Emotions are complicated. They can be uncomfortable, sad, and difficult to handle, understand, and process. When you consider these facts, it is not so surprising that many people end up refusing to feel emotions at all, preferring to remain as oblivious to them as possible.
But let’s go deeper than that. What are the innate causes of this behavior? It is healthy. Can it be changed?
4 reasons why some people refuse to feel emotions
Here are four reasons why some people refuse to feel emotions and help them open up in three ways.
Healthy coping mechanisms allow people to become resilient. This means that they would learn to process complex and difficult emotions or even receive them as an opportunity to grow. When someone knows how to handle things that hurt, they don’t need to reject their feelings; you can experience them and handle the results accordingly.
Unfortunately, not everyone learns positive ways to deal with it. Instead, they can repress their problems, which will lead to even worse feelings, which will lead to even greater repression. People caught in this dangerous cycle are likely to be even more adamant about rejecting their emotions.
It is often in childhood that people learn to reject emotions. They may not have learned to feel, express, and process emotions. This is especially common in men, who are often brought up to believe that “children don’t cry” and are weak to experience that feeling. That said, this can happen to people of any gender.
The ability to cope with negative experiences it is a learned skill. It requires verbalization, self-awareness, and acceptance. It is natural for the brain to turn off those feelings if the necessary skills are not sufficiently developed.
2. They face judgment
Judgment It seems harmless, but faced with it, many people return to the defensive, trying to protect themselves from the unspoken accusation they face. Judgment can be extremely damaging for those struggling to confront their emotions, as feelings are often the subject of such judgment. Here are some ways this happens:
They judge themselves
People are often their own worst critics. An individual may have internalized beliefs about what he should and should not feel, thus becoming his judge of his emotions. When they feel something, someone may decide that they don’t deserve to have that emotion, that they are harmful in some way for experiencing it, or that it is weak to feel at all.
They were tried in childhood
Childhood patterns follow people into adulthood all the time. Someone who refuses to feel emotions may have faced invalidation for expressing their feelings as a child. They may have been told to “hang on,” “stop being a crybaby,” “just be thankful,” or “stop being dramatic.” As a result, they may have learned to internalize that “lesson”, choosing to reject emotions rather than experience them because that is what they learned.
They are now judged by others
The world can be a harsh place. Someone who opens up only to face judgment can protect themselves by suppressing their emotions. When surrounded by close colleagues and so-called loved ones who judge them, it is normal for a person to decide not to show any signs of emotion due to these toxic environments.
They fear judgment
Sometimes judgment doesn’t have to be actively present for people to refuse to feel emotions. Learned behaviors, observed factors, and media influence can all contribute to someone’s fear of judgment. These people may also fear being inappropriate, annoying, or exaggerated, so they decide that their best option to avoid this is not to feel their emotions at all.
3. They fear emotions
Emotions can be overwhelming. Being scared by them is not unusual, and that fear may be enough to make someone refuse to feel them at all. Here are some types of fear of emotions that lead to this behavior:
Fear that it will not end
Some extreme emotions feel like they are endless. Someone may be afraid that those feelings will never end if they give up. For example, they may be in so much pain that they think that if they let themselves cry, they will never be able to stop. Of course, this is not the reality. No matter how strong the emotion is, it will pass. But in the fear of a horrible and endless feeling, people may not be thinking entirely logically to begin with.
Fear of unfamiliar feelings
Many people who initially refuse to feel emotions did so out of necessity. But now that they no longer need to do that to survive, they are faced with an alarming truth: They don’t know what they’re feeling, and trying to find out could open a can of worms. Naturally, they would be somewhat intimidated by this concept.
Fear of being hurt
This one is pretty straightforward. Someone is afraid of being hurt and therefore refuses to feel anything. It is a common defense mechanism, especially in those who have been injured in the past. The desire to keep wounds closed, even when they have healed poorly anyway, may be enough to convince someone to decide to avoid pain altogether.
Fear of past trauma
Sometimes learning to feel emotions can mean having to process the trauma that occurred to cause the initial rejection. That is scary for anyone and you generally need professional help. For many, the easiest option is to not revisit the past trauma and to continue to suppress their feelings.
Fear of rejection
When someone is open about their emotions, they show vulnerability and put their heart at risk. The fear of rejection of your exposure and trampling on your frankness may be enough for many to choose to exit the risk entirely.
4. They have unhealthy attachment patterns.
Attachment patterns are typically formed in childhood. Studies have indicated that primary caregivers can completely change the way a person’s attachment style is: positive Childish attachment leads to positive patterns, but the negative also generates more negativity.
People may refuse to feel emotions because their attachment style is informed by a reality in which it was safer not to feel them. Here are some experiences of caregivers that can form unhealthy attachment patterns:
- A negligent caregiver who never recognized or seemed to care about a child’s emotions
- An abusive caregiver who belittled and invalidated a child’s emotions.
- A busy caregiver who never taught a child how to process and manage emotions.
- An unloving caretaker who gave no love to a child
- A demanding caregiver who required a child to toughen up and not express high intensity emotions.
Here are some tips you can use to help someone feel comfortable about opening up to you.
1. Use active listening skills
Someone who suppresses or rejects their emotions is likely to have bad experiences of invalidation, judgment, and indifferent reactions in the past. Therefore, they are likely to be sensitive to even the slightest misinterpreted signs of disinterest, even if you are actually listening to them.
This is where active listening comes in. This process refers to the ability to show genuine interest, ask questions, and pay due attention to the answers they provide. It means showing that you are committed, even if the person has been talking for a while. This tip allows you to participate in a conversation even when it is not your turn to speak.
Active listening allow someone to feel comfortable opening up to you. They will feel heard and, if you do it well, they will also feel understood. Here are some ways to do active listening:
- Make good eye contact, not too much to make it uncomfortable, but not too much to make it seem boring.
- Make noises, nods, or acknowledging gestures when you speak to indicate that you are listening.
- Don’t interrupt them; Let them finish talking before speaking or asking questions.
- Please don’t do things about yourself by twisting them or exposing your personal experiences unless they ask you to.
- Reflect their phrases; Show that you understand by confirming your point in your own words.
- Please don’t lie about understanding where you can’t; It’s okay to say that you can’t imagine what their pain is rather than saying that you can understand or empathize.
2. Show that you are okay with awkwardness
Talking about feelings, especially when someone is not used to doing it, can be uncomfortable. That may be enough for introverts, the socially anxious, and the emotionally repressed to back off and decide not to participate. But the reality says that it can take a whole month, depending on studiesBefore conversation patterns lose their awkwardness with new people!
Show that you have no problem with initial awkwardness by handling awkward conversations with grace. Don’t walk away from things that feel a little weird unless the other person asks you to back off. The goal is to show that you agree that the discussion is not fluid, which can give someone the push they need to open up.
3. Share your vulnerabilities
If someone is having trouble opening up, you may have to start with yourself. This can create a kind of quid-pro-quo arrangement: You tell them something personal and they respond in kind. Most people can subconsciously realize this.
More importantly, doing this builds trust. It shows that it is okay to be vulnerable between the two of you and that you are confiding your problems to them. Often times this is all the encouragement someone needs to start opening up, as they have established an open and welcoming dynamic between you.
However, it is essential not to be calculating about it. Some people will take longer to open up than others, and your sharing may not immediately produce a balanced response from them. As such, you shouldn’t share vulnerabilities that you don’t feel comfortable sharing just to entice them to do the same.
It is not healthy to suppress emotionsand yet a lot of people do it! If you are trying to be there for someone like this, then understanding their motivations for such behavior and giving them the opportunity to open up can help you overcome these difficulties.