NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Monday, November 20, 2017

What Happens When You Numb Yourself to Your Traumatic Past?

In a prior article, I discussed the effect of growing up in a family where you can't express your emotions (see my article:  Psychotherapy Can Help You to Overcome the Effect of Growing Up in a Family That Doesn't Talk About Their Feelings).  But there are also times when people try to avoid feeling their feelings and numb themselves emotionally because of a traumatic event in their life.

What Happens When You Numb Yourself to Your Traumatic Past?

In The Little Paris Bookshop: A Novel by Nina George, the protagonist, Jean Perdu, numbed himself for 20 years because of the loss of his relationship.  Rather than allowing himself to feel the pain of the breakup, he shuts down emotionally (see my articles:  Relationships: Fear of Being Emotionally Vulnerable and Allowing Yourself to Feel Your Feelings in a Healthy Way).

Not only has he numbed his feelings, but he literally locked the room in his apartment that held the the most poignant memories of his relationship from 20 years ago.

Even though Jean has a lot of empathy for others and he knows which books to recommend to heal them emotionally, he numbs himself to his broken heart and, for 20 years, he is unable to heal himself.

The effect of this emotional numbing is that he not only blocks the emotional pain, he also blocks out positive feelings.

What Happens When You Numb Yourself to Your Traumatic Past?

Although he is known and admired by many people, including his neighbors and people who go to his bookstore, he remains alone, lonely, cut off from himself and unwilling to deal with the past.

After he makes a surprising discovery, Jean embarks on a transformational journey to deal with the emotional effects of the past.

I won't provide any spoilers about what happened to Jean during his psychological journey, but I recommend reading the book for anyone who has ever experienced psychological trauma or contemplated dealing with past trauma.  Nina George portrays the effects of unresolved trauma poignantly and accurately.  The characters are also vivid and likable.

Getting Help in Therapy to Overcome Unresolved Psychological Trauma
Many people who suffer with unresolved trauma are hesitant about coming to therapy because they fear that trauma therapy will be too overwhelming (see my article: Starting Psychotherapy: It's Not Unusual to Feel Anxious or Ambivalent).

Getting Help in Therapy to Overcome Unresolved Psychological Trauma

A skilled trauma therapist knows how to assess clients' traumatic experiences as well as their internal resources so that the work can be manageable.  This doesn't mean that there is no discomfort when working on unresolved trauma in therapy.  It just means that there is a recognition that the therapy must go at a pace that feels safe for clients (see my article: Developing Internal Resources and Coping Skills in Therapy).

When you numb yourself emotionally, you're not only blocking your traumatic experiences, like Jean Perdu, you're also blocking or muting any positive feelings that you might have, and this is a high price to pay in order to avoid dealing with trauma from the past.

Rather than avoiding the working through process in therapy, you owe it to yourself to get the help that you need.  Once you have worked through past trauma, you will feel more emotionally integrated and have a greater capacity to live a more fulfilling life (see my article: How to Choose a Psychotherapist).

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist who works with individual adults and couples.

One of my specialties is helping clients to overcome psychological trauma.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.