lean into the uncomfortable feelings. We open ourselves to real healing and the ability to process and move on.

Homework for Self Discovery:


  • How do I numb those difficult feelings? My first instinct is to ____________ ?
  • What feelings are my triggers to begin numbing? Loneliness, shame, rejection, fear of success, fear of failure etc ..when I feel __________. 
  • What does numbing cost me? When I numb I miss out on _____________?
  • What is a healthy way to cope when I feel triggered? When I feel the instinct to _________, I will now choose to ________ instead of _________ because it gives me what I am really craving. 

Example: When I am feeling lonely, isolated and disconnected, I will now choose to call a friend and let them know I am feeling lonely instead of watching more Netflix shows because it helps remind me that I am loved, cared for and that connection is right around the corner.

I hope you take the time to answer these questions, or if nothing else become more aware of when you numb.

Here’s to showing up in the uncomfortable and leaning into that fear and anxiety!

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15 Responses to “Our Ways of Numbing”

  1. Madeline June 21, 2013 at 1:57 pm #

    Damn, girl. This is good. I’m definitely going to start being more self aware when it comes to this. Numbing is hobestly something I’ve never really thought much about before. Thanks for this.

    • Mary Crimmins June 21, 2013 at 5:55 pm #

      It’s amazing how disconnected we really are as a society. We can keep each other accountable until our new patterns of behavior and anti-numbing hit our subconscious. :)

  2. alexandra @ sweet betweens blog June 21, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

    Thanks for sharing this, and being vulnerable with us! My biggest challenge is changing my relationship with food so that it’s healthy as I definitely use food right now as a crutch and as an answer to my emotions. Lucky to have a supportive husband on board, too, to remind you about your successes, how far you’ve come and to gently push you to rethink that request for pizza!

    • Mary Crimmins June 21, 2013 at 5:54 pm #

      I am one lucky girl for sure! Way to be aware of your challenges and taking the step to address those crutches. We all have them!

  3. Rachel Jones June 21, 2013 at 3:28 pm #

    Love this! I am coming out of the closet here: I numb by staying crazy crazy crazy busy. And rereading Twilight :)

    • Mary Crimmins June 21, 2013 at 5:53 pm #

      I can definitely relate to staying overly busy! Thanks for being vulnerable and sharing!

  4. Marissa Hyatt June 21, 2013 at 4:26 pm #

    This is awesome, Mary! I can totally relate. As you know I quit smoking this week and I’ve realized how much I was using that as a numbing tool. I would immediately go have a cigarette whenever I felt those uncomfortable feelings boiling up to the surface. I am now learning to BREATHE and also to listen to those emotions. It may be uncomfortable, but learning my body wasn’t craving a cigarette but was craving to be HEARD!

    • Mary Crimmins June 21, 2013 at 5:53 pm #

      Wow, what a great realization. Kuddos to you for showing up and learning to deal with those uncomfortable emotions and situations. I am SO proud of you!

  5. Beth June 24, 2013 at 1:28 am #

    Mary, Thank you for this beautiful post. I also love Brene Brown and find her writing to speak directly to me. And now YOU have done the same thing!! I must confess that engaging in incessant busy-ness is one of many numbing techniques which I employ. Your comment to your sweet husband about a bath being too much effort sounds like words from my own vocabulary of denial. Thanks for refocusing me and reminding me that I’m numbing … not feeling. And ps, you look AMAZING!! Whatever you’re doing is sooooo working!! Your smile says it all :)

    • Mary Crimmins June 24, 2013 at 3:09 pm #

      Beth, thank you for your kind words! And thank you for sharing how you numb. Busyness is a trap I fall into all the time. I am actively working on that, and taking the time for myself whenever I can. It’s amazing how much we can resist actually listening to ourselves and taking care of ourselves. Thanks for your comment, and hope to keep connecting.

  6. Paige March 2, 2014 at 4:40 am #

    Another helpful post. Thank you. May I ask, what were the books you were reading that influenced this post? I probably will not have time to read them, but am always curious to know the source of people’s inspiration. :)

    • Mary Crimmins March 3, 2014 at 9:07 pm #

      I love Louise Hay books among others :)

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