Healing Emotional Numbness By Stimulating the Senses
Day 19/31: Blog your own book challenge (This is the last post that’s numbered in the subtitle*)
This is my nineteenth post for the Blog Your Own Book Challenge. In the previous post, I wrote about how bibliotherapy has helped me heal emotional numbness.
Side Note: I started working on the Blog Your Own Book Challenge in August 2020. At that time I thought it would be a good idea to number my posts but in retrospect, I recognize that it wasn’t a good idea at all to number the subtitle. This 19/31 is the last post in which I number the sub-title. I’ll still complete 31 posts that will help me create the first draft of my book — My Journey from Software Development to Writing. But henceforth they will not be numbered in the subtitle.
In this post, I write about how I’m working with the five senses to heal emotional numbness.
Emotional numbness is a very strange kind of lack of feeling. It’s as if one is disconnected from one’s own self. You feel completely ungrounded, untethered, empty, and dissociated from yourself. It’s as if you’re absent from your own life that’s simply coursing the highway of time on auto-pilot being driven by the winds of fate and the nudges of people around you.
The emptiness, desirelessness, smallness, and meaninglessness — things that would immediately feel utterly horrible to someone who is not experiencing emotional numbness, simply feel like an impenetrable gray mass of discomfort.
If it’s bad enough to feel unwell can you imagine how horrible it is to not even know you are unwell? That’s what emotional numbness feels like.
As I write this article, I am grateful that I at least understand the problem and am making slow steps back to recovery. But that wasn’t the case for a very long time. For years, no decades, I did not even know what I was dealing with.
From the perspective I have right now I can say that healing one of the symptoms — pathological desirelessness — may offer a way of healing. Despite what all the spiritual books say, I’ve come to recognize healthy desire as a good thing.
However, the road back to feeling healthy desire has not been easy. I’m dealing with the massive momentum created by all the spiritual books that espouse desirelessness and egolessness as grand virtues as if our only true value is to disappear into nothingness. In defense of these books, maybe disappearing into nothingness is the right goal for someone on the 99th step of the spiritual ladder. But not for me and definitely not at this point in my life.
I don’t remember how exactly this idea formed in my mind. It must have come together from a few things I read and journaled over the past few months. The idea was to work with the senses to re-create healthy desire.
These simple ways of connecting with my senses is working for me and I’d love to share it with you in the hope that it will help you too.
Stimulate the sense of smell
There’s something very powerful about smell. When I thought of reconnecting with my sense of smell, the first two smells that came to my mind were the smell of scented erasers and the smell of new books. It took me back to a time when I was very small, a time when I could binge smell scented erasers and books :-) It immediately made me feel better.
During these times of COVID-19, buying things to smell does not seem like a good idea so I’ll make do with what I already have in my house and put scented erasers on my shopping list.
Fortunately, what I do have are a few bottles of essential oils that I had purchased when I was in Auroville last year. I’ve created a simple ritual around these fragrances.
- When I enter my bath, I spend some time smelling the soap.
- At night, before I go to sleep I take a few deep breaths from a bottle of essential oils.
Two simple practices, but they’re helping me take small steps towards healing every day.
Stimulate the sense of touch
Emotional numbness and a sense of disassociation with oneself go together. Something that’s helping me overcome this sense of disassociation is the simple act of hugging myself. It’s such a simple practice but so wonderfully effective. I came across this idea in a random blog post a long time back. The author said that she hugged herself every day. It was part of her daily routine. It felt like a strange idea at that time and I quietly buried it. Back then I was into more serious spiritual literature. I wanted to do Yoga or Qi-Gong or Tai-Chi. Compared to these practices, hugging myself felt childish and silly.
Fortunately for me, my subconscious is wiser than I am. It quietly filed away the gem that I had buried. The idea resurfaced when I was thinking of how to reconnect with my senses. This time it did not feel strange or wishy-washy. I tried it immediately. I hugged myself for some time and it felt absolutely wonderful. I felt a sense of peace.
Since then, hugging myself is the first thing I do when I wake up in the morning and the last thing I do before going to sleep.
I’ve also added two more, equally simple, practices to stimulate my sense of touch.
I rub my whole body vigorously in the morning. Rubbing my body not only helps me reconnect with myself but something special happens when I rub my shoulders. It’s as if a burden gets released. I feel light after rubbing my shoulders for some time. Maybe I have been carrying subconscious burdens that get released when I rub my shoulders.
The last practice for my sense of touch is holding my tea mug with both my hands as I drink my tea. The warmth of the hot tea mug feels wonderful and it gives a special sort of magic to my breakfast.
Stimulate the sense of taste
This one’s really simple. I try to savor the taste of the foods that I enjoy.
I don’t practice conscious eating. It sounds too heavy. I normally watch TV during lunch and dinner because that’s the only time of the day when I watch television.
But I love tea. Regular Indian Masala Chai. I savor the taste of tea as I hold the mug with both my hands stimulating touch and taste at the same time.
I also love chocolate, so I eat a small piece of chocolate every night after dinner and enjoy the experience to the fullest.
Stimulate the sense of sight
I enjoy nature. Nowadays, I work with a Pomodoro timer which rings after 20 minutes. I get up in these intervals, stretch a bit and look out my window at the trees, the mountains that are at a distance but I can still see their outline and the sky.
Looking in the distance, at nature, after spending time with the computer is good for the eyes and it also helps me reconnect with my sense of sight.
Stimulate the sense of sound
I’ve kept this one also very simple. I have a playlist of songs that motivate me to reconnect with myself and my dreams. I play this list every day while having breakfast. I play the same list of songs every day.
Each of these practices is very simple and I don’t have to go out of my way to do them. They simply melt into my daily routine. I also don’t overdo any of them. I’ve learned the dangers of overdoing and burning out. Having learned them the hard way I try my best to take tiny regular steps.
I’m still healing so none of these practices is a magic bullet but I can feel the difference they are making in my life, slowly and steadily.
If you are dealing with emotional numbness, I hope you find these simple practices helpful or you might use them as a launching pad for your own personalized set of practices. Whatever works is what’s best for each of us. I wish you good luck and healing!