MGU 273 | Emotional Numbness

 

With the many challenges we face daily, you may think that emotional numbness is the best response to pain. It isn’t. In this episode, we talk about better ways to cope. Jason Wrobel and Whitney Lauritsen sit down and talk about emotions and how we suppress these, often to our own detriment. We hear about how emotions affect our lifespan, the media’s effect on us, and the effects the climate crisis and COVID has had on us all. Tune in for an insightful conversation as only Jason and Whitney can have!

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Emotional Numbness and Giving Ourselves Room to Grieve

We are going to dive into a subject matter that one of our Patreon supporters suggested. I want to give a huge shout-out to Ry who has been a generous supporter of the show but also has provided us with some topic suggestions. I want to remind all followers that we love hearing from you truly. Sending in your thoughts on the show, suggestions and questions that you have, we look at all of them. Sometimes it takes us a little bit of time to get back to you but we read it all and we appreciate it all.

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Our topic is on emotional numbness, which ties into some of the things that we have been getting into. It also ties into our sponsor. If you haven’t read the previous episodes, you may not know that our sponsor is Embody Me. We had the founder of that brand on as a guest and she was phenomenal. We’ve got into some great topics to not only know her history and how she started the company but discussing all of these things that are related to our emotions. I took an Embody Me class. It’s a virtual wellness studio. It’s supportive of entrepreneurs, especially female entrepreneurs. They have all of these well-being classes.

Jason, the class I took was face yoga. I mentioned that I want to take that and I haven’t finished it yet, but it was amazing because I have watched maybe ten minutes thus far. It’s about a 30-minute class. It was transformative for me truly. It was a phenomenal thing to do right before we started. We are speaking for so long, we are using our face muscles. I tend to carry a lot of tension in my face muscles. This is going to also tap into the emotional numbness topic because I feel like we can lose connection with our bodies.

One of my favorite things about doing yoga, meditation, any type of body movement or bodywork if someone is working on my body and sometimes the simple things like applying products on our body. This class got into at the beginning using all the different tools that can support you with releasing tension from your face. All of those things can help us tune into our bodies.

I want to start with this because I had some bodywork done after experiencing a flare-up of TMJ, which I had not had in years and it was so painful. Still to this day, my jaw hasn’t fully recovered. It still feels tight. It still has this sandy sound. Anyone who ever had TMJ, one of the symptoms of it is when you move your jaw to eat, it almost sounds like they are sand rubbing in your ear. It’s frustrating, plus the tension and the pain.

When I went to that bodywork, she worked on my entire body. I could not believe how much pain I had. It was the signal to me that I was not that in touch with my body. We numb ourselves in so many ways. I’m excited to explore this. It’s going to be a sensitive, deep subject. To finish out my experience with face yoga was helpful because part of the class involved closing my eyes, tuning in, deep breathing and putting all this focus on my face. I thought, “I never do that.”

MGU 273 | Emotional Numbness

Emotional Numbness: With so much information in the media and pressure societally, sometimes it feels like the only way to get through the day is to numb out.

 

When I put on the face cream, serums, oils or whatever I’m doing, I quickly put it on, feel it going on my skin and move on. If we spend a few minutes a day placing attention on a part of our body like our face that we use so much, I feel like the results can be huge for us releasing the tension, relaxing and tuning in to how we feel, plus how we look. A lot of us carry shame in our appearance, especially our faces. Some people do treatments on their skin so that they can reduce wrinkles and signs of aging, which sometimes accumulate because we are not paying enough attention.

I have noticed that by making sure my face is properly moisturized, hydrated and also making sure that I’m releasing the tension in my face, I feel better on some levels. There are a lot to get into. We have an article that Rye had sent to us. I’m looking forward to digging into that as well. Mainly, it’s the subject matter of the pressure to numb out and condition ourselves not to worry about pain, physical or emotional, get over it and keep going.

Most people can relate to this. We’ve got scary information about climate change that came out. We have all these deaths and long-term impacts of COVID. We have also talked about compassion fatigue and compassion fade. If you want to go read that episode, we get into some of the research, our personal experiences and opinions on how it is tempting to numb out to cope. Especially with how much information is in the media and pressure there is suicidally, sometimes it feels like the only way to get through the day is to numb out. The baton is yours, Jason. On this subject matter, what comes up for you when you read what Rye suggested to us?

It’s something I can relate to. For me, as a sensitive, highly empathetic person, this is something that I have been working on not only with my therapist, Gary but other energy healers and spiritual healers. In the shamanic practices, I have worked with, I have talked and gotten a lot of practices and perspectives on how to see empathy and sensitivity as a gift and also, to maintain energetic boundaries so you don’t get drained by your sensitivity and your empathy.

