How to desensitize yourself from emotional pain

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Carly Snyder, MD is a reproductive and perinatal psychiatrist who combines traditional psychiatry with integrative medicine-based treatments.

PTSD triggers may be all around you. Even though it may sometimes feel like PTSD symptoms come out-of-the-blue, PTSD symptoms rarely spontaneously occur.

Instead, whether you are aware of it not, PTSD symptoms are often triggered or cued by something in our internal (anything that happens within your body such as thoughts or feelings) or external (anything that happens outside your body, such as a stressful situation) environment.  

Because certain thoughts, feelings, or situations can bring up uncomfortable PTSD symptoms, such as memories of a traumatic event or feelings of being on edge and anxious, one way of coping with these symptoms is by increasing your awareness of these triggers.

You can prevent or lessen the impact of certain PTSD symptoms by identifying what specific types of thoughts, feelings, and situations trigger them, and then, take steps to limit the occurrence or impact of those triggers.  

Kinds of PTSD Triggers

Triggers can fall into two categories: Internal Triggers and External Triggers. Internal triggers are things that you feel or experience inside your body. Internal triggers include thoughts or memories, emotions, and bodily sensations (for example, your heart racing).

External triggers are situations, people, or places that you might encounter throughout your day (or things that happen outside your body). Listed below are some common internal and external triggers.  

Internal Triggers

  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Feeling abandoned
  • Feeling lonely
  • Feeling out of control
  • Feeling vulnerable
  • Frustration
  • Memories
  • Muscle tension
  • Pain
  • Racing heartbeat
  • Sadness

External Triggers

  • An anniversary
  • An argument
  • Certain smells
  • End of a relationship
  • Holidays
  • Reading a news article that reminds you of your traumatic event
  • Seeing someone who reminds you of a person connected to your traumatic event
  • A specific place
  • Watching a movie or television show that reminds you of your traumatic event
  • Witnessing a car accident

Identifying Your Triggers

Try to think of when your PTSD symptoms usually come up. Ask yourself the following questions to identify your triggers: What types of situations are you in? What is happening around you? What kind of emotions are you feeling? What thoughts are you experiencing? What does your body feel like? Get out a sheet of paper and write down as many internal and external triggers as you can.  

Coping With Triggers

Now, the best way of coping with triggers is to avoid them altogether. However, this is almost impossible to do. Why? Well, you cannot really avoid your thoughts, emotions, and bodily sensations. Much of these are out of our control.

In regard to external triggers, we can take some steps to manage our environment (for example, not going to certain places that we know will trigger us), but we cannot control everything that happens to us. For example, you might inadvertently come into contact with a news story or conversation that reminds you of your traumatic event.  

Because we often cannot avoid triggers, it is important to learn ways of coping with triggers. Effective, healthy coping strategies for lessening the impact of triggers include:  

  • Deep breathing
  • Expressive writing
  • Grounding
  • Mindfulness
  • Relaxation
  • Self-soothing
  • Social support

The more strategies you have available to you, the better off you will be in managing your triggers. In addition, the more coping strategies you have, the more likely you will be able to prevent the development of unhealthy coping strategies, such as alcohol and drug use.

Further, simply being more aware of your triggers can be beneficial. As a result of this increased awareness, your emotional reactions may begin to feel more understandable, valid, predictable, and less out of control. This can definitely positively impact your mood and overall well-being.  

Have a Safety Plan in Place

Although it is important to increase your awareness of your triggers, doing so can cause some distress. Some people might actually become triggered by trying to identify their triggers. Therefore, before you take steps to identify your triggers, make sure you have a safety plan in place in case you experience some distress.

If you’re not living your purpose on the planet, it’s supposed to hurt, and nothing is supposed to take that pain away.

Dr. Donald Epstein, Creator of Epienergetics, Network Spinal and SomatoRespiratory Integration

Any Pain Is A Combination of Spiritual, Emotional And Physical Pain

How to desensitize yourself from emotional pain

Spiritual, emotional and physical pain are very closely related to each other.

Research shows that, while the brain does process emotional and physical pain somewhat differently, much of the same circuitry is used.

For example, if you’ve ever hurt yourself there can be a lot of emotion involved.

Likewise, if you’ve ever experienced a breakup or loss of a loved one you know that heartache can actually hurt in a physical way.

Furthermore, our ability to stay connected with our spiritual nature, and therefore our sense of purpose, is determined by our capacity to stay present with the sensation of psychological and physical discomfort in our bodies.

And having a sense of purpose or not is related to our experience of spiritual pain.

