What are the signs that you are not in touch with your emotions? A certified psychoanalyst, Hilary Jacobs Hendel is full of stories in her book on how we are or are not in touch with our emotions, and how that can lead to experiencing anxieties and depression.
Why Are We Uncomfortable to Deal with Emotions?
Let’s admit, most of us are not comfortable with our emotions. We have been raised in a culture where we are taught not to trust our emotions or even to dismiss them. We have been told all our lives that we should control our emotions. The truth is our emotions are often not under conscious control. On top of that, no one teaches us about emotions and what type of emotions we are experiencing. All we know is there are negative emotions that make us feel bad and positive ones that make us feel bad. Avoid the negative ones, chase the positive ones.
Core emotions such as sadness, anger, disgust, fear, excitement and joy are part of our biological survival program. While emotions such as shame, anxiety and guilt are part of core emotions, there to keep us in the good graces of our peer groups, social norms and our family.
One thing that we are taught in our culture is how to avoid emotions. Our society even praises when we are not showing emotions. Those people who don’t show emotions are often called stoic, strong and independent.
To be in control of your emotions is very desirable in our society which means that we shouldn’t show our emotions. There is a fine line here. Yes, we shouldn’t cry in the middle of a meeting because someone said something that makes us feel bad but we should be able to find a way how to express the feeling to the person who made us feel bad. Maybe we should have a one-on-one with that person and tell them how we feel? Dismissing how we feel means that we are dismissing ourselves.
How to Know You are Out of Touch with Your Emotions
Do you avoid conflicts with your partner? Or laugh when someone is talking about sad things? Do you change the topic when something uncomfortable comes up in a conversation? Is it hard to be alone, to receive a compliment, to relax and slow down? Do you blame others a lot or you can’t stop worrying? Or you prefer to work over emotions and relationships?
If the answer is yes on some or most of the questions above, the chances are you are not in tune with your emotions. All these are strategies to defend yourself against emotions which leads to ignoring how you feel.
Is Avoiding Emotions Good?
We are taught to avoid negative emotions and to suppress them. Every now and then, it’s ok to avoid emotions but when it becomes a habit you become someone who is not ready to deal with their emotions at all. Buried emotions are often a cause of discomfort and even more, they are a root cause for most psychiatric disorders such as depression or anxiety.
What do You Do?
If you recognize yourself as someone who avoids emotions all the time, don’t be too hard on yourself. Remind yourself that you probably grew up believing that emotions are for weak people. Think about how many times you were told: Get over it!
Simply by learning more about emotions you can become comfortable with them and you will feel better eventually in dealing with strong emotions such as shame and guilt. In school, we learn a lot about the outside world, but we learn very little about ourselves and about our thoughts and feelings.
Don’t forget that emotions are biological forces that put stress on our body when we dismiss them. Emotions are more than often normal reactions to the environment that we are experiencing. When you get comfortable with your emotions, you will become comfortable in your own skin.
To thrive in life and to be successful as a human being, you need to tend both to your thoughts and emotions. You need to find a balance where you are not completely ignoring how you feel.