When we try to escape the discomfort of life we tend to disconnect, go on holiday, pretend something is not happening or over indulge to the point of mindlessness. Eating (especially sugar), TV boxsets, drugs - prescribed and otherwise, over-work, vicarious or even vanilla sex and of course alcohol all provide us with dopamine spikes (the same drug that makes your dog salivate and repeatedly run to find the stick). Dopamine helps to regulate movement, attention, learning and emotional responses. It also enables us not only to see rewards, but to take action to move toward them. It contributes to feelings of pleasures and satisfaction as part of the reward system and the neurotransmitter also plays a part in addiction.
However when we block our emotional system and in particular those we perceive as negative emotions such as anxiety, frustration, boredom, sadness we also we numb ourselves from any positive emotions such as joy, happiness and excitement. Increasingly we become dependent on external stimulants (that can also be depressants).
Over time this cycle, the wall we built to protect us, that allows us to armour up and deal with day, numbs us to life. We start to feel like back seat drivers in our own life (one of the things my clients most describe).
Actively choosing to accept the discomfort we imagine may come or to really feel the pain will also open the door to a whole flooding of other possible emotions. They can be scary (speaking from personal experience) and at the beginning it's like driving a powerful turbo engine and being totally out of control. Slowly and surely, with patience, guidance (and lots of hot baths or showers), we begin to take over the controls. Over time it become more manageable but if you've been numbing for a while, don't expect things to change over night.
When we choose to remain open and welcome emotion into our life it can be overwhelming - especially the ones we perceive to be positive. Take baby steps, appreciate the sunrise or sunset, sing a favourite song in the shower, say hello to the cat across the road, watch the birds in the park or run round the garden barefoot. Find healthy ways to soothe yourself like a hot bath, spicy food, a walk in nature or a chat with someone you trust. As you move on consider building a gentle yoga practice, return to cycling (the movement really helps life mood), join a choir or perhaps a meditation group (please choose a wise and experienced teacher). You will also find more information and inspiration reading Awakening Joy