The media wants us to read things and watch things. There is an element of sensationalism that is baked into the media. Click To Tweet

Under normal circumstances, I have had measures of success with that, Whitney. Feeling like I can allow myself to feel things without being super overwhelmed or feeling like I need to shut down. However, the daily barrage of red alarms around climate change, the Delta Variant and the Lambda Variant that is in Los Angeles, there’s so much doom scrolling with death, apocalyptic messages and facing the sheer unknown of everything. What I’m feeling is absolute desensitization and numbing because it’s so overwhelming to feel what I feel.

The uncertainty, fear and confusion, the fact that it seems like every other day, the reports and the facts around COVID are changing. The reports and the facts on climate change continue to feel direr and scary. I could default and say, “That’s the media. If it bleeds, it leads.” We know that clickbait is real and the media wants us to read and watch things. There is an element of sensationalism that is baked into the media. It doesn’t mean those things are not true though when I say that.

What I’m experiencing, Whitney, is I feel like my heart is shut down. I know that is probably a compensation mechanism for me psychologically. If I were to allow myself to feel all of the things that I’m feeling, I don’t know that I would get anything done. I would just crawl into a ball, not talk to anyone, not return any emails and not do any work for days on end. That’s the level of mortification I feel true. That’s the level of disillusionment I feel. I feel a lot of despair.

Shutting down emotionally and closing off my heart is what I’m doing to protect myself because I feel like if I were to feel everything, I would shut down completely and you wouldn’t hear from me for days. There’s almost a fear in that like, “What if I were allowing myself to feel the depth of my despair, disillusionment and how heartbroken I am with the state of the world?” I feel heartbroken. I look around and I feel a sense of devastation and heartbreak. Does that answer the question?

It does. As I’m reflecting on what you are saying here, a few things are coming up. One, it might be better for us to feel this because perhaps that allows us to live more authentically. My entire life I have noticed this but the older I get, the more aware I am of this noticing. I am so turned off by fake things. Having depth, meaning and realness are huge for me. Let’s say when I’m on social media, I prefer sometimes to see someone share their struggles than share their highlights, especially if they do it in a vulnerable way. If somebody wants to share their highlights, those are great, too.

There’s this girl on TikTok, for example. I love her content but the way that she presents it feels so fake. I sense that she means what she’s saying and she’s sharing good information but she does it in this actory way that many people have. This is something I have heard a few people reference. A lot of the reference was to the beauty movement on YouTube, where there became this specific way in which beauty YouTubers would do their videos. They move in a certain way and everything is formulaic. The way they spoke, there was a whole link, even their pronunciations of things.

I found myself doing this, too. As I was watching this girl on TikTok and observing my reaction to her, I also simultaneously felt like I could relate and wondered, “How many times in the past did I do that because I thought I needed to, even though that wasn’t the real me?” That was the way that I felt like I needed to fit in, get approval and all of these things.

MGU 273 | Emotional Numbness

Emotional Numbness: A lot of us carry shame in our appearance, especially our faces, that some people do treatments on their skin so that they can reduce wrinkles and signs of aging.

 

We have almost that type of coping mechanism where we might be going through life outwardly presenting ourselves as one way but inwardly experiencing something completely different. When that’s not in alignment, how is that good for us or others? Who’s to say anyone even likes that presentory side of us? That’s my first response to you, Jason. Why can’t you just turn off for a few days and feel your feelings? Why is that such a bad or scary thing to you?

I feel like there’s this mechanistic pressure of society to keep showing up for life in a certain way. I still feel this weird pressure of, “I have to show up for the episode, for social media, for my job and my clients in a certain way.” When what I want to do is disconnect from the world completely, cry and mourn. It’s interesting, too. I have been thinking a lot about how our global situation with COVID, it’s a respiratory virus. If we look at energy medicine, traditional Chinese medicine and some of these practices, the emotion of grief is stored in the lungs.

On a global level, there’s a massive amount of grief that is unprocessed with nearly eight billion people on this planet. There’s a loss of habitat. There are natural disasters, all of the floods that are happening. There’s the earthquake that happened in Haiti that killed hundreds of people. There are the wildfires that continue to rage on the West Coast that are hundreds of thousands of acres. The loss of forest, animal life, human life and people’s homes. There’s an unbelievable amount of grief on this planet.

Why can't you just turn off for a few days and just feel your feelings? Why is that such a bad or scary thing to you? Click To Tweet

I know that I’m not fully processing it and I know that probably a lot of people aren’t either because it’s like, “Head down. How am I going to pay the rent? I’m going to get evicted. What is happening? The billionaires are going to space. I don’t feel supported. The government is pulling out the rug from our unemployment.” I don’t want to sound like a doomsday preacher here but there’s some painful shit happening that needs to be grieved. I know I’m not fully doing it and I’m sure a lot of people on this planet are not fully grieving what needs to be grieved.

