Last month, Brené Brown’s new book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Work, Parent, and Lead, hit the shelves. I couldn’t wait to read this book because I’m such a fan of Brené’s work (and of Brené herself).
The book fascinated me for many reasons, and I took notes throughout, but one passage particularly stuck with me—on the phenomenon of “numbing.”
By numbing, Brené means any activity that we use to numb our feelings so that we don’t experience vulnerability—but by numbing ourselves to vulnerability, we also numb ourselves to love, belonging, creativity, and empathy.
I was particularly intrigued by the list of numbing activities. Anything that “takes the edge off” is a numb-inducer. Wine, drugs of all sorts, being “crazy busy,” fantasy football, sugar, email…the list goes on and on.
Brené connects this desire to numb with a feeling of anxiety powered by shame.
“Shame enters for those of us who experience anxiety because not only are we feeling fearful, out of control, and incapable of managing our increasingly demanding lives, but eventually our anxiety is compounded and made unbearable by our belief that if we were just smarter, stronger, or better, we’d be able to handle everything. Numbing here becomes a way to take the edge off of both instability and inadequacy. [Also,] Feeling disconnected can be a normal part of life and relationships, but when coupled with the shame of believing that we’re disconnected because we’re not worthy of connection, it creates a pain that we want to numb.”
Brené points out that the same activity could be numbing for one person and energizing and truly comforting to someone else. Watching TV can be a numbing activity or an engaging activity. Working, eating, drinking wine…how do they make you feel? The same activity can be numbing at one time, engaging at another. We must look closely at ourselves to know.
Do you have any activities that you use to numb yourself? I try to watch for the bad trance state. Often, I go into good trances, but they are nothing like bad trances. From my own experience and from what I hear from other people, watching TV, cruising the internet, and eating are the most common bad trance inducers.
Mindfulness, always mindfulness! Thinking about happiness always brings me back to the issues of self-knowledge and mindful action.
Gretchen Rubin is the author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller The Happiness Project—an account of the year she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific studies, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier—and the recently released Happier at Home. On her popular blog, The Happiness Project, she reports on her daily adventures in the pursuit of happiness. For more doses of happiness and other happenings, follow Gretchen on Facebook and Twitter.
*Photo by bookgrl.
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