At times (and especially lately), most of us will use technology to zone out, decompress or avoid feeling our feelings. But it’s important to be compassionate and realize this isn’t entirely a negative thing. Zoning out and decompressing are very reasonable byproducts of screen time if we are intentional about it and if that is indeed the outcome. It’s when we use technology to numb ourselves, however, that it can become problematic and block us from leading a truly fulfilling life.
When we are engaged in numbing behaviors, we are disconnected from ourselves emotionally, unaware of and unable to feel our real feelings. While this deadens the pain of difficult emotion, it also inhibits our ability to experience positive emotions, such as profound connection, joy, and a sense of belonging.
What’s Your Numbing Strategy?
When it comes to numbing, screens tend to be the weapon of choice. It might be mindlessly watching TV you don’t really care about, surfing the web, or losing hours to social media. Whatever you’re doing, understanding the quality of attention and awareness you are bringing to the activity will help you to determine whether it’s a numbing effort. Here are some common ways you may find yourself blocking out the world:
Eating foods that don’t make you feel good
Shopping for unnecessary or frivolous items
Working too many hours every day
Being perpetually busy or not present to life
Prescription pills or too many glasses of wine
Compulsive relationship seeking
Disconnection From a Truly Fulfilling Life
Engaging in numbing behaviors is a sign that we are out of alignment with our deepest needs. If you find yourself numbing to procrastinate, chances are you are trying to avoid dealing with something.
It could be a conflict, a tricky conversation, a big challenge or decision, or just some truth or realization you are unwilling to acknowledge. While mindlessly binge-watching Netflix can help you to escape these things in the short term, it’s also likely to leave you feeling hungover rather than connected and fulfilled by the enjoyment of relaxing into your favorite show. The intention and awareness you bring to the encounter determines whether it will be a connected, fulfilling experience or a disconnected draining experience that leaves you feeling lost and empty.
Being Conscious Of Why We Disconnect
When compulsive numbing behaviors with technology or other forms of escape are born from anxiety, they will likely feed on themselves and grow stronger over time. The key is recognizing that you are trying to disconnect. Often, if you’re operating from an anxious place, you may feel slightly on edge, wound tightly, or that your breathing is shallow.
However the symptoms of numbing manifest for you, next time you feel that compelling urge to escape or numb a feeling, take a deep breath instead and ask yourself: “What am I trying to avoid right now?” This can help you determine whether the distraction is something you want to devote your attention to, or whether you might be better served by turning to face the issue that’s troubling you…perhaps taking a walk or journaling to help reflect on it.
Resisting the urge to numb will help you to build mental muscle, to realize what a powerful force the “urge” to escape reality is, and to gain a more profound and fulfilling level of connection to life.
Thank you. I am a man of faith leading a blended family and am seeking to overcome my numbing coping mechanisms in a compassionately proactive way. Your articled help me learn to ask myself “What am I trying to avoid? so that I can choose to disengage or stay engage mindfully/faithfully and not passively/fearfully. – Las Vegas, NV “INFJ”