People can debate wherever they think the virus came from. I don’t want to even get into that. It’s no surprise to me that we are battling a debilitating respiratory virus on a global level as we are dealing with massive unprocessed grief. To me, that is not a coincidence at all. If anything, Whitney, I don’t feel like I have the space to process what I need to process because of the pressure to keep working, creating and putting out content.

Every single day, I feel like so many people want things from me in my life that I feel like I’m drowning in it. That’s probably why I want to pull the plug, not talk to anyone and not see anyone for days so I can just cry. I feel like I need to cry for days. I’m not exaggerating. I could go off for days and cry because of the pent-up grief, pain, sadness, rage and disillusionment I feel. That’s real. Also, I have tried to talk myself out of feeling it like, “You have so much privilege. You are this white-facing cisgender male with a roof over your head and food on the table. You are not going to get evicted. You don’t have COVID. Look at all the pain and destruction around you.”

Fuck that. I’m allowed to feel whatever I want to feel. I don’t give a shit about that mentality of trying to convince me that I’m not allowed to grieve and feel pain because of my privilege. I’m in pain because I feel. I look at the world and I see the amount of devastation and pain. I feel it and I internalize it because I’m empathic. If I don’t process this, I know it’s going to mutate and congeal into something awful, Whitney. Maybe I do need to tell everyone to fuck off and cry for three days straight. I feel like that’s honestly what I need to do.

I fully support you in that because it’s a great time for you to do that, in my opinion. I feel like this is a perfect time for you to do the grieving. What you are bringing up here is also part of the reason that I’m doing this trip because I, too, need a break. The reason I crave road trips is that it feels like freedom, peace and meditation. For context, for those that didn’t read these episodes, I did the first from Los Angeles to Massachusetts where I went to see my family. I was with my friend, Leanne, and we did a whole episode on this that you can read if you want to.

From Massachusetts back to LA, nobody could come with me so I did it by myself. It was a different experience emotionally, Jason. Being in the car, driving for many hours on end, I was just with myself and my dog. I was listening to audiobooks and I remember having to stop the audiobooks and not listen to anything, no music, no podcast, no audiobooks, nothing and sit in silence because I needed to process. There were a few times on that trip where I cried so hard while I was driving, not in an unsafe way.

I have this visceral memory of something triggering me that I was listening to or some thought came up and I cried. It was such a relieving experience because it was just me on the road. I’m anticipating and hoping that I will have that experience again. I probably need it on a level that I don’t even fully realize because I’m so busy coping. I didn’t realize how much physical pain I was in until somebody started working on my body. I didn’t realize how much stress I was carrying in my face until I started that Embody Me class. A lot of times, we don’t even notice it. That has been my experience.

Jason, I encourage you to use that time I’m taking myself for yourself as well because maybe you need that even more than you could possibly cognitively understand. It also brings me back to your experience with ayahuasca, which we did a two-part episode on. I’m thinking of that, Jason, because I feel like a lot of people are drawn to ayahuasca because they know they will be processing their grief, trauma and stored-up emotions.

I’m wondering, did you experience that? I know that you detailed this visual journey that you went on and you were hallucinating if I remember correctly. I don’t remember how you were processing grief in that experience. Do you feel like it helped you go deep enough or do you feel like it was too temporary? Would you do ayahuasca again as a way to tune in and permit yourself to process your grief?

There was a big component of grief processing because there was a lot around control, safety and loneliness that came up for me to look at during that session. To answer your point, I reflect on a lot of the moments of that experience during this pandemic because it was almost prescient in certain ways. One of the experiences I had during the ceremony was feeling like I had stopped breathing and I couldn’t remember how long it had been since I had stopped breathing. There were a lot of things around breath, life, control, letting go and surrendering to the unknown.

There are some painful things happening that need to be grieved. Click To Tweet

There were a lot of macro experiences that have been applicable during our global situation. The thing is though, have I been depressed, suicidal, anxious and had panic attacks since then? Yes, I have. It wasn’t a panacea. I didn’t expect it to be either. I didn’t have any expectation going into that ceremony that it was going to somehow magically wash away all of my mental health issues or my struggles. It gave me different perspectives, deeper insights and things to consider but it wasn’t a magic pill or in this case, a magic brew that wipes the slate clean so to speak.

One thing that I am going to be doing with my therapist is assisted MDMA therapy, which affects brain chemistry differently. I’m still much a proponent of conscientious experimentation, especially for people that have mental health issues. Whitney and I are not licensed, mental health professionals. We are not counselors and neurologists. Having both struggled with our own mental health issues in different ways, we do promote exploring different options that are outside of the mainstream narrative.

MGU 273 | Emotional Numbness

Emotional Numbness: We might be going through life outwardly presenting ourselves as one way, but inwardly experiencing something completely different. When that’s not in alignment, how is that good for us or others?

