Comfortably Numb

I heard Pink Floyd’s song, Comfortably Numb, yesterday, which apparently is an autobiographical tale of Roger Water’s childhood experience with a high fever that made him delirious, giving him the sensation of being dissociated from his body. He had the same feeling at different points in his adult life, including a bout of hepatitis while on tour in the late 70s.

Have you ever had the sensation of being comfortably numb? Most people experience it as a result of a drug or alcohol induced state of consciousness and I imagine that most people drink or take drugs for this very reason. Life weighs on them, they feel pressured from all sides and they want a way out. They do whatever it takes to become comfortably numb.

Unfortunately, this approach tends to compound the problem rather than resolve it. To the degree that the person has addictive tendencies, whether due to genetic, biochemical or other reasons, the escape becomes more important than engaging with life. Addiction always compromises health, for addiction is an imbalance and imbalances constrain to disease.

Another type of comfortable numbness comes on the heels of an adrenaline rush. The adrenaline junkies I know would profess an addiction to the rush or the high that comes with dangerous activities and other forms of exploring the edge of their personal performance envelope, but dig a little deeper and you’ll find that they love the all-consuming mental focus that comes from participating in adrenaline-rich activities. Such intense focus is a variant of comfortable numbness, as odd as that may sound.

Finding a way to be fully present in what you do is an important part of living a life uncommon. Whether work or play, wise is the doer who engages to the depth of his soul in that which he undertakes. What prevents this from occurring? Well, a number of things. Here is a short list that you would be wise to guard against in the days to come:

  1. Wishing you were somewhere else.
  2. Putting off the things you don’t like to deal with until it’s too late.
  3. Artificially inducing the state of comfortable numbness.
  4. Obsessing about the past or the future.
  5. Living virtually, through modern tools such as social media, rather than having real experiences.

Attention span is one of the downsides to the unending stimuli of our current era. The ability to stay engaged, to remain focused from start to finish is an increasingly rare commodity, despite its importance to productive, fulfilling work. If you decide to be fully present, you will have to work at it initially. The habitual distractions, bad habits, co-dependencies and enablers in your world will all have to be met with a kind, but firm and absolute dismissal.

May the force be with you!

9 thoughts on “Comfortably Numb

  1. Brad

    I used to be one of those adrenaline junkies…till I realized it wasn’t really serving ANYONE, including myself.
    Point #4 is interesting – “obsessing about the past or future” – I spent time avoiding the present opportunities because it was never good enough – there was always some experience in the past or future that couldn’t be rivaled.
    I heard it said that “yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift – that’s why they call it, ‘the present’.”
    Made me think about the conscious state I live my life – the present is a gift!
    Thanks Gregg for your continued efforts to bring practical principles to everyday living – makes for an uncommon life…if applied – 🙂


    1. Gregg Hake

      I hadn’t thought of that (“…avoiding the present opportunities because it was never good enough”) reason for not engaging in what is immediately available to be handled. I see the point and note that comparing the present to anything else is a habit fraught with pitfalls. Thanks for your comment and I appreciate your support!


  2. Joshua

    Having made the above errors and more in the vain attempt to seek out that which should be natural through unnatural means, I can confidently say, it’s not worth it!
    Knowing this, allows me also to say with confidence, I choose to be present!

    “Many paths to the dark side(Absence)are there,
    Only one path, to the path of Light(Presence),
    easy is the one way, if one will let it be,
    the only way is the easy way, young Padawan”


  3. Isabelle Kearney

    I enjoyed your short list of numbers (numb-ers). I was also thinking of taking the time/space to really appreciate the people around you. Taking things for granted is a life-numbing experience.


  4. Colin

    I think everyone deals with this in their own way. Our society has become comfort dependent, and it now takes discipline to break away from our new norms. I’ve found that the longer I am fully present, the more momentum I build and the easier it is to stay that way. So start now, if you haven’t!


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