09/25/2012 07:54 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How Numb Can We Get?

A few months ago, the New England Journal of Medicine published an alarming study on 2,566 patients with opioid dependence. When drug makers tried to reformulate OxyContin so that it was harder to get "a high" from it -- the patients did reduce their OxyContin usage.

And then they switched to heroin.

When I read this, I laughed. I mean I could not stop laughing for days. "Oh, the human condition, how we cannot be thwarted from our addictions!" I chuckled. I shared this story with others and made them laugh. It was a laugh fest.

I am not sure if my reaction could have been any less appropriate? Certainly no less compassionate. But I laughed because secretly I was comforted that everyone wants to avoid how painful reality can be -- to become numb to it -- just as much as I do.

What does this have to do with Chinese medicine and health? Everything.

You cannot have a healthy body without a healthy mind. When we try to numb out -- even if it is not with something as noxious as heroin -- our minds are not as healthy as they could be, and our bodies will follow suit.

Avoiding reality means cutting yourself off from all the things that we know combat stress -- love, real joy, human connection, vulnerability -- the list goes on. We know these things improve our health and reduce our risks for all manner of disease. There are piles of neuroscience data to support this, courtesy of stress genius Robert Sapolsky.

2012-08-24-cocktailsandsmokes.jpgYet... We come home from the office and there is a cocktail in hand before our shoes are off... Or when we want to say "I love you, my God you are important to me," instead we say "Yeah, ok, see you later, maybe." We avoid genuine intimacy more than Hollywood movies do.

How many people have sent you the link for Brené Brown's TED talk on vulnerability? Posted the Facebook link? Made you watch it in the office? All of them. We love her talk. We agree with it, applaud and say -- oh yes, she is wise! And then we turn around and hide from vulnerability so profoundly that we turn from a prescription drug to an illicit one. How badly do we want to avoid emotions? Pretty badly.

Well, in TCM theory, all of those emotions get stored in our bodies. And they aren't there manifesting buckets of joy. They get bottled up and erupt out of us at inopportune times. They fester and create disharmony, qi stagnation, and much worse. We hide them and put a wedge between us and all the people we want to love and care about. They create an internal wedge that keeps us from knowing ourselves. And that wedge keeps us from having health. From giving health. And possibly from being truly happy. And if Brené Brown is to be believed -- that wedge is also keeping us from being super successful!

So let's give not being a numb a chance. There are many reasons we numb out. Only you know yours. But let's metaphorically not turn to heroin when someone took away our OxyContin.

I'll go first. No mind-numbing cocktails for me this week, no laughing about things that aren't really funny, no intellectualizing emotions. I will let you know if my workouts and energy levels improve -- not to mention my sleep, digestion and all the rest of the fun things that bodies do!

How will you reconnect?

P.S. If you want to watch the TED talk I mention - it's here.

Photo courtesy of Colleen Noonan

For more by Amy M. FitzPatrick, MS, L.Ac., click here.

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