In order to do this we would have to overthrow our defence mechanism, or the emotional numbness that protects us from being hurt. Such mechanisms, once triggered, operate symmetrically: we learn to cut off (i.e., not to feel) painful emotions, such as fear, frustration, anger, along with more pleasant ones, such as joy, enthusiasm, “elan vital”.
In their origins, such mechanisms have a positive function as they protect us from excessively painful emotions that we would not be able to stand or, again, from those emotions that we learnt to avoid or minimize. In the long run, however, this numbness might become chronic and therefore be dysfunctional for the following two reasons:
- First of all, as mentioned before, it doesn’t prevent us from feeling negative emotions only, it actually cuts off positive feelings too, thus making our whole life dull and less meaningful;
- secondly, the exclusion of such intense emotional states prevents us from getting in touch with those qualities that only emerge in high arousal states, irrespectively whether we are in a difficult (e.g., in despair or angry) or pleasant (e.g., enthusiastic or joyful) moment.
Obviously, the point is not to constantly be in complete contact with our emotions but rather to be able to choose to do so whenever we wish to or whenever it is needed: numbness (being detached or cut-off) becomes an useful instrument rather than an automatic, involuntary reaction.
Being capable to consciously draw on our emotions makes us more authentic, more present, more effective, and more efficient in our relations and communications. Actually, the more in contact we are with our emotions, the more powerful we become in our communications and the more empathic in understating others and their feelings.