My wife was seriously ill and I loved her very much. We had been involved in a serious car crash (my fault), and the doctor didn't expect her to survive. (Shirley lived, but that's another story.)
As I sat by her bedside in the hospital, I felt nothing. I was totally numb. What's wrong with me? I asked myself. This is the person I love most and I can't feel anything.
That wasn't the first time I had numbed out; it wasn't the last time. Over the years, I encountered extremely difficult situations and yet felt nothing. I was sure that something was defective in me.
To make it worse, I sometimes cried. But it was always about someone with whom I had no strong emotional ties. I didn't understand how I could be sad over small things and yet feel nothing about the hurt of those I loved most.
Here's how I finally understood what happened. While I was doing my usual pre-dawn run, a car made a U-turn in front of me and knocked me down. I had no pain, but three days later I sensed what I called "a little discomfort" in my left hip. It didn't hurt, but it was a nuisance.
At my wife's urging, I went to a chiropractor and he did a number of tests. He kept asking, "Does this hurt?" Nothing he did caused me to say yes.
"You have a very high tolerance for pain," he finally said.
On the phone a few days later, I related that incident to my younger brother Chuck. He laughed and said, "Don't you remember how Dad beat us and we didn't cry? We didn't feel it."
Just then the numbness made sense. Whenever powerful emotions overwhelmed me, I numbed out. Because I couldn't cope with the crushing impact, I had no feelings.
I've since learned to reclaim my emotions. To some it may sound strange, but I praise God because I feel sad when my wife hurts or one of my children has a serious problem. It's safe to feel and I'm not afraid of my emotions.