As women, most of us have been conditioned to be cut off from our expression. We have been told not to get angry or have needs and just focus on pleasing others. We have learned to be “nice” at the price of losing connection to what really matters to us the most. We may even be at the point of not really knowing what we like and basing our opinions on others around us. Some women have developed silence for their survival. They have been victims of abuse and were punished or threatened if they tried to talk about it.
Either way, the result is an extreme loss in a sense of self. This may manifest as lack of energy, motivation, or confidence. We may feel confused, angry, afraid, or numb.

What can we do when the feelings become so intense, or we feel so cut off that we begin to harm ourselves(cutting, excessive use of substances, sex, or work) simply so we can start to feel something or dull the pain?

If the pain or numbness is very intense, the message from our bodies that we need to express and heal has been knocking for a very long time. The first thing to do is admit that something has gone terribly wrong and needs to be changed. Acceptance that we actually are not “okay” and need support in order to heal can be difficult but crucial. As you drop into this understanding, ask yourself what it is like to feel this way. Is there physical pain, tension, or pressure? Take note of where you feel the emotional pain in your body. If all you get is a numb sensation, stay with the numbness…do you feel numb all over or just in parts?

Try to notice the rate of your breath and focus in on the exhalation. Feel your feet on the floor. Note what happens when you do that. If you are feeling overwhelmed or flooded with feeling, back off and count backwards from ten. Look at 5 objects in the room around you and name the shape or color.

If you want to investigate the feeling further you can ask yourself:

What’s my earliest memory of feeling this way? See if you can get a picture of yourself in your mind’s eye. What was going on around you? What were you most afraid of in that moment–(physical safety, punishment, abandonment/rejection, shame) and what did you need the most?

Being able to name your need alone can bring a lot of relief. For instance: Safety/Protection, Understanding, Kindness, Connection, To be Heard, To be Seen? What needed to be different in order for you to have that need met? Who or what needed to change, be added, or taken away?

Once you have identified the fear and the need, close your eyes for a moment. How does it feel to have done this? Repeat your identified need 10 times silently to yourself and notice how your body responds. Allow yourself to cry if tears come. Breathe. Imagine yourself making contact with the earth in some way and let your body lay on the cool, moist ground. Surround yourself with a scene from nature and breathe in the serene landscape. Feel the earth providing your body support.

Call a friend or your therapist if you need to talk. You can let your friend know that he/she doesn’t need to do anything but listen.

Author's Bio: 

Jennifer Norstrom, Marriage and Family Therapist Intern (supervised by Stephen Polin MFC7861) is passionate about women's health and relationships. She has fifteen years experience in the mind-body connection, and has studied communication-building practices such as Non-Violent Communication and Authentic Connection. Jennifer strives to help you remove your blocks and enhance your feelings of ease, joy, and passion in your relationships.

Jennifer Norstrom, MFTI