 

Ayahuasca was an assist, Whitney. It wasn’t a cure-all. Would I do it again? Yes, I would but I’m more interested in doing some of the other plant medicine therapies in the meantime to see how those affect me differently. It will be interesting though because MDMA, apparently, can open the heart chakra. It’s a heart-opening experience. I have never done it before. The fact that I feel so shut down and numb, it is going to be interesting for me in those therapeutic sessions to see how I feel. If I do feel more open, how am I going to respond to life?

I’m aware of my heart is shut down and it’s painful but I don’t know how to open it again. This is almost like a sub-topic. When you feel like your heart is shut down, how do you reopen it? I don’t know. I spend time with my animals. I try to listen to the music that I love. I try to connect with joyful things but my heart still feels like it’s on lockdown. Do you relate to this feeling? Do you tune in and ever say, “I feel super shut down now?” What is your level of personal awareness, Whitney, around this idea of shutting down your heart? Have you felt that before? If so, have you done anything to intentionally try and open your heart again? I feel like this is such an interesting and esoteric subject.

It’s something I reflect on because I am fascinated by my experience. When I have something revealed to me, it brings up questions. That’s why on the road trip, especially driving in such a long-distance across the country, I feel like it gives me a lot of time to think. When I’m thinking about those things and I give myself the space to process them, I will start to have things revealed to me through that. That’s another reason I would encourage you, Jason, others and myself to let it out. I have noticed there are times when I feel like it’s inappropriate to have sadness. That’s what I will find myself bottling up around certain people.

I’m such a sensitive person but I have learned to be less sensitive around others because I don’t feel like other people can hold that space for me, and then I feel vulnerable, ashamed or embarrassed. Many people are taught to have tough skin, especially women. Many people, being afraid of that, perceived feminine energy of showing your emotions, which I know you have talked a lot about, Jason. The world wants us to be more masculine and masculinity means you can’t be emotional, which is such a messed-up perspective.

Part of it is because a lot of people don’t know how to handle others’ emotions. We are confused by them and often scared of them. A lot of us yearn to connect with somebody, we try to connect with them and they seem to reject us, then it’s like, “I don’t want to be rejected so I’m not going to show that side of myself, at least not yet. I’m going to wait until I feel safe.” Sometimes we never feel safe. I noticed that about myself.

One thing that triggers me a lot is watching movies. I will find myself if I’m with somebody else, holding back my tears and I hate that feeling of holding back a cry. It’s like the tightness in my chest, the lungs and that whole part of my body. Sometimes I’m oddly embarrassed for someone to see even tears coming down. I don’t like people seeing that and I will wait until I feel safe.

I experienced this. Funny enough, it’s coming up thinking about it. When I traveled for the first time during COVID, that brief window of time where it felt like things were getting back to normal in early July 2020, I was visiting with some friends and with my sister. My sister and I have got into a nitpicky fight. I was hurt by something that she said or did and I was trying to express it. We were fighting about it. I was trying not to get too deep in it because other people are around and I didn’t want to make them uncomfortable but I also wanted to express myself. It was this interesting experience of feeling misunderstood by my sister and not knowing how to move through it.

As a group, we were going out somewhere together. Before we went out, I went into the bathroom and sobbed into a towel. I grabbed a towel and used it to muffle my sobs because I was so hurt. What happened between me and my sister was insignificant, at least in the grand scheme of things. Clearly, it was significant enough to trigger so much sadness within me.

I’m glad that I allowed myself to sob but I also felt like I had to rush it like, “I don’t have a lot of time. Everybody is waiting for me. I’m going to go hide in the bathroom and cry because I felt like I couldn’t continue without crying but I didn’t want anyone to know I was crying.” It was this weird experience of like, “I’m going to allow myself to do something but I’ve got to rush it.”

A lot of people don't know how to handle other's emotions. We're confused and often scared of them. Click To Tweet

I was only able to release a certain amount and I had to cut myself up and pull myself together because I didn’t want people to know. Even though those people would be totally cool with me crying, I still didn’t want them to see it. That’s interesting, too. In general, I surround myself with understanding heart-centered people but I still feel afraid and have a lot of shame around crying. It’s fascinating to reflect on that. Despite being vulnerable, open and comfortable with a lot of things, someone like me can still feel like they can’t fully express the fullness of who they are and how they feel.

I imagine from my perspective on the world if I’m feeling that way as an emotionally open person, a lot of people must feel that way, too or even worse. It’s like this weird thing that I will see in documentaries or other mediums where someone will cry and they will apologize, which is another thing that drives me crazy. This knee-jerk reaction that if you are going to cry on camera or in front of other people, why are we apologizing? There’s a reason those scenes are left into documentaries. As a viewer, you feel emotionally connected and invested when you see someone cry and yet, we feel this pressure to apologize. It has always been odd to me.

