Day 84: The link between numbing and anxiety

This morning I heard something the blew me away – not because I didn’t know it but because I did, and I just hadn’t thought about it this way before.

I was listening to Brene Brown talk through the lessons in “The Power of Vulnerability”  when she said :

In my data, in my research, I cannot separate numbing and anxiety[…]When the ‘wholehearted’* men and women recognised numbing as a problem, their fix was to reduce anxiety – to reduce what was driving the need to numb. When you talk to the other group about numbing, their goal is to keep living how they’re living and not numb.

*Wholehearted is a term she uses to describe people who shape their lives deliberately so they experience greater joy despite all the ‘stuff’ they have going on.

Well for me, hearing her say that might as well have been accompanied by parting clouds and angels singing. So many things fell into place simultaneously.

I set up Big Happy Life with the goal of helping people (including myself) do 3 things:

  1. Improve mental health and brain health (and by default, improve physical health)
  2. Change the things in our lives that don’t work
  3. Change our thinking when it holds us back

Arguably, what I’m trying to do in point 2 is exactly what Brown is talking about but until I heard her say it that way, I hadn’t thought about the times when I attempt to do 3 instead of 2 – I attempt to alter my thinking about something instead of doing the more vulnerable and uncomfortable thing of changing it. In that case, the need for numbing remains.

The serenity prayer features heavily in most alcohol and overeaters groups and says:

God, grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change

Courage to change the things I can

and Wisdom to know the difference.

Today I thought about the importance of that last line.

I have been known to opt for serenity when what is required is courage. Instead of addressing things, I think, “oh, never mind, it’s not that big a deal. I can adapt and that’ll make everyone’s lives easier”.

In the past, it’s caused me to do all kinds of things from accepting work I didn’t want to letting people (including myself) talk to me and treat me disrespectfully and a whole load of things in between. No wonder the need for numbing persisted for as long as it did.

For me, the lesson that came out of this was: If you still need to numb, you still have things you need to change – and if you’re choosing the comfortable change over the hard change, the need for numbing will remain.

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