As I continue to provide therapy for individual struggling with depression, I frequently see clients who feel validated by the words “depression feels more like numbness than sadness.” They say to me “That’s it! Yes, because I don’t feel sad, I Feel numb.” I follow this up by talking about the pain that comes with numbness and the inability to feel our emotions. Here, Mitch Clark details his feelings of numbness. The same article also highlights how so many men find it difficult to talk about their depression and feel a sense of embarrassment. Most men report after finally being able to talk about the feelings of numbness and lack of emotions, that is their starting point to feeling better.
It doesn’t always work in this way, but I often experience that clients can identify a traumatic event or even a minor setback that resulted in pretending that everything was fine. This results in an initial attempt to keep feelings such as anger, sadness, fear, guilt and shame at bay but eventually leads to blocking feelings of joy and distancing oneself from positive relationships. Once a client can move into the feelings of pain, they can move into feelings of joy. The opposite is also true. Marsha Linehan talks about engaging in preferred activities or engaging in healthy relationships as a pathway through the darkness as well. This may be harder, as it can feel invaliding (to try to experience joy when we are experiencing numbness). However, this article explains how to ease into joy when we are feeling depressed.