If someone is being interviewed for a documentary and they are upset about something that they are speaking on, why do they need to apologize for crying? Ninety percent-plus of the time, people do. Our society has trained us to feel ashamed, embarrassed and apologetic about showing emotions and crying. We bottle it up, hold it in and keep all those issues in our tissues. Maybe they are forced to come out. I’m curious about your research on longevity, Jason. Is there research to show that people who feel stressed and bottle things intend to have shorter lives?

I don’t know if there are any studies around increased mortality risk and consistently high levels of adrenaline and cortisol. We know that in terms of stress hormones. When we feel anxiety, stress, panic, terror or fear, it activates that part of our nervous system that is the fight or flight response. We get flooded with adrenaline and cortisol. We have a chronic addiction in the Western world to adrenaline and cortisol. We have a chronic addiction to stress.

MGU 273 | Emotional Numbness

Emotional Numbness: Sometimes we need to explore different options that are outside of the mainstream narrative.

 

I don’t know if any studies come to mind specifically. That’s something I would have to look up regarding studies around stress and longevity. I remember looking at Dan Buettner’s work in The Blue Zones and I don’t think he mentioned anything about a corollary. Apparently, the first thing that came up is ScienceDaily.com. This came from an article in 2020. There was a study where researchers found that being under heavy stress can shorten life expectancy by two years and eight months. That’s significant. That’s not 6 months, 2.8 years is interesting.

This was from the National Institute for Health and Welfare. This focuses on a study with multiple risk factors of life expectancy. For men, it was two and a half years and heavy stress for women was a reduction in life expectancy of two years and three months. It’s a long study. I won’t get into all of it here. That’s interesting, Whitney. I had never seen that before.

On that note, I found another study. I looked up emotional suppression and mortality risk. There was a study done in 2013 that found that those who suppress emotions rather than confront them head-on may be at risk for earlier death, including death from cancer. It’s still unclear about the link between emotional suppression and death.

This is what the researcher said. “Suppression is believed to operate on health first at a behavioral level by inducing unhealthy coping behaviors such as overeating as substitutes for healthy emotional expression. Second, at a physiological level, higher levels of autonomic reactivity to stress measured both electrodermally and through bloog pressure changes have been reported among suppressors. Direct correlations between suppressive defensive styles have also been reported. In turn, neuroendocrine dysregulation, whether induced by stress processes or habitual health-damaging behaviors, has been implicated in the progression of some chronic diseases and ultimately, earlier death.”

I found another article. This summary is on a website from PinarCoaching.com, which is a coaching service. They summarize and get into the details about, “Suppression doesn’t help you move on from the pain because you cannot heal it until you feel it. Emotions are the road signs to your happiness. If you are pushing away an emotion, then you are pushing away a learning moment and progress. Things don’t resolve themselves because you ignore them. They usually only worsen over time because the problems are allowed to deepen and that creates a divide.”

I feel like a lot of things are coming to the surface. A lot of anger is coming to the surface and it does feel scary. Similar to what I said in our episode about the climate change report that came out, I feel like sometimes we need all of this to be motivated and address it. When disaster strikes, that teaches us how to be better prepared. It’s unfortunate. I’m not saying that it’s a good thing that it happened but we learn a lot through those tough times as a society. It doesn’t take away from the grief that we feel, from the people that we have lost, the changes that are happening and the things that we cannot change.

Sometimes, I feel like we have to be forced into a change. I would rather be forced into a change than die. For all these people that are suppressing, coping and doing all of this risky behavior because they can’t deal with the root cause, that’s such a common experience. Think about how common alcohol and drugs are. Think about how common screen time is. Myself included, I look and examine my relationship with my phone often but I still choose to spend a lot of time on TikTok. I’m aware that is a coping mechanism. I’m aware that I do that to give myself pleasure. I don’t drink. I also am not eating a lot of sugar, which is another form of coping mechanism.

Our society has trained us to feel ashamed, embarrassed, and apologetic about showing emotions and crying. Click To Tweet

I have trained myself to notice when I’m emotionally eating and drinking, interested in drugs of any sort or sex can be an escape. A lot of the things that we do for pleasure can be a coping mechanism. Ultimately, I’m not interested in distracting myself but I do still distract myself with something as simple as TikTok.

I also wonder on that note, Jason, when I think about purists, people that don’t engage in any distractions, is that a distraction? Like, “I’m going to become so pure and good, and only do things that are good for me.” You can speak on this because you and I have both gone through those phases. When you were doing raw food, for example, and super strict about it, and surrounded in this community of people holier than now, a lot of the life hacking that people do is like, “I’m only going to engage in things that are good for me and promote my longevity.” Is that in and of itself a form of coping?

