he desire to emotionally numb out was like a great bait dangling before me this past week. I’ve felt myself wanting desperately to return to normalcy. Partly I’ve done that by pouring myself into my grad studies at a time when studying doesn’t feel like a priority because life’s curriculum has changed. The result of that has been a kind of slow-moving energy in my body that is counting the days down. And I know I am not alone in feeling this emotional numbness, perhaps you feel it too.
What has helped me is to know that this is a normal part of the process of living through what is essentially a collective trauma. Parts of our brain are shutting down in response to this crisis, trauma specialist Jennifer Yaeger writes in a post—i.e. feeling numb is normal. She writes that “just getting by emotionally and functionally is okay,” and that “in-depth processing of trauma happens years later, when we feel emotionally safe to deal with it.” Reading this, I allow myself a gentle release.
Practice 1: Acceptance
Feeling bad about feeling bad is not helpful.
Just as feeling guilty about not feeling is not helpful.
Just noticing feeling or not-feeling is enough.
It's okay to feel broken open, that's normal.
It's also okay to feel numbed out, that's normal.
We don’t have to process everything right away.
It’s okay to feel guilty about our privilege,
and also to feel grateful for our blessings, at once.
It's okay to feel anxious about where we're going,
and also to feel hopeful about where we're going, at once.
It's okay to feel broken on reading the news,
and also to relish some of the gifts of this moment, at once.
It’s okay to contain all of these emotions at once.
Maybe all we have to do is
to accept and be present
to whatever arises in the world,
and in us
in response to the world.
Practice 2: Receiving
For people who give a lot, it is hard to receive.
I remember at the end of third grade, I gifted my favorite teacher a hand-drawn card depicting a bouquet of flowers as gratitude. A few days later, after the last class of the year, a student hollered to me from across the classroom. He pointed to a corner of the room. There, on the floor lay my card, lying on top of a pile of rubbish. At that time, of course, I thought my teacher didn’t appreciate me. But now I know that perhaps she just wasn’t comfortable receiving my gratitude. That perhaps she thought my gesture was insincere. That perhaps she was not ready to receive the possibility that she could be loved by a student.
My request to you today—dear healers—is to please,
please receive the love and gratitude that comes your way
through words, gestures, prayers.
Let these remind you of the perennial, non-depletable
well at the center of your being, at your source.
Your work is inspiring people to live in their healing light,
to step into those places in them that have long been numb and are seeking to feel.
The healing grace you bring to your patients is nurturing in many around the world
their own inner kindness.
The reality you are opening our eyes to is awakening us to the shocking deficiencies
in our systems’ priorities,
to how we have come to lose so much of what matters
in the rush of getting-on with things,
and to consciousness of the essential gifts that eventually weave our world together
in times of pain and grief.
Thank you for your healing.
Thank you for your gifts.
Thank you for being in this world a hope for that world
that we’ve known in our hearts for the longest time.
Niharika enjoys waking up to a dream diary and a cup of hot chai, and most of her day goes in some form of listening, writing or story-sharing. Her work in the world is to empower people to discover their authentic purpose and live that out into the world. Based in India, she is an M.Ed student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, a certified Purpose Guide™ and a student of human development and psychology.