Numb to life: how to reconnect
We’ve layered up stories through life that make us numb, disconnecting us from life and from our deeper wisdom and intuition. And we can return to connection. We can de-layer the stories.
Our nose stops smelling when we’ve been sniffing the same thing after a while.
Our ears stop hearing the background noise of traffic and planes.
Our eyes stop seeing the notices on the board which haven’t been changed for a few weeks.
Our system stops noticing the level of stress it has running through it.
With all these sensory experiences, our body adapts to a new normal. Making us stop noticing whatever it is that’s there — it’s not an obvious threat, it doesn’t require our attention so we stop tuning into it. It’s as though it disappears. As though it isn’t there.
But it is.
These shifts to ‘new normals’ block our ability to tune into what’s happening right now in our direct experience and limits our connection to intuition.
In theory, the ignoring of repeated information is a smart design to stay vigilant to what’s new and different, and therefore stay alive. Not so smart when we’ve continued using that system way past the application it was originally designed for!
The repetitive over-use of this ignoring-system layers ‘new normal’ upon ‘new normal’, stopping us noticing what’s going on, drowning out or distorting the messages the system beyond our intellect is telling us.
How much we miss when that becomes our reality.
You know that thing when you’ve been on holiday, or even if you’ve just sat with a coach for an hour or two, and afterwards you say “wow! I didn’t realise how wound up I was”. That is this.
In those moments the quieter voice gets through. The holiday-light-bulb-moments happen. The clarity of what to do next is stark.
This is an indication that what has become your normal is a busy mind. The whirring mind and body was being ignored but it hadn’t gone away. You were numb.
But given half a chance our system is always aiming to return us to our base-level, fundamental OK-ness. The place of a quieter mind and greater clarity.
And which doesn’t require a holiday or even a coach to achieve once you know what’s going on.
Think about that last holiday. Remember your return to work and how quickly it felt like you’d never been away?
The amount of settling of your busy-mind during your holiday was so slight in the grand scheme of the multiple layers of ‘new normals’ created over the years, that you soon revved right back up again. Especially true when you don’t know there’s another way to ‘do’ work.
But there is!
A way of understanding our psychological system that naturally delayers us, little by little, sometimes chunk by chunk.
I began my delayering in a chunk when I learnt transcendental meditation. In the first couple of weeks we went through un-stressing where your physical system releases a load of old stored-up emotional and physical memory. Mine took the flavour of nausea and tiredness, breathless from walking what would normally be fine, a restful bath and nap needed in the afternoon! Unheard of but so needed at that time!
Since then I’ve been delayering further through exploring the essence of our nature, reconnecting to that, seeing through more and more of the stories that have been believed over the years. Dissolving more and more of the layers. Getting closer and closer to the essence at our core.
And what I’ve noticed is a greater sensitivity.
To most of ‘normal’ society this sounds like a terrible idea! I remember I thought this when my meditation teacher said the meditation would make us more sensitive.
‘Sensitive’ in Western society, and especially the business world, is deemed a derogatory term. Something to be avoided. Something that makes us unreliable, flaky, hard to know where you stand with, easily overwhelmed.
We want strong, resilient, tough-minded, consistent, reliable! (Left brain attributes which maintain an illusion of certainty and control in the false belief that these bring security and safety.)
Both of there positions arise from fear, just with opposing flavours. They’re made of the same insecure thinking that says “you are not OK unless…”
The supposedly undesirable sensitivity and supposedly desirable strong attributes are what appear when we believe the layers of stories, creating a reality of threats and danger around us that need to be avoided or protected against. It’s this that leads to erratic and unreliable, or strong and untouchable.
It’s these layers of stories, layers of accumulated stress in our system that make us numb. Like a false armour that we think will keep us safe. All it does is disconnect us, push people away, keep us less than we are, restricted, limited. And it’s all made of thought. The most flimsy armour in the world. Changing moment by moment, showing a new threat at every turn. Something else to add as a layer. Another disconnect, another retreat away, another separation.
At some level we known this armour is not strong. And at some level we know it’s not who we really are. But the more we’ve heard the mind tell us there’s uncertainty out there the more we’ve just added another layer. Not knowing what else to do. Thinking maybe this layer will be the one that will REALLY make me secure.
It can never happen that way. The layers are made of thought. Thoughts appear and disappear, constantly. You don’t control which come. You just identify with some more than others, making them mean that your armour is supposedly intact or has been breached. None of it true. All of it thoughts.
So how do we reconnect?
The way we’ve tried is to remove a thought with a thought — reframing, positive thinking, affirmations, mantras,… An oxymoron. Impossible.
Trying to replace a ‘bad’ thought with a ‘nice’ thought is just putting on prettier false armour.
We might see temporary changes from the pretty armour but because it’s still transient-thought-armour being used against a transient-thought-created-danger it still adds a layer of disconnection from direct experience. It still springs from a belief in lack. It still leaves us at risk of the next thing that is an apparent danger to the maintenance of the ‘pretty’. It still numbs us.
True sensitivity means being able to experience it all – thoughts, feelings, perceptions – all without being knocked off course. Experiencing it all while standing steady on both feet. Being sensitive in this way means being unafraid of what is going on and therefore allowing it all in. It means a whole-ness and integrity of words and actions. It means clarity and boundaries. It means going towards and away from what makes sense with ease and care.
It means hearing that quieter intuitive voice so clearly. It means hearing the alarm that tells us we’re going against our true nature. It means having a knowing of what to say in this moment which seems to speak so clearly to exactly what needed to be said.
All that’s needed is to see the thinking, feel the feelings, become aware of the perceptions and acknowledge them, welcome them, allow them, love them. Without identification, without engagement, they’ll pass on through. Returning your system more quickly to clarity.
And then, with time, the more this happens, the more the layers of false armour fall away. Seen for what they are, and seen as not needed. They drop. Leaving ‘real’ sensitivity. Leaving clarity. And the whole world opens up.