It’s transference, in some cases, of the obsessiveness that one might have had around sugar, alcohol, drugs, pornography, social media or television. We could name a lot of obsessive addictive things that are out there. In some ways, what I have observed over the years, for myself also, Whitney, is it became an addiction to purity.

It was like, “I need to eliminate all of the poisons in my life. I’m only going to eat raw food because cooked food is poison. I’m only going to eat organic because conventional produce is poison. Pesticides are poison. No pornography, coffee, alcohol, drugs, sugar and oil.” I still see that, not so much in the raw food community, because the raw food community was endemic of that mentality. Now, it seems to have transferred to the whole food plant-based community where it’s like, “No oil and sugar. Only eat these foods. Everything is poison.”

To me, the stress and anxiety around living healthy, trying to live forever and purifying our bodies all the time because I have experienced it and I have done it, just felt like a transference of obsessive-compulsive behavior, from toxic behaviors to something that seems less toxic. I’ve got to a point where it started to feel like I was trying to live up to some idea in my head of when I get there and I’m meditating every day, I’m only eating living foods, I’m not putting any poisons in my body and I have removed all the toxic relationships.

It feels like I’m condensing every meme around wellness into one conversation but we see the same tropes on social media like, “In order to fully heal, you need to get toxic people, toxic food and toxic thoughts out of your life and no more destructive, poisoned, toxic anything.” It’s like, “And then what, you will be this perfected avatar of humanity? You will be untouchable?” Pain, suffering, grief and doubt will never reach you again because you have reached the pinnacle of the human condition?

There are a lot of dysmorphic coping going on in that mentality. Maybe not for everyone but I have seen it in a lot of people where they are trying to compensate for something. A lot of it is controlled. I have talked about this in previous episodes, Whitney. For me, sometimes the way that I have chosen to eat and my lifestyle has been around the idea, “I can’t control much in my life. There are a lot of chaos but what I can control is what I put in my body and what I don’t put in my body.”

MGU 273 | Emotional Numbness

Emotional Numbness: It’s fascinating to reflect on how, despite being vulnerable, open, and comfortable with a lot of things, we can still feel like we can’t fully express the fullness of who we are and how we feel.

 

It’s important not to put toxic thoughts, foods and people in our lives but it’s the purity consciousness, the control mechanism and the compensation mechanisms that are embedded into it that I don’t know if it’s fully psychologically healthy. There are a lot of things that are potentially problematic with it, which is why I stopped eating raw food 100%. I’ve got to a point, Whitney, where I’m not listening to my body anymore.

This is a part of our conversation when you talk about feeling your face when you were doing face yoga with Embody Me. It was almost like the cerebral idea of being this perfect human being was overriding the signals my body was telling me, which was to eat a bowl of soup. “Go eat a warm bowl.” “No, I need to be a perfect raw foodist and cooked food is poison.” My body was like, “It’s December in Detroit, go get a bowl of soup.” It was ignoring my body completely.

Practices that can reconnect us to our body are so crucial because we can get so in our heads about this idea of what we ought to be and it’s one of the reasons that I love going to a yoga class. It’s funny you talk about crying in front of other people, I didn’t want to let that part go. I have cried in yoga class so many times over the course of my life.

In classes with you, too, we did a breathwork class. I’m in a room full of strangers other than you and I’m bawling my eyes out. That’s one of the benefits of doing classes, whether it’s in person or online classes like our sponsor, Embody Me, is you get an opportunity to get back in your body. Especially if it’s virtual if you have an issue with feeling uncomfortable with crying in front of people, you can cry and turn the camera off and do all those things.

Suppression doesn't help you move on from the pain, because you cannot heal it until you feel it. Click To Tweet

For me, when I do a deeply restorative yoga class, I know I will probably cry because I haven’t moved my body in a little while. Whenever I do unlock some of the semantic issues, you talk about issues in your tissues, for some reason, when I do hip openers and I think back to almost every time I have cried in a yoga class, there have been hip openers involved in some way. There’s so much stuck energy down there.

For you, dear reader, we encourage you to check out Embody Me as Whitney and I are enjoying that platform. You can get a free seven-day trial, a week of free classes. They have yoga, meditation, mindfulness, EFT tapping, face yoga, entrepreneurial empowerment classes, there’s a wonderful curriculum there. Go to EmbodyMe.live and use the code Wellevatr to get your first seven days free, and then 20% off your first month. We are big fans have it and I’m looking forward to a good cry, Whitney, and I’m hoping that taking a restorative class with them will open me up because I know I need it.

I’m excited for you to dive into that. We talked about that on the episode with Amber, how one of the big benefits to doing online classes is creating a safe space for yourself because not everybody will feel comfortable crying in a room of strangers during a yoga class, breathwork, tapping or whatever you are doing. I love them. I found I much prefer online classes. Even though I miss the community element that can’t quite be replicated online, the benefits of online classes outweigh the cons for me so that’s one of the big reasons we decided to partner with Embody Me.

