Identify your crutches
Most every time we repress an emotion, we use a coping mechanism. Whether you eat your feelings, drink your problems, or shop your troubles away, you are using a vice to cope with your feelings. Relying on this ‘thing’ allows you to ignore the real emotion and evade – push it down deeper. You’ve got to figure out what crutch you’re using so that you can disarm it.
Create a reminder
When you’re in the middle of using your crutch (halfway through the large pizza or knee deep in cashmere sweaters you can’t afford) you’re on autopilot. You’re coasting through as you always do and that will not change if you don’t find a way to STOP yourself. Pause, take account. What will your reminder be? It can be a physical feeling if your crutch involves something physical. It can be a thought that regularly comes along with your crutch. It can even be an alarm. If your always online shop late at night, set a reminder to pop up on your phone during your most vulnerable hours. It may sound silly to you now…but how else are you going to break the habit of distancing yourself from emotion? A reminder is going to give you a small nudge to flip your autopilot switch off. Bring your mind back to what you truly desire and not what numbs your feelings.
What emotion are you feeling?
What caused you to feel it?
Is it true?
Find your outlet.
Now that you’ve identified an emotion – what are you going to do with it? You could wait until you’re significant other comes home and find all of the things under the sun to pick on them about. Or you could have a real and honest conversation about what you’re feeling. Venting is not a bad thing. Venting is not the same thing as whining. We’ve all heard “venting” used in regards to emotions but fully think the analogy out. You are opening up a space for something that is full to be released so that an internal space may be purified. This is healing. This isn’t venting, this is ventilation. Breath.
Maybe you’re not ready to explain these emotions to another human. I’ve been there, friend! Journal. Don’t make it complicated. Don’t think I mean DIARY. Write the emotion down and whatever thoughts you have around it. 3 sentences, GO! Your immediate thoughts regarding how you feel. “I can’t describe why I feel so angry” counts! You’re doing the work.
Give yourself grace
This is a new thing! You’ve spent – what? Your entire life using your crutch. For a long time you’ve made your crutch a habit. A habit means something is no longer a choice – it is automatic. In order to interrupt that process and change it – there will be moments that you don’t “win”. But this isn’t about winning, this is about living. This is about preventing what you’ve kept in a cage for so long from devouring you from the inside out. Also… the opposite of numbness is messy. It might shock you how quickly the emotions you’ve been keeping at bay flood over you. Or it may also shock you how quickly they don’t. While I’d love to tell you that you’ll only have to utilize these “steps” once; they’re not steps. They’re tools for you to put into your arsenal against emotional numbness. There will always be bad days. Even Oprah has bad days.