As a whole, Western Society is heading down a very strange path. On the one hand, we have learned how to numb ourselves to pain. We numb ourselves in a variety of ways so that we can't hear thoughts we don't want to hear, feel emotions we don't want to feel, and can't sense physical pain that we don't want to experience. Many people also learn to numb themselves to their psychic awareness so that they don't sense energies, see spirits, and learn things about others and themselves that they don't want to know about. In essence, this is a very powerful set of practices meant to cut ourselves off from ourselves, and that leads us naturally down the path to hatred because rejecting parts of ourselves is the nature of hatred. And when we hate ourselves this much is it really that hard to understand why people do mean, jealous, greedy, and hateful things to each other?
But the story has gotten worse. After all the numbing (and I'll go into some ways that we do this shortly), we get upset that we feel nothing. So now that the pain has been buried, we start trying to feel again. But it doesn't work right. We're numb. So we over-compensate. We seek out drugs, alcohol, and sex to get a variety of feelings through sometimes intense forms of stimulation. We seek out experiences including high-state spiritual experiences to make ourselves feel good. We seek out those mythical soulmate/perfect romantic relationships. We seek the perfect do-gooder type job to help everyone else but ourselves. The list is really quite extensive. But you can see where this goes. You can also see the flaws, can you not?
This kind of over-stimulation doesn't feel like over-stimulation at first. You can only begin to realize it as you unnumb and work through pain, which is what a lot of this spiritual awakening blog is about and which I intend to go into greater depth in this particular spirituality post.
Noticing How You Numb
If you can't identify what's going on, how can you address it. Step one is pretty much always the same, identify. Notice how you are numbing yourself. Depending on where you are in your spiritual journey, your numbing actions may be absolutely invisible to you. Constantly being on the phone or immersed in media is simply what you like to do. You have no idea that it's a way to get a mental and emotional buzz of sorts (and it is--that's why people can have semi-withdrawal reactions from unplugging from technology). You may have no idea why you love chocolate and sweets so much, but that's just a way to stimulate a certain level of pleasure that you're otherwise too numb to feel in your regular life. The list goes on. But let's see if I can give you a few general areas that we numb and some ideas about how to investigate for yourselves (because no one else can do your spiritual work for you).
We numb the body when we're in physical pain. It happens a lot in sports. Pain simply says that the body needs time to heal or rest. Continued action when we have painkillers in us causes additional damage without us realizing it. Drugs (including prescription drugs), alcohol, sex, and food are common agents for numbing. Conversely, experiences that bring lots of excitement or physical activity with those fun sports highs (like the feeling you might have after a good run) are also used to mask bad feelings. It's not quite the same as numbing, but it's still a form of avoidance (which is what numbing is at its core).
If we don't like how we feel, we attempt to avoid the upset feelings. But as you know if you've been reading this blog, that doesn't work. The upset feelings stay inside and fester. Emotional numbing tends to mean that we avoid or repress our feelings. This state of being closed hearted means a lot of things. For one, we don't say how we feel. You'll tend to attract others who have the same emotional tendencies (or lack thereof), but you may also tend to feel disconnected and disinterested in people. Food, drugs, alcohol, and other things are often brought in to help both numb bad feelings and excite good ones. (The tools that get used to numb us are often the same for the different aspects of ourselves.)
If we keep our minds super busy, then we don't have to think bad thoughts and listen to any upset feelings in the heart or body. And we've learned to do just that. Media (Internet, your phone, TV, etc.), work, video games, games of all sorts really, reading all the time, and anything that has to do with using the mind to escape are ways to numb the mind. It gets everything so crazy busy inside that sitting to meditate at these times will feel like you're going out of your mind. Which is actually what you've been trying to do to get away from your own thoughts. That's why meditation is typically a crucial aspect to unnumbing. You finally have to listen to the mess going on inside.
The Unnumbing Process
The unnumbing process is really about coming back to life. In some respects, people are mental, emotional, and physical zombies. They're stumbling around unable to feel anything. It's a meaningless, meandering existence, and some of you have felt or are feeling this quite acutely. That's why you're reading this article. You'd like to know if your arm suddenly drops off at the shoulder. But when we're numb, something like that can happen, and it's a couple of days before someone says, "Hey, aren't you missing an arm?"
But this isn't an easy thing for most people. Depending on how much pain has been avoided, a lot of pain will be erupting back up. And like anything that has been buried and pressed down for a long time, it's built up a lot of its own energy to get back up into your awareness. It's like a geyser that's had a large cork stuck in it. As you finally slow down enough to notice yourself, a lot of pain comes to the surface, and it's during these initial times, that a strong spiritual practice can be really important. Certainly, it doesn't rush out this fast for most people (although in awakening is sure does). Many people are in a slow thaw, but nonetheless, things get messier and messier before we fully heal.
Over-stimulated by Life
As you come back to life, an interesting thing happens. All of this other stuff that you'd used in the past to feel good starts to feel overwhelming. So what happened? Why is this too much? Is something wrong?
No. You were just numb before. It took a lot more stimulation to get through to you back then. Now that you are more naturally unnumb, you are simply feeling how much stimulation was packed into the romance comedy movie or what marijuana was actually doing to your system or how noisy and loud the bus actually is when you're not lost in your own music pumping out of your headphones. Life can suddenly feel quite unbearable. When you're in really deep healing, you don't need to be absorbing lots of life, but most of this really is simply being a healthy human being and noticing now how entirely unhealthy a lot of society is. You'll notice just how much of society is built to numb, distract, and then stimulate to make people so that people can feel again after successfully numbing and avoiding things inside themselves. It's like having downers (alcohol) and uppers (cocaine) to somehow balance things out. The result is terribly destructive.
Some of this over-stimulation is temporary as you unnumb. Some of it is permanent because we're not really meant to absorb so much stimulation all at once when we're healthy functioning human being. So going to rock concerts, intense sporting events, and whatever is your personal cocktail of stimulation may go out of your life permanently. But the more in love and at peace you are with yourself, you really won't care.
The Balance of Stimulation and Feeling
I'm probably jumping ahead here, but there are plenty out there about the process of healing, growing, expanding, contracting, and so forth. Anyway, it's natural to come to our personal balance of receiving stimulation from life and feeling fully. As I often emphasize, we have to feel whatever we feel fully to release it. Because we don't do this with painful events which are often intensely stimulating (especially in terms of physical abuse and trauma), that residual pain sticks around until we deal with it. But if you've moved through lots of pain, now you are more easily able to feel and to absorb and release whatever stimuli is going on in your life. It could be sounds from a car, the touches of your baby, the smell of your partner, and so forth. There really are an enormous number of stimuli that we absorb every day, and most of which, we totally don't notice.
As such, this type of balance naturally is a place of sensitivity. It's not over-sensitivity. People who are super sensitive are a little bit different. This inner place of openness is simply how a healthy human being functions, and it makes all of us way more sensitive to everything. This dramatically impacts what we want in our lives, how we want to live, and how we choose to interact with others. Because when you feel so deeply, you don't need much to feel good and enjoy life.
Appreciating the Gifts of Sensitivity
So often, people feel that being sensitive is a curse. In the blaring noise of Western Society, it sure can seem that way. But many people forget or simply don't know how wonderful it is to be able to easily connect. Being sensitive and no longer numb allows us to connect with others in very deep and natural ways. This whole problem with not being able to connect with others starts to dissolve. Now, it does take two to really connect in a relationship, but there are people out there who are sensitive and want to connect as friends, business partners, lovers, and more. Being sensitive also allows you to enjoy nature, food, touch, light, sound, and everything else in a much deeper and easier way. You don't need much to appreciate it and enjoy it. That is the joy in sensitivity. A little sugar is enough to enjoy. You don't need a whole candy bar to numb yourself to pain and stimulate good feelings (personally, I think that's why sugar has become so popular--people are just that miserable).
Everything is needed in much smaller quantities, and it is only natural to continue to go deeper inwards into the space of peace and bliss that you already are. An experience, drug, or something else is no longer needed to make you feel good or just to make you feel anything. You already feel alive, and now you can move more easily through life and receive gifts you couldn't have received or felt when you were numb.