The Numb Response

Everyone experiences emotional numbness from time to time in life. It can be a very healthy defense against being overwhelmed in the middle of a shock or trauma, such as the death of a loved one.

The problem is that sometimes we stay numb. The defense comes a habit or a way of life. Numbing our pain requires leaving our joy numb, too.

Look. Trauma can so shock a person’s sensibility that they remain shut down as a defense against pain which likely could have destroyed them when the trauma was occurring. That is a creative response!

Unfortunately in the complicated process of moving into a new and more healthy life, old and helpful defenses linger after they are useful. They can become part of what holds us back from recovering further. But, wow, those feelings flooding back can be a rough ride! Yet, we need them for a well and free new life beyond the limits of victimization.

In What is Emotional Numbness, by Sara Lindberg, M.Ed., she makes a great point: Not only do emotions provide automatic feedback that can help keep you safe, but they can also motivate you to take action and empower you to make decisions…. when you’re overwhelmed or feeling helpless, it’s not uncommon to turn to emotional numbness since it provides you with a protective defense.

Her article and its related links are a great review of what numbing is, why it is okay and even wise to start letting the (sometimes intense) feelings to come back, and ways to move beyond numbing.


Sara Lingbergy, M. Ed., is a freelance science and health writer. Her article for The Very Well Mind was reviewed by Amy Morin, LCSW and published February 15, 2021. Accessed 7/1/2021.

Image by Gino Crescoli from Pixabay

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