Pain is useful. For something most people strive to avoid, it can be a particularly helpful guide. Pain’s primary function is to help us in self-preservation. You avoid harming your body because of how much it hurts, thus preserving your well-being.
Avoiding Emotions and Pain
However, if you get too wrapped up in avoiding pain, you can miss out on positive experiences. Take sports, for example. If you let the initial soreness of new training, or taking a bump on the field, send you back to your couch, you save yourself the discomfort of tired muscles and bruises. But you also wall away the thrill of achievement and team camaraderie. Like anything, avoiding pain is best in moderation.
Some people seek to avoid emotional pain. Maybe you suffered prolonged emotional abuse, or the loss of a loved one was so catastrophic you told yourself it was safest not to feel anything ever again. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to only numb the unpleasant feelings. Once you start suppressing certain feelings, the brain is obligated to suppress all feelings. This is what causes some people to go through life feeling numb. They figured it was best to deal with specific feelings by pushing them away. They handled it that way for so long that they got to the point where they couldn’t feel anything.
Your Pain Will Not Last
Pain can be educational, but, as Ecclesiastes reminds believers, it is also temporary: “To everything there is a season, a time for every purpose under heaven.” (Eccl. 3:1, NKJV) When you think numbing the pain is the answer, remind yourself that this will not last. At first it may seem as if you will never recover, but as you allow yourself to be pulled back into your everyday life, you will find that the pain subsides.
Sometimes Emotional Numbness is a Temporary Solution
For some — such as a child with abusive parents — temporary numbness is the only solution. A child is not equipped to adequately process the complicated emotional maelstrom that is hostility and neglect. For them, the only way they may be able to go about daily tasks such as school, chores, and hobbies is if they turn off the part of their brain that dwells on the abuse. They’re too young to escape it physically, so they try their best to do so mentally.
However, this is only a temporary solution. As I said before, you cannot selectively block out feelings. It’s an all-or-none deal. You must eventually acknowledge and process your feelings, or you risk emotionally handicapping yourself for life.
Pain is a Means of Growth
Life is not supposed to be consistent. Some stretches are more joyful or painful or boring than others. This is the means God has designed for our growth. If life were always the same, we would stay the same.
Paul reminded the Corinthians of this same lesson when he wrote:
For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Cor. 4:17-18, NKJV)
Christian Counseling Provides a Way to Accept Pain and Avoid Numbness
Would you rather never feel anything, or possess the skills to deal with your emotions, even the most painful ones? A Christian counselor can help you break out of the numbness, while also teaching you how to handle the sometimes uncomfortable emotions associated with that. People do not become numb in an attempt to shut out happy feelings. However, that is what inevitably happens. If you wish you could feel the excitement and warmth others seem to experience, get in touch with a professional Christian counselor. They will use proven therapeutic techniques and biblical principles to help you meet your feelings, rather than run away from them.
Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation by Dr. Daniel J. Siegel
“Butterfly and Chrysalises” courtesy of Julia Folsom, Flickr CreativeCommons (CC BY-SA 2.0); “hotblack_20070916_butterflies-28.jpg” courtesy of hotblock, morgueFile.com