Do you even know if you’re numb? Think about the experience of our foot falling asleep and the pins and needles and aching we feel when it awakens. We sit on our foot for a while and temporarily compress the nerves in it and don’t feel the discomfort until we move our foot.

Suddenly our body becomes charged with energy and starts sending signals to our brain. The same holds true when we sit on our feelings. We become disconnected from what we think and feel and separated from our hearts. In that state we don’t experience the negative aspects of that unwanted feeling until we start awakening it when we are willing to move by changing our perspective.

If you’re like many people, you were maybe alarmed when you heard the word “addiction”. Your mind automatically focused on typical substances such as alcohol and drugs. However, running away from our “self,” discomfort, and “what is” is an equally addictive behavior.

Ways we become numb:
Truthfully, people can numb themselves in many ways besides getting involved with substance abuse. We numb ourselves through our work—becoming addicted to our laptops and cellphones. As philosopher, social worker, and researcher, Brené Brown PhD says, “We don’t want to turn off our machines because what if we miss something? An email? A text? A FB post? A blog? What if?” Well, the world goes on. Our world continues. Far too many people have become addicted to their technology. It’s a way of connecting but at a distance. It’s a way of being with others but still being alone. It’s a false sense of intimacy.

Here are some other ways we numb ourselves. Do any sound familiar to you?

• Distancing ourselves emotionally
• Overeating
• Gambling
• Being in abusive relationships, which are unhealthy attachments to physically and/or emotionally violent partners with whom we cosign a very toxic codependency
• Living an overly busy life; filling every moment with something
• Obsessively watching television
• Spending excessive time on the internet
• Rage-a-holism: growing intensely angered over even the smallest of things—such as the person who writes the check in the grocery store line instead of using their bank card
• Workaholism/alcoholism
• Shopping
• Somatic medical problems: nothing is wrong with us but we don’t feel well, our bodies hurt, and we are constantly seeking a diagnosis of something, anything but the truth of our feelings and emotions

The emotional numbing and other forms of addictive behavior we participate in causes a vicious cycle that begins with discomfort and discontent before circling to guilt and shame, and eventually fear of vulnerability and loss of control. Welcome to the merry-go-round of unhappiness—the ride that just keeps going until you decide to get off.

The root causes of numbing behaviors:
Shame is a byproduct of numbness and it makes us anxious. Not only because we experience fear, but also because it may lead us to believe and feel that we are out of control—like a runaway train. Add in some self-doubt (those feelings that we just aren’t good enough) and we really grow numb because we see no other way to cope with what’s happening to us. At least the numbness takes the edge off, right?
Of course, for some people the experience is very different. One friend told me that she endured “decades of ‘psychic agony’ that nothing could numb except my own creative work.” The gift in that for her is that the pain pushed her to do a lot of healing inner work. And her focus on her creative gifts has enabled her to make a living through them. Can you think of some ways you have begun to numb yourself recently or in the past? Why do we engage in numbing behavior? It’s a strategy to help us avoid experiencing pain.

How you can combat numbness and gain happiness
Here are a few simple, kind and loving self-soothing techniques that allow you to remain in your body and be present with whatever feelings are arising within you:

• Take a walk
• Take a bath
• Practice mindfulness, such as awareness of body, breath, senses, and environment
• Play beautiful music
• Read uplifting material
• Draw
• Journal
• Sing
• Constructively whine for 5 minutes with a timer and then immediately move onto another activity
• Ground yourself through breathing, visualization, or meditation
• Zoom out the lens of your perspective. View the situation from 10 feet above you to reframe what you see (and feel). This is also known as gaining a meta-view.

Taking good actions to help relieve numbness and stress is important. Otherwise the feelings will surface in other ways. We can develop headaches, gain or lose weight, engage in dysfunctional relationships, develop chronic pain, sleep disorders, etc. It’s vital to confront the pain we’re trying to numb and face it head on with expert support.

Take the next step:
Stress does not have to be your master. We gain significant benefits by “defrosting” emotionally and accessing a deeper level of feelings. Only by acknowledging feelings and addressing them in the appropriate way can we improve our health on all levels. The benefits of this are fresh air in our life and include improved health on all levels, heightened intuition, improved relationships, more acute sensing, and a generally more happy and peaceful life. These are things we can all rally behind.

Author's Bio: 

Lisa Cypers Kamen, MA, is an internationally recognized positive psychology coach and author of "Are We Happy Yet? Eight Keys to Unlocking a Joyful Life." Lisa hosts the popular radio show Harvesting Happiness, which has helped millions of people around the world generate more joy and fulfillment in their life. For more information, visit and visit Lisa on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram