We've teamed up with self-love and body image coach Chantal Lacoste from @tillieandtrue to bring you a series of posts this year covering topics around wellness, body image, and compassion toward ourselves and others. Here’s our second post from Chantal!
"When we numb the dark, we numb the light."
- Brene Brown
One of the most challenging things I’ve ever had to do was learn to fully experience my emotions – to feel and to sit with them.
What do I mean by this? Well, have you ever noticed the constant desire to stimulate your senses when you’re feeling uncomfortable or stressed? After a hard day at work, do you just want to disconnect and turn on the TV? When you’re feeling insecure, do you suddenly desire food, even though you’re not hungry? When you’re in an argument with a friend or partner, do you notice you'd rather keep yourself busy than talk to them?
I could go on and on with behaviours we use to numb our emotions, but it’s not about the specific actions themselves, it’s about how we choose to handle and react to our emotions that matters. The question to ask ourselves is whether these actions make us disconnect from our experience, or whether we are engaging with the experience in the moment? At the end of the day, with every distraction at our disposal, it’s easier for us to run or escape than to sit in our suffering, stress, or pain. It’s important to recognize where we’re selling ourselves short by numbing ourselves.
I started to recognize my own tendencies to use behaviours such as eating, drinking, working out, and shopping as coping mechanisms when I learned about how to properly ‘feel my emotions’ in my eating disorder recovery program in 2016.
Even though certain distracting behaviours made me feel better in the moment, it often made me feel worse afterwards, because the pain never went away. All of the numbing in the world wasn’t helping me deal with what was really going on inside of me – the raw, vulnerable emotions that I needed to learn to deal with.
The lesson I learned in recovery was that to live a fully healthy and happy life, I needed to start feeling ALL of my emotions, not just the ones I selectively wanted to feel.
Over the years, I’ve practiced being more mindful and self-aware. I’ve worked on healing and personal growth and learned to sit with my pain. I’ve discovered what weighs me down and have worked on naming my emotions as they occur.
And as a self-love and body image coach, I’ve noticed when clients are avoiding their emotions to avoid pain too. Often my clients will say they feel lost, stuck, or numb because when they suppress their emotions, it makes it difficult to connect and listen to their inner wisdom – the guide that knows our most basic needs and deepest desires.
Some questions I often ask my clients are:
1. What if you were to just take a second, breathe, and recognize your pain?
2. What if you were to try and be fully connected in the moment when you felt triggered, before you wanted to run/escape/display that certain behaviour?
3. What were you feeling in that moment? What if you were to just feel and accept – what would happen then?
Asking these types of questions always leads to some sort of “aha moment” because, in order for us to feel the positive emotions, we need to feel the negative ones too. Embracing all of our emotions helps set us free.
And that’s why I ask you to be honest with yourself: where are you numbing your emotions in your life?
You deserve to explore what isn't working for you and to learn new techniques that help you engage in life rather than disconnect from it. Each emotion we embrace and honour helps us learn about the signals within ourselves and our inner wisdom that helps guide us to the happy, healthy life we want to live.
Want to evaluate where you disconnect and numb yourself in your life? Ask these three questions (and don’t be afraid to dig deep):
1. What isn't working in my life right now?
2. What am I running from, hiding from, or numbing myself to in order to avoid feeling pain?
3. What does numbing look like for me?
To practice accepting and sitting with your emotions as you're feeling them, try these tricks:
1. Name the emotion you’re feeling, no matter how raw or uncomfortable it is.
2. Embrace and explore the feeling. What does it mean? What was the trigger and where did it come from?
3. Give yourself some compassion – all of your feelings are valid, even if you feel alone in your pain.
4. Trust yourself that no matter whatever you’re feeling, you know what is best for you!
5. If you feel comfortable, talk to someone about your feelings, whether that is a close friend or a paid professional. It can be helpful to have support and comfort when you need it most.
Find Chantal’s advice for shopping with healthy body image in mind right here.
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