Going back to the purity side and how possible that that’s not leading you towards the life that you may want or need, we have referenced this book, The Body Keeps the Score before and I will say full transparency that I read some questionable things about the author, which were disappointing. I don’t remember them all off the top of my head. That book has been such an amazing resource for better understanding trauma and then for my vague understanding, it felt like maybe he engaged in some traumatic things for other people. I’m like, “How hypocritical,” but I have not cross-referenced it. Do you remember his name, Jason?

Bessel van der Kolk.

Maybe you can research the details about what happened and clarify it but I found an article called My Body Kept Score: What Purity Culture Didn’t Know about Trauma. This is on a website and I don’t know what this website is about but it is a Christian website it looks like. This is fascinating given that Jason and I have some mixed experiences and perspectives on Christianity. We also know that many of our followers are Christian, Catholic or have religion as part of their life. I want to take the time to remind you that when we share these things, it’s out of no disrespect. It’s purely based on what we are observing and experiencing in our own lives. I personally have a lot of respect for all the different perspectives on religion and it’s a sensitive subject.

This article is interesting to me and I’m not fully sure where it’s going because it’s a long article that I started reading but I’m fascinated by this because the author was sharing about her experience growing up in American Christian purity culture in the late 1990s and how she absorbed messages of disregard for her body. That the desires and needs of her body needed to be subdued. She was taught not to trust her skin, muscles, neurotransmitters and her hormones. She was taught not to draw attention to her body because she needed to keep everyone else comfortable.

She goes through some of the things that she learned as she grew up and the traumas that she experienced. One of them is something worth noting here, which is that humans shake after intense experiences, whether it’s shivering, sobbing, especially after hearing horrible news. However, we often suppress those urges to move our bodies because of how they might look to others or that we may feel out of control.

We work hard to stay quiet and cooperative. Our highly developed prefrontal cortex has many benefits but it will often stop us from following our body’s natural healing pathway. She goes on to talk about some of the trauma she experienced and how her body kept her alive through these traumas but she found out the hard way that it had been keeping score the whole time.

That ties into what we are talking about here, which is that the body does keep score. You can try to ignore all of the things going on as a coping mechanism. You can try to live in this pure way but if that purity keeps you from feeling into your basic human functioning, needs and emotions, that purity may not get you to where you want to be. Part of the challenge that I have with certain perspectives and avenues towards Christianity and other religions is that if they are training people to ignore who they are at the core and feel shamed for it.

I talked about that movie, Pray Away, which gets into conversion therapy and how some Christians were working hard to convert themselves out of their homosexuality. At the end of the documentary, a lot of people came out saying that they could not live their lives that way. Ultimately, even those that had converted in the documentary ended up living their lives as homosexuals with same-sex partners. It was fascinating because it felt like they were trying to train their core essence out of themselves for the sake of what their religion believed.

If you're pushing away emotion, then you're pushing away a learning moment and progress. Click To Tweet

That breaks my heart because you can be Christian and be true to yourself at the same time. Why do they have to be separate? Those conflicts are moving people further away from God than closer. That certainly was the case for me. I experimented with going to church for about a year and I loved so much of it but what ultimately prevented me from returning was it felt too limiting. It didn’t feel like it made sense to me. It didn’t feel true to me even though a lot of it felt amazing. I learned so much and met incredible people. I was very turned off by some of the limiting beliefs.

I don’t believe them to be true based on some of the research that I have done that if we try to condition ourselves too much, we prevent ourselves from experiencing the fullness of who we really are. We also pass that on to others through parenting, friendship and relationships, all these traumas and fears that build up within us because of how other people are expecting us to live our lives. That’s sad to me. I would so much rather people accept one another for our differences and encourage one another to fully express who we are even if we disagree with it, even if it’s an inconvenience.

That goes back to what you brought up at the beginning, Jason. Maybe taking several days off to lay in bed and cry will feel scary, vulnerable and be a big inconvenience to your friendships, romantic relationships, family and work but I would do it anyway because now, you need that. Everything you have said indicates that you need it, deep down, you know you need it. Go do it. Even if it feels like the opposite of what you should be doing, your body is keeping the score and knows deep down what you need and only you will know that answer.

It’s more than three days of emotional processing, too. It’s an accumulation of years of things. It’s also that part of my spirit that wants to be out of the dense and intense urbanity of the city. I know that I’m also deeply burnt-out, Whitney, on living in a city. I know that for me, part of my healing process is to get out of the city where feel like I have the psychic and energetic space to process and be with nature and not be constantly bombarded by the smells, smog, sights and sounds.

I know I do need these days to process this grief but the long tail grief and resetting of my nervous system are going to involve a lot more than just three days. I’m not expecting it to be like, “Go cry for three days and unplug from the world.” l know I will feel better but the long-term impact of leaving an environment that is brutally oppressive to my nervous system and my psyche is a bigger part of this conversation.

For each one of us, with everything that we present and talk about, we never ever want to position things that we discuss or the studies we pontificate on or our life experience as a one size fits all approach. We are never going to position things as, “You ought to do this, too.” We hope that doesn’t come off, whether it’s our spiritual beliefs, our practices or our own personal traumas. Human beings are such complex, multi-layered beings, that what works for one of us is not necessarily going to work for another person. We always want to put that coffee out with anything that we are discussing here.

That’s what goes back to our mantra of conscientious experimentation and why things like our friends at Embody Me and Amber who built this beautiful online wellness portal, give you so many options to explore as a choose your own adventure of what may or may not work for you. EFT tapping might work for me and might not be so great for you. Restorative hip-opening yoga might be great for me, not so great for you. This whole wellness journey is about experimentation. Trying things, being consistent, and being honest about what’s working and not working.

MGU 273 | Emotional Numbness

Emotional Numbness: If that purity keeps you from feeling into your basic human functioning, needs, and emotions, that purity may not get you to where you really want to be.

 

There are so many things I did several years ago, Whitney, in my wellness practice that I don’t do anymore. That’s okay because we need to honor our evolution as beings. We need to honor our changes as we go on through life. What works for us 5 years, 10 years, 15 years, 20 years ago may or may not be what works for us now in this present moment. With that, we have to be willing to try new things and shake things up in our lives. We have to.

I’m glad that we explored this and thank you to Rye, our amazing Patreon supporter for suggesting this. It has been an important thing for us to share because through that, Jason is acknowledging some important things and it gives me a lot of food for thought especially as I gear up for this road trip. I also wanted to follow up, I could not find anything about Bessel van der Kolk.

I wonder if I misunderstood. I sent that to you, Jason. Remember, there was a couple of people that came forward about something but there’s no sign of it online. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true. I just wanted to point that out that I could have been wrong but I know that I saw something and I sent that to you. Jason and I were both like, “Not him, too.” I thought it was like a me-too thing but there’s no record of it.

It was something you had sent me about him, I believe sexually traumatizing some of his patients or students. I don’t recall but it was something in the line of sexually inappropriate behavior.

Your body knows deep down what you need, and only you will know that answer. Click To Tweet

Either it’s not on the web for some weird reason or was not discovered to be a legitimate claim. I don’t know. I just want to put that out there that it’s inconclusive at this moment. If you, the reader, happen to know more about what I saw, please bring it to our attention. All I can find is wonderful things about him now.

That gave me some hope because he’s doing important work and a lot of people have been acknowledging it. I read the book a few years ago. It was something I stumbled upon and now it feels like more people are talking about trauma, how to work through it and acknowledging the impact on us, which is incredibly important.

I, for one, think that Bessel van der Kolk is doing important work. I hope that I completely misunderstood any allegations against him. We still recommend that book. Many of those articles also have mental health resources for you. We are not mental health, medically certified therapists, clinicians or anything so we will always refer you to professionals that can help you through these hard times.

Hopefully, some of those resources are a good starting point for you. We do believe that awareness is the key and our aim is to bring things to our own awareness and then bring it to yours. We appreciate you when you bring things to our awareness so that we can talk about them here, too. We are also appreciative of any wellness practices that you can do to tune more into your body. Thanks again to Embody Me.

We would love to hear if you the reader, try it out yourself. Send us a message. It always brings us so much joy when our sponsors resonate with you too because we want to make sure that any financial compensation that we get for doing this show is in alignment with our values and yours. We heard great things about Head & Heal, the CBD sponsor that we had.

It made my heart shine knowing that you were trying out their products and enjoying them as much as we are. Please let us know about your experiences with Embody Me. If there are any other brands that you are loving, too, let us know so we can try them out and check out other online services. You are incredibly important to us. We value you. We are not here just to share our own experiences. To Jason’s point, we are here to learn and grow right alongside you.

Thank you so much for reading. Reminder that we are experimenting with doing two episodes a week. We used to do three but now we are doing Mondays and Fridays. Mondays are solo episodes like this episode and Fridays are guest episodes. We used to have our Wednesday episodes and we may do them again in the future but we need your feedback on it. If we don’t get your feedback, we will make your own decision but if you miss the Wednesday episodes, let us know.

If you don’t miss them, we still want to hear from you because then we will continue doing this because it saves us a lot of time and energy. I wouldn’t mind going back to Wednesdays, we will see. We are going to give Jason the break that he needs and report back on how that goes. Thanks again. We hope you are doing well. We hope to have you here again with us very soon. Bye!

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