In the same way that a windless sky has weather – stillness, and a moonless sky has a color – blackness, numbness has a characteristic all of its own. We call this state depression.
“Depression is not really a feeling; it is a condition of numbness, of nonfeeling. In my work with depressed men, I differentiate between states and feelings. States are global, diffuse, impersonal. One’s relationship to a state is passive, disembodied. A state of depression just drops over someone, like bad weather as it did with me when I was in college. And, most often, in six to eight months, with or without treatment, for reasons no one really understands, acute depression usually dissipates. The bad weather blows away. Feelings, in contrast to states, are specific, anchored in the body of one’s experience. Depression is a state. Sadness and anger are feelings. Anxiety is a state. Fear is a feeling. Intoxication is a state.”
– Dr. Terrence Real, I Don’t Want to Talk About It
Our bodies cut off from emotion and sensation as a natural protective response to having experience to too much pain. Toes exposed to the snow for too long stop hurting. That's when you know real damage has occurred – when you stop feeling your emotions.
If you can feel nothing, that’s fine. Be with the nothingness itself. What places in you feel numb? The negative and missing spaces can show us where our emotional blockages are.
I only recently realized some of the things which went missing in my relationship with my father. I don't remember ever celebrating his birthday with him. I never met his friends and only one uncle, apparently the only one of his kin he liked.
I don't remember him ever holding me when I cried. He was occasionally around, but he didn't really raise me. I idolized him, not knowing any different. My friend who lived across the street didn't have a dad in the picture at all, so it didn't occur to me where the negative spaces were in my own life. When the feeling does come back into those spaces, it can return with a vengeance. It might seem like the sorrow extends so deep, you could never cry enough tears to assuage it, but know that you can. As the old hurt resurfaces, allow it. Welcome the pain as much as you can because you trust it’s only surfacing so it can leave your body. Breathe, be with it and let it move through you.
If it’s overwhelming, please find support. If talk therapies haven’t been creating the change you’d like, there are many other options worth exploring on our Further Support page.