How to start feeling from numb.

Photo by  Tanja Heffner  on  Unsplash

Photo by Tanja Heffner on Unsplash

We have this tendency to ignore things we can't feel.

In the journey of attempting to feel any part of our body, one of the largest and most common frustrations I hear is "I'm numb there; I can't feel anything." And then we promptly give up trying, because we associate numbness with a void and can't immediately find something to grab our attention.

When your foot falls asleep, technically, it goes numb. If you touch your asleep foot with your hand, you can't feel your hand touching your foot. Your hand can feel your foot, but your foot (and thus, you) cannot feel your hand.

But you can DEFINITELY feel your asleep foot.

In fact, you can probably feel your asleep foot more than any other part of your body, until it eventually wakes up and blood starts circulating normally there again.

This is what numbness is like, magnified. The reason you can feel really loudly that your foot has fallen asleep is because you are used to it NOT being asleep. The contrast is thus obvious, and so usually by a young age we've taught ourselves some instinctive mechanisms that facilitate blood flow BACK into our foot when it goes numb. We don't actually think about this process at the forefront of our consciousness - we just do it.

Think of numbness like an asleep foot. Perspective is everything. Imagine for a second that you experienced numbness anywhere in your body in the way you experience the numbness of an asleep foot. If your foot fell asleep and stayed asleep, chances are pretty likely that you'd quickly develop a coping mechanism to no longer feel your asleep foot - otherwise it might be difficult to walk, focus, or live like a normal human being.

This is what we do with trauma as children. We experience at one point in our lives the loudness of the realization that our foot is asleep. It HURTS. It is impeding us in our lives, and it's grabbing our attention. And so we NUMB the sensation in order to survive. We effectively freeze that part of our body that is feeling the trauma the most.

We do this with our jaws, our lungs, our hips, our shoulders, our throats, our genitals - effectively any area of our body that might normally have the capacity to feel. And we do it unconsciously.

What to do?

The first step in this case, is to believe (/remember) that numbness has sensation, just like an asleep foot does. If we go searching for evidence of sensation in order to believe it, we're going to come up dry. We have to believe it, first. Once we've opened ourselves up to the possibility of feeling in an area we've never consciously felt before (or at least that we can remember), we bring possibility for blood circulation to follow. The blood will not flow to a place we've decided to ignore, because so far as the mind is concerned, it doesn't exist.

Wanna know the worst part? Remember how annoying and painful and debilitating an asleep foot is? Once you start feeling a part of your body that might've previously been numb, it's going to be just as annoying and painful and debilitating as it was when you first started to ignore it.

Here's one fairly graphic example: those who experience numbness in their genitals and are doing work to feel more there, often go through a phase where if their genitals get touched, it feels like "glass shards" are being rubbed into them. (no, I'm not joking).

This is usually where we falter. Because IT HURTS.

This pain is a GOOD sign, not a bad one. Let yourself feel your pain. DO NOT TRY TO NUMB THE PAIN.

I've been experimenting with this with asleep feet lately, and I'm finding that actually the fastest way to wake an asleep foot back up to is to focus ON it, not away from it. This is true of literally every single part of our body (and even works with the glass shard sensation on genitals).

But holy shit when we start to feel a thing for the first time, our INSTINCTIVE response is to lose our minds and make it go away.

So remember: The only way out is through.