Comfortably Numb

Written By: Heather
Heather Kempton Coquitlam Couples Counsellor

Emotional numbness stems from overwhelming pain that becomes so unmanageable, that you feel disconnected from the world around you. When emotional pain becomes too hard to face you are given a choice to either learn how to cope while pursuing happiness, or to allow your pain to consume you. When feelings of pain and discomfort arise it is a natural reaction for your body to seek comfort. You may find this comfort in reaching out to friends or family, seeking professional support, engaging in physical activity, or creative expression (music, singing, art, dance). However, if you have low self-esteem and symptoms of depression you are more likely to engage in destructive behaviour such as substance abuse, disordered eating, isolating, over working, or gambling. These unhealthy behaviours often provide a temporary relief from feeling your emotions, resulting in a desired state of numbness.

Emotional numbness is similar to depression in that you lose interest in activities that were once pleasurable, you begin withdrawing from intimate connections, you experience an increase in irritability and anxiety, as well as a feeling of fatigue combined with problematic sleep. When faced with a traumatic event or exposure to long-term emotional pain you may see suicide as the only way to stop the pain or end the emotional numbness. You are not alone and no longer have to remain trapped in your emotional pain or state of numbness you can experience joy again. It starts by reaching out. Learning and understanding the purpose of healthy emotional detachment allows you to choose when to free yourself from receiving more hurt and pain, that would result in further trauma. Below are six strategies to engage in to help manage emotional pain:

Relax your body

When your mind and body are under emotional distress, the body will react in which you will experience such things as an increase in blood pressure, rapid heart rate, insomnia, and tense muscles, as the body is instinctively reacting to your emotional pain. Learning how to engage in deep breathing exercises and relaxation techniques will help to reduce your body’s stress response and help you to become more effective in building tolerance with uncomfortable emotions so that you can apply healthy coping strategies.

Control your thoughts

When you become consumed with what others are thinking of you and are feeling constantly upset by what others say or do, it is time to take a look at how you view yourself and your internal dialogue. Remaining stuck in the past or worrying about the future will be paired with negative self-talk that keep you trapped living in fear to change and of letting go. You can change this by learning how to control your thoughts, calm your mind and decrease the negative chatter.

Remain physically active

Physical exercise can act as a healthy means to managing painful emotions and allowing your body to express pain allowing your mind to become open. The release of endorphins exerted through physical exercise acts as a powerful antidepressant that will enhance your mood and allow you to become more present and clear in your thought process. Exercise can provide you with a level of emotional control in order to help you manage your stress.

Do things that you enjoy

When you engage in activities that you enjoy and remain socially engaged in healthy relationships, you are challenging yourself to experience moments of emotional expression. At first the things you enjoy may not feel enjoyable, but with commitment to these activities your body and mind will begin to respond.

Allow healthy emotional expression

Learning how to successfully express painful emotions is essential in preventing the need to engage in destructive behaviour to maintain a sense of numbness. You will need to learn when it is effective to emotionally detach from a harmful situation. While you are learning how to engage in healthy emotional expression in your relationships you can start by externalizing your emotions in a journal. A private journal will allow you to be vulnerable without the fear of being judged, rejected, or hurt.


Emotional detachment is a skill, like any other skill, is vital for you to gain awareness and practice in order to master it. Well-developed emotional detachment will produce a state of inner peace that result in becoming undisturbed by circumstances or other’s people’s states of mind and moods.

A level of emotional detachment is essential for every person who wishes to become free from worries, fears, and anxieties. As with a healthy level of emotional detachment you will be able to obtain a state of inner peace that is unaffected by external circumstances, or other’s moods and states of mind. You can do this by freeing yourself from the strangle hold of feeling like you do not have your own voice, which inevitably leads to more suffering. A healthy level of detachment will also allow you to maintain a state of calmness and self-control while engaging in daily interactions. It will also help you to avoid dwelling on stressful events from the past.

Once you are confident within yourself and are engaging in healthy coping strategies to effectively manage emotions, you are able to remain calm and unaffected by emotionally draining events. In all, it is essential to be aware of how you are managing your emotions under stressful situations. Learning how to develop a healthy form of emotional detachment will allow you to form healthy relationships with others and effectively manage your emotional pain without becoming comfortably numb.

If you feel this speaks to you and would like to explore these thoughts further please feel free to contact me, as I am here to help you to achieve your optimal life.


Heather Kempton, MA, RCC, Life Coach