So when I talk about pain, I’m referring to the tangled up complex of physical, emotional and spiritual components—the somato-psycho-spiritual knot (another article I wrote)—that is pain.

An Emissary Of Life

Often when people show up at my office, it’s pain or some problem that has motivated them; and they want to know if that pain or problem can be fixed.

Often they want that pain to go away so they can go back to living their lives the way they were living them prior to the pain.

Emotions are an essential part of being human. The feelings are beyond flight or fight responses to survive. Emotions range from high and low extremes to little nudges in our minds. We can learn to appear emotionless by hiding our emotions to avoid being vulnerable. This takes lots of energy and mental development. If you are interested in hiding your emotions, here is a useful guide on how to become emotionless.

How to Be Emotionless

1. Dissociate Yourself from the Situation

See yourself an observer and not active participant in a situation that stirs your emotions. Watch the events in your life the same way you watch a movie. Remove your emotions from your responses to situations and people that cause your emotions to erupt. Keep trying to remove your emotions until giving emotionless responses becomes automatic.

2. Think Logically, Not Emotionally

Use a logical approach to your situation when you cannot dissociate yourself from it. Focus on facts and figures instead of hatred, anger or fear. Focus on reasons behind every action and avoid making judgment before looking at situations from all sides.

3. Retreat Inwardly

Learn to retreat inwards and detach yourself from all other human experiences. Put yourself into a meditative state or a trance. In this state, you can put down your emotions and prevent them from intruding your mental state. Meditation is a great tool to become emotionless. You can choose from different types of meditation such as Huna and Vipassana. The most basic form of meditation–deeply breathing while closing eyes will loosen your emotions.

4. Think of Something Else

When you face a situation that requires you to be emotionless, occupy your mind with something else. For instance, try naming all the mammals, list your family members with their full names, or list the 50 states. Keep your mind occupied with boring things as you take in all the aspects of your situation.

5. Focus on Others, Not Yourself

It is very unlikely that you will be caught up emotionally when you focus on others. Focusing on others may be a challenge in an individualistic community. However, helping and connecting with others, volunteering, mentoring and spending time with others uplifts an individual’s life. You have less time to focus on your inner emotions.

6. Realize That You May Be Wrong

Sometime, emotions cloud your judgment but at times, you are just wrong. If you want to learn how to be emotionless, learn how to let go when you are wrong. Pride makes the situation worse.

7. Let Go of the Things You Cannot Change

You are likely to feel angry when you cannot control or change a situation. Instead of focusing on the anger, focus your mind on what you can change. This sets your mind on a positive direction and sets a stage for emotions. Instead of focusing on emotions, disengage your mind and try not to think about anything.

8. Accept Life as It Is

Do not view life as unfair or great. You cannot change it nor do anything about it. Life exists because you exist. It is not flowery or romantic and neither is it terrible. Your emotions will fade away when nothing is a big deal or has meaning to you. Convince yourself that there is no need to show emotions.

9. Develop New Mind Maps

It is easier to create new mind maps than to rewire old maps. New ways of thinking are stronger because they are focused and fresh. Do not spend much of your time trying to fix a wrong perception of yourself. Instead, develop a new mind map yourself and then focus your actions on building the new mind map.

10. Be Willing to Lose Positive Emotions

The other side of learning how to be emotionless is that you have to control positive emotions as well. You will lose good and bad emotions when you become emotionless. You cannot show enthusiasm or excitement about anything if you want to remain emotionless. However, if nothing makes you happy then nothing will make you sad. You need to remain neutral in all situations.

When Do You Need to Be Emotionless?

Do you remember your emotions the last time you were waiting for exam results or an email response from an interviewer? Did you feel insecure, worried, afraid or tensed? How did you feel about yourself when you were emotional? Did it affect your self-confidence or make you feel weak? We go through many situations in life where getting emotional does not change anything but our self-respect. Your actions in different situations affect your beliefs about yourself to an extent that you might believe you became a different person. You may lose your self-confidence if you believe that you were weak in some situations. Hence, it is important to learn how to be emotionless in situations where emotions harm your well-being.

If you’re not living your purpose on the planet, it’s supposed to hurt, and nothing is supposed to take that pain away.

Dr. Donald Epstein, Creator of Epienergetics, Network Spinal and SomatoRespiratory Integration

Any Pain Is A Combination of Spiritual, Emotional And Physical Pain

How to desensitize yourself from emotional pain

Spiritual, emotional and physical pain are very closely related to each other.

Research shows that, while the brain does process emotional and physical pain somewhat differently, much of the same circuitry is used.

