Posted by: Monkey | May 11, 2012

Control and Sedation

In a previous article I discussed the distinction between emotions and feelings. I wrote about how a feeling is the abstract base that we then use words called emotions to describe and lump into a finite set of bulk ‘frequencies’ of feeling.
For most of us we operate mostly at an emotional level, only occasionally ever dipping beyond the limited set of feelings designated by our language and vocabulary range. At the emotional level we slice in half our range of feelings and designate one side good or positive and the other side bad or negative. Our tendencies are to go towards the positive and move away from the negative, depending on how successful we are in this venture seems to determine how happy we are as an individual.

Unfortunately this tendency stifles our ability to feel fully as we consistently attempt to shut out a whole half of the experience possible to us as a human being and as a result for many of us we can end up numb to our true feelings.

It is not an easy task to numb our heart though! It is designed to feel and it will feel what it feels unless we do something about it… and for many of us our life is a constant struggle to keep shutting out the discomfort within us that we have not allowed ourselves to feel fully. It is by feeling our feelings fully and completely that we can integrate the discomfort in our hearts and come to more peace within ourselves. However, feeling fully means feeling all the parts of us that hurt and are suffering. This is something that actually takes great courage and will happen at a time when we are ready for it.

For the rest of the time there is this constant reaction to move away from the discomfort within us and to do that we use two major techniques: sedation and control.

When a situation in our life occurs that causes us to feel discomfort at some level almost all the time our reaction is to immediately reach for something that will either sedate or control this discomfort so that we can get on with our lives without having to face whatever it is inside that hurts. For many of us we have been living in such an extreme state of discomfort for such a long time that our bodies and hearts are so numb that we don’t even know we have been triggered into discomfort and the tools we use to sedate and control our discomfort are consistently in use.



Control is a tool we use to put a lid on our discomfort when it arises. When a situation occurs that brings about discomfort in our hearts and we find ourselves not knowing what we are doing the most immediate thing we can do is to reach for something known, something that will shift our focus just enough that we don’t have to feel that discomfort, at least for the time being. Control methods will not shift that discomfort for long, however we know we can easily repeat the control until we have been distracted long enough that the feeling has passed and sunk back down into the murky depths of our heart.
The most obvious and very commonly used control method is that of smoking cigarettes.
For me I was never much of a cigarette smoker yet about a year ago when my girlfriend and I parted ways I found myself almost continuously in extreme states of discomfort and somehow I started smoking. In retrospection I know exactly the feeling that occurs within me that has me want to get a cigarette and even now I find when certain types of discomfort arise within me I want to grab a cigarette because I know for at least those few minutes that I am smoking, I don’t have to feel my discomfort. It is a great indicator of discomfort arising because I can literally feel that urge to smoke creep over me when confronted with feeling something I do not necessarily want to be feeling. The problem is it always returns and then my hand and mouth smell terrible and my lungs feel awful. What a crappy way to avoid internal discomfort!
Other common ways of controlling discomfort may include coffee drinking when it is an addictive pattern, habitual email or facebook checking, rearranging and house cleaning, excessive planning, pacing around a room, chewing gum, biting our nails… basically anything that can keep whatever we are feeling tightly under control in a way that we know what we are doing in this moment.
The reason I keep mentioning talking about knowing what we are doing is that when internal discomfort arises and we allow that feeling to surface it can often bring mental confusion and a sense that we don’t really know what is going on right now, so control is a way of bringing us back into knowing exactly what is going on so we don’t have to feel any of that icky stuff.



Sedation is heavier than control in that we reach for a sedative effect when we completely don’t want to feel what is happening inside of us. It isn’t just keeping a lid on the feeling arising until it goes away, sedation is an attempt to completely knock it into oblivion so we don’t have to feel at all.
A great example of sedation is the heartbroken drunk, or drowning our sorrows in alcohol. When we drink it removes our ability to actually feel our heart, which is why it’s possible to do so many stupid things like have sex with someone we wouldn’t normally, because we have no real connection to our heart when drunk.
Sedation is also widely used and accepted in society, as in the form of alcohol or prescription pharmaceuticals. Things like anti-depressants, pain-killers and sleeping pills are all forms of sedation and a way to deal with the discomfort of being alive and living with the pain that we are all feeling, whether we are aware of it or not.
Sedation can also come in the form of the high exercise brings, when it is an addictive compulsion, from the intense need to be around other people to forget ourselves for a while, excessive internet use, television and movies, sleep when it is an escape, eating when it is used to dull a feeling inside, sex, harder drugs like heroin, cocaine, ecstasy and so forth.
Marijuana is a double whammy because when we smoke we get the nice control hit of smoking combined with the sedative effect of being ‘high’. I used marijuana a lot for many years of my life to dull the pain of feeling lonely and unaccepted.
These days I rarely get stoned anymore and instead I often fall into excessive use of being online on the internet, of chatting with people or watching movies, often so unconsciously I do not even realize I am sedating some kind of discomfort until much later.


Either way, with control or sedation, in effect what we are doing is skipping out of being here right now in this moment… because for some reason or another, being in this moment is much too painful.

Sometimes we may even use control or sedation techniques to shut down from feelings that are TOO GOOD like extreme levels of excitement, attraction or turn-on… which is a whole other exploration in itself.

I wonder what this world would look like if as a collective we were much more willing to embrace the full spectrum of feelings both within ourselves and in others. If it was ok to feel anything other than happy and we were able to honestly reply, when someone asked us how we felt, that today we are feeling… whatever complex set of feelings we were feeling even if they are not ‘positive’ by today’s standards and to be accepted completely and totally for that.
My experience, generally, has been when I am asked how I feel and I share anything that is not positive or at a bare minimum ‘ok’ or ‘fine’ or ‘good’, that the general response is to attempt to nudge me in some way to “cheer up” or “think positive” or “look on the bright side” or whatever. I think in some ways it may be this general trend to avoid discomfort that can keep sensitive and honest people like me quietly suffering and feeling misunderstood.

This is a big discussion with many layers and what I am presenting is only the basics of it, as far as I innerstand them myself. I still have a lot of ways to go myself in identifying all the addictive ways I control and sedate my experience and in allowing myself to feel fully those places I would rather keep hidden and buried out of the way. Unfortunately for me I am not very good at repressing inner discomfort and so it keeps bubbling up leaving me no choice but to continuously look, observe and learn to work with it. At the moment it seems endless, so the question I am asking myself these days is “could I be ok if this was it? If this inner pain was all I will ever know for the rest of my existence?”


So I am curious. What ways do you use to control and sedate your authentic feelings?



  1. Agh ! Where to start ? I definitely use alcohol in social situations. I make the assumption the connection won’t be authentic and by using alcohol I scupper any chance 😦 That’s an old, established, frustrating pattern.

    Things are different when I‘m on my own.Then I try to bung my head full of the latest theory, concept, self-development trend. I tell myself I’m working on my practice – but actually it gives me the illusion of control – that if I can just get the right pieces of the puzzle everything will slip into place. But in reality it stops me from facing what is and dealing with all the anxiety and discomfort that brings.

    My coffee addiction is mine and mine alone ! 🙂

    I appreciate you asking Damien.

  2. Nice self observation 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: