Feeling the balance (part 1): just say ‘no’ to numb

man walking on tightrope vector illustrationWhen navigating your emotional world, it is important to feel enough to get your needs met, but not become flooded with emotionality to the point that solutions can’t be realized. Let’s start with what it means to feel enough. To me, it means you can listen to yourself, know when to take steps to better meet your needs, respond when your boundaries are being violated, and communicate your experiences with others. Our physical and psychological feelings are tools that let us know when we are in need. Physical feelings are sensations like hunger, thirst, pain, exhaustion, too hot, too cold, etc. Without this information, we wouldn’t know how to take care of our bodies. We would eventually die from thirst or heat exhaustion or injury because we never felt the discomfort associated with not responding to the body’s needs. Well, the mind is in this respect a very similar system, but instead of having physical sensations, we have emotional ones. When we are sad, angry, bored, passionate, indignant, frustrated or anxious, these are signals that a need has arisen and requires attending to. This attending can take the form of seeking nurturing from others, seeking nurturing from self, enforcing a boundary, engaging in a fulfilling behavior, or pursuing solitude, etc. Our capacity to respond to the emotional and psychological needs we have are what determines the mental and social wellbeing we enjoy. Without feelings, we have no compass, no means of navigation, ultimately leading to loneliness, lack of fulfillment, depression, anxiety or other psychological disorders. For some reason, in our society we tend to associate feelings with negative character traits. We equate emotional effusiveness with lack of control, weakness, instability and self-indulgence. Taking time to care for one’s own feelings or asking emotional care from others is often seen as a self-pitying burden. We place way too much importance on being independent and “under control” in our culture. This causes us to gravitate toward numbing important emotions for the sake of avoiding emotional expression and the corresponding negative labels we place on ourselves. To seek emotional balance, take time to understand and challenge the beliefs you have about your own feeling states. The more attentive you are to your emotional experience and the more you invite others to focus on and nurture you emotionally, the better off you will be psychologically and socially.

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