For example, if you’ve ever hurt yourself there can be a lot of emotion involved.

Likewise, if you’ve ever experienced a breakup or loss of a loved one you know that heartache can actually hurt in a physical way.

Furthermore, our ability to stay connected with our spiritual nature, and therefore our sense of purpose, is determined by our capacity to stay present with the sensation of psychological and physical discomfort in our bodies.

And having a sense of purpose or not is related to our experience of spiritual pain.

So when I talk about pain, I’m referring to the tangled up complex of physical, emotional and spiritual components—the somato-psycho-spiritual knot (another article I wrote)—that is pain.

An Emissary Of Life

Often when people show up at my office, it’s pain or some problem that has motivated them; and they want to know if that pain or problem can be fixed.

Often they want that pain to go away so they can go back to living their lives the way they were living them prior to the pain.

Emotions are an essential part of being human. The feelings are beyond flight or fight responses to survive. Emotions range from high and low extremes to little nudges in our minds. We can learn to appear emotionless by hiding our emotions to avoid being vulnerable. This takes lots of energy and mental development. If you are interested in hiding your emotions, here is a useful guide on how to become emotionless.

How to Be Emotionless

1. Dissociate Yourself from the Situation

See yourself an observer and not active participant in a situation that stirs your emotions. Watch the events in your life the same way you watch a movie. Remove your emotions from your responses to situations and people that cause your emotions to erupt. Keep trying to remove your emotions until giving emotionless responses becomes automatic.

2. Think Logically, Not Emotionally

Use a logical approach to your situation when you cannot dissociate yourself from it. Focus on facts and figures instead of hatred, anger or fear. Focus on reasons behind every action and avoid making judgment before looking at situations from all sides.

3. Retreat Inwardly

Learn to retreat inwards and detach yourself from all other human experiences. Put yourself into a meditative state or a trance. In this state, you can put down your emotions and prevent them from intruding your mental state. Meditation is a great tool to become emotionless. You can choose from different types of meditation such as Huna and Vipassana. The most basic form of meditation–deeply breathing while closing eyes will loosen your emotions.

4. Think of Something Else

When you face a situation that requires you to be emotionless, occupy your mind with something else. For instance, try naming all the mammals, list your family members with their full names, or list the 50 states. Keep your mind occupied with boring things as you take in all the aspects of your situation.

5. Focus on Others, Not Yourself

It is very unlikely that you will be caught up emotionally when you focus on others. Focusing on others may be a challenge in an individualistic community. However, helping and connecting with others, volunteering, mentoring and spending time with others uplifts an individual’s life. You have less time to focus on your inner emotions.

6. Realize That You May Be Wrong

Sometime, emotions cloud your judgment but at times, you are just wrong. If you want to learn how to be emotionless, learn how to let go when you are wrong. Pride makes the situation worse.

7. Let Go of the Things You Cannot Change

You are likely to feel angry when you cannot control or change a situation. Instead of focusing on the anger, focus your mind on what you can change. This sets your mind on a positive direction and sets a stage for emotions. Instead of focusing on emotions, disengage your mind and try not to think about anything.

8. Accept Life as It Is

Do not view life as unfair or great. You cannot change it nor do anything about it. Life exists because you exist. It is not flowery or romantic and neither is it terrible. Your emotions will fade away when nothing is a big deal or has meaning to you. Convince yourself that there is no need to show emotions.

9. Develop New Mind Maps

It is easier to create new mind maps than to rewire old maps. New ways of thinking are stronger because they are focused and fresh. Do not spend much of your time trying to fix a wrong perception of yourself. Instead, develop a new mind map yourself and then focus your actions on building the new mind map.

10. Be Willing to Lose Positive Emotions

The other side of learning how to be emotionless is that you have to control positive emotions as well. You will lose good and bad emotions when you become emotionless. You cannot show enthusiasm or excitement about anything if you want to remain emotionless. However, if nothing makes you happy then nothing will make you sad. You need to remain neutral in all situations.

When Do You Need to Be Emotionless?

Do you remember your emotions the last time you were waiting for exam results or an email response from an interviewer? Did you feel insecure, worried, afraid or tensed? How did you feel about yourself when you were emotional? Did it affect your self-confidence or make you feel weak? We go through many situations in life where getting emotional does not change anything but our self-respect. Your actions in different situations affect your beliefs about yourself to an extent that you might believe you became a different person. You may lose your self-confidence if you believe that you were weak in some situations. Hence, it is important to learn how to be emotionless in situations where emotions harm your well-being.