Emotional paralysis is an energy-depleting, soul-crushing combination of anxiety, depression, fear of the future, rumination over the past, and an all-consuming guilt. Think of it as a hybrid beast that tries to strangle you and prevent you from moving on, even during your sleep. Having it doesn't make you unusual or mentally ill - all of us suffer from it to varying degrees because it is an inevitable part of being human (and I distrust those who claim that there are treatments and medications that can automatically "fix what is wrong" or "make that person normal"). However, some of us grew up feeling more emotionally paralyzed than others, depending on the severity of tension between the external self that tries to meet the demands of survival in a certain environment and the internal self that strives and wrestles against external circumstances with the purpose of creating a genuine life.
Growing up emotionally paralyzed can be taxing for children and these signs often carry on through adulthood, which can prevent adults from being fully immersed and engaged in their present lives. The effects can be crippling at best and devastating at worst.
Here are the 25 common signs of emotional paralysis:
1. You allow fear of uncertainty make decisions for you because you are so paralyzed by the fear of failure. You don't even try anything new that you want to do, since you have a "fail-or-stay-where-I-am" mentality.
2. You mentally freeze any time your inner self tries to initiate a change. As a result, change doesn't occur for days, weeks, months, or even years.
3. You expect most authority figures to shoot you down or belittle you, regardless of whatever you do or don't do, so you often tremble, slouch, and look at the floor whenever you are in their presence, but you often try to find ways to avoid them at all costs.
4. You keep putting off your passion projects because someone else said they were childish games that you were destined to lose.
5. You feel like you need to justify yourself to be worthy of someone's approval. This makes you sick and angry, but you feel helpless and are unable to move forward, since you believe the world operates this way.
6. It is difficult for you to wake up in the morning. You have very irregular sleeping and waking times.
7. You spend hours looking at and envying other people's lives, especially those who have lives that you wish you had, but you are frozen immediately after you try to step out of your consumption zone and move towards your creation zone.
8. No matter how old you get, you still feel like a scared, little child.
9. When you go through life not trying your best (because of fear of failure), people misjudge you as "entitled," but you actually are the opposite - you think you are unworthy of asking for what you want. Your defense mechanism involves trying to be as small as possible, never asking for anything until you think you've worked enough for it (but because of lack of confidence, you don't ever think you do).
10. You lack confidence and believe that you're worse off than you really are because other people's success paralyzes you and makes you think that you can't ever catch up.
11. You catastrophize the outcome of even a tiny action that has no relation to whatever you're afraid could potentially happen.
12. You often deny that you are emotionally paralyzed and claim to be fine.
13. The news upsets you because political agendas, stories of other people suffering, and people's participation in movements make you feel more ashamed for thinking about your own issues and wanting to make life better for yourself first.
14. You shut the world out by napping a lot, escapism (through media), or surfing the web.
15. You mentally force yourself to erase bad memories of past events and things others have said to you, but they keep recurring and you end up wasting time ruminating over them.
16. Your feelings are all-or-nothing. You're either numb or explosive.
17. The only thing you're happy about is that you're not feeling sorry for yourself. You know you want to get better and you know it's possible - it's just that there's a strong force within that's holding you back and making you feel paralyzed and unable to cope with change.
18. You have passion for changes that you desire to implement in your life, but that passion gets shut down whenever your mind wanders off to the past and relives the memory of a time when someone said something condescending towards you.
19. Sometimes, you think that you can live with this and be okay. Other times, you feel like you're dying (this goes to show you how feelings are pliable and fleeting).
20. You feel best when you are doing work that engages you (whether it's a job you love, a hobby that brings you joy, or a combination of both), but people's judgments of what you like to do (either for a living or for personal enjoyment) hold you back from pursuing more of it.
21. You are so afraid of the worst things that could happen in the future so much that you believe that all things you fear the most are guaranteed to happen in the future, and you can't do anything to prevent it, and you think that if you try, you'll end up somehow worse off - ostracized, destitute, unfulfilled, and ashamed.
22. You make most decisions based on the fear of three things: fear of the future, fear of what people will think, and fear of failure.
23. You have a difficult time reconciling your multiple selves - the trembling self you show to those you fear, the detached self you show to anyone you don't know, the worst self that explodes whenever you're alone or with someone closest to you, the chill self that you reveal to those you feel comfortable around (which are very few people), the diligent self that you show at work or school, the creative self that is like your best friend in times of trouble, the ideal self that you wish to become, and the hidden self that is vain, mysterious, strange, and unrecognizable.
24. You either eat too much or too little. You exercise too much or too little. You sleep too much or too little. You do too much of one thing and neglect others. You expect too much and do too little. Or you do too much and accomplish little.
25. You are more fearful than at peace. You are more dissatisfied than content. You know what you want, but you fear the judgment and condescending remarks of others. You are in a constant cycle of worry, sadness, and distress. You think more about the future and the past, and are everywhere but the present, as a consequence of being afraid of the state of simply being and facing your own paralysis head-on.