The Void of Feeling

For years, I have maintained the belief that adolescence is synonymous with emotion. To some extent, teenagehood is associated with feeling, whether it be experiencing euphoria or sorrow – yet I have since realised that numbness, or indifference, is equally as valuable as emotion.

As I grew older, I maintained an unforgiving relationship with hatred and dread – I would blame myself for becoming embedded within the realm of indifference. I could not merely accept it – I desired a source of fault. I slowly began to isolate myself further, as I came to the conclusion that exterior factors must have provoked the numbness I felt. Deep down, however, in the depths of my soul, I knew detachment and indifference existed and thrived within me – and that I was foolish to believe otherwise. I grieved the person who I once was, before I became lost in a void. As a coping mechanism, I evoked the memories from when I was younger – when I did not succumb to numbness.

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Illustration by Emiliano Bastita

I am currently re-learning that nostalgia is a liar – a mysterious entity with no purpose other than to conceal the truth. I have discovered that nostalgia warps and distorts past experiences – it shrouds hardships and pain in shadows, and allows happiness and joy to bathe in divine light. I would subconsciously erase the moments of numbness, as I wanted to believe that they never had existed. However, I have since realised that indifference had always thrived within me. I have discovered that numbness can manifest in varying forms; whether it be crying and feeling my tears dissolve into my skin, or while maintaining a blank, empty gaze.

I have recently discovered that when I enter states of numbness, I can welcome fleeting thoughts, rather than ostracising them. Instead of describing periods of indifference as empty/lonely/isolating, I can realise that numbness is malleable. It can be distorted and manipulated in order to allow me to explore the core of who I am. When there are no exterior factors which contribute to the feeling of numbness, and my mind is not clouded by thought, I can calmly flip through the layers of my soul – much like the worn pages of a book.

Since recognising that indifference is not a burden, but rather a feeling which I can peacefully coexist with, I have learnt three things:

  1. Suppression is not a viable mechanism of escape. Previously, when I entered states of numbness and isolation, I attempted to suppress the empty pit in my stomach and instead plead for a feeling of substance. I longed for escape – it seemed much a like a distant utopia, in which I could feel exactly what I desired at any particular moment. However, I have learnt that suppression merely immortalised thoughts of self-blame and self-hatred. Eventually, after suppressing my feelings of numbness and indifference for some time, they began to demand an outlet. I realised that my warped ideal of escapism (rejecting my feelings) was not a sustainable one, and that in order to coexist with numbness, I needed to acknowledge and accept it.
  1. Being in the midst of numbness can be peaceful. As a teenager, I would be overwhelmed and engulfed by intense, unyielding emotion. I would spend hours trying to heal and reconciling my thoughts. When I entered states of indifference, I would closely follow this practice – of feeling overwhelmed and powerless, and then attempting to articulate my emotions. In spite of this, I have since learnt that sometimes, emotions and feelings are not designed to be deciphered and closely examined. They are free-floating, weightless – they are entities which can exist without categorisation. I have also realised that being in the midst of numbness does not have to be chaotic. I can acknowledge the indescribable feeling of indifference. I can realise that numbness is the epitome of infinity, and that it allows my thoughts and feelings to exist in their purest form.
  1. Indifference is not perpetual – it is malleable. When I was younger, and I entered states of numbness, I felt as though I was trapped. I believed that I was locked within a prison of isolation and indifference. However, I have learnt that numbness is not an all-powerful force in which I must conform to. Indifference has allowed me to peacefully welcome my thoughts in whatever form they manifest in – whether they be fleeting or undying. Numbness is malleable – it can be distorted and moulded, to allow me to fully acknowledge and accept my thoughts. I can welcome them, in whatever form they arrive.
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Illustration by Emiliano Bastita

Although the feeling of numbness cannot truly be articulated, I believe that it is both the ancestor and the descendant of emotion. Numbness resides within emotion – yet it also surrounds it. I once believed that indifference was the void of feeling – that nothing could exist within it. However, I have realised that numbness is an entity which is forgiving – it is a force which has allowed me to grow and exist freely. Numbness is all that is infinite. I know that this is true, as something which I have been telling myself recently is: If emotion is a galaxy, numbness is every solitary star.

– Lottie Frohmader



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