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Should I show my emotions more?

(25 Posts)
BurlingtonBertieFromBow Sun 23-Sep-12 22:56:51

I have been thinking about this because a guy I have known for a while recently told me that I never show my emotions and he thinks it isn't good for me.

I am a natural introvert. As a child or teenager I never felt I could tell my parents stuff and cannot get out of the habit of holding everything inside. I actually don't mind this - I find it hard to trust people and also don't want to bore my friends, so I usually just sit on things. The result is that I feel that no one really knows me. Sometimes this bothers me but most of the time I find it a comfort. I have good friends that I spend quite a lot of time with, but we mostly talk about other things. There are some big things that have happened in my life which I have never told anyone (health things mainly).

I am in my twenties, single, no kids and I do wonder if I will ever have a proper LTR and/or have kids because of this. I am quite obsessed with my work and my future career is important to me, so I don't really want anything to interfere with that anyway (kids and maternity leave etc.) I don't really trust men because I have had some bad experiences and witnessed male colleagues and friends behaving badly (screwing around, blowing fortunes, deceiving partners etc.) Maybe I would be happier by myself or having relaxed, private relationships (not getting married, e.g.)

Is anyone else very emotionally contained and do you feel it's a good thing or a bad thing? In my own case I can't really tell.

amillionyears Mon 24-Sep-12 08:42:18

I am not like this,but I think this post is important.
You are right about people would not really know you.
I also wonder whether holding your emotions in,is okish when things are going well,but not so good when they are not.

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 24-Sep-12 09:03:03

I think there is nothing whatsoever wrong with you wanting to be private. Don't compare yourself to the emotional incontinence of the 'Facebook/Big Brother/Twitter Generation' where nothing is too personal or too trivial to be broadcast to all and sundry. That's not healthy at all.

Having said that, being too introverted can also present problems. You can appear cold and aloof, for example. It becomes difficult to make friends and it's certainly difficult to find partners if they find you distant and impersonal.

I understand entirely that you find it difficult to trust others with personal information. It is, after all, risky to share emotions. Unscrupulous types might take advantage of their knowledge to hurt you. You can find yourself the subject of gossip. However, the answer to avoiding this kind of vulnerability is not to exclude yourself but to keep your wits about you and choose what you say and to whom very selectively. It's a learning process that, like anything else, takes practice and involves making mistakes.

BurlingtonBertieFromBow Mon 24-Sep-12 11:12:46

People do often think I'm cold or aloof at first, and I tend to need a bit of general socialising with someone before we become friends. But I do have quite a few good friends so I'm not too worried about that aspect of it.

Sometimes I just feel a bit like a spy - I am very good at withholding information, although I'm not a very good liar and can't evade a direct question at all.

When I was at uni my housemates and I told each other everything, but since I've left uni and time has gone on, I've told people less and less about my life. I've also got lots of different groups of friends who don't know each other and who are quite different which adds to this sort of fragmenting feeling.

Cogito, you're right, sometimes I think I'm comparing myself to the 'share-all' way of doing things and that there's no need because it's OK not to be like that. But I do think I take it too far - for example I recently ended a relationship with someone who was abusive and who scared me, and I never told anyone else about it at all or what he'd done. The last time I had counselling, in relation to the same thing, I ended up barely saying anything for an hour because I couldn't articulate my emotions - it was just blank.

amillionyears Mon 24-Sep-12 11:57:34

Can you say on here what your underlying fears are?
Would you say that you are more fearful of opening up emotionally to men than to women?

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 24-Sep-12 12:08:58

"When I was at uni my housemates and I told each other everything, but since I've left uni and time has gone on, I've told people less and less about my life."

I think that's not unusual. We're much more indiscreet when we're kids because we don't appreciate that things we say can come back to bite us. Back to the FB fools plastering embarrassing pictures of themselves on the internet... We should become more circumspect as we get older. That's part of growing up.

But if you've gone so far the other way that you can't even talk to one good friend about important things that have happened to you, and if this makes you feel concerned, then you probably need to find ways to express yourself or you may suddenly find it becomes overwhelming. Do you keep a journal, for example? Sometimes that can be a good way to 'talk' without compromising your privacy. Even something anonymous like a message board isn't a bad way to articulate very private thoughts ... but you have to have a thick skin about the responses, of course smile

amillionyears Mon 24-Sep-12 12:20:46

I am gentle,Cogito is gentle on here.

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 24-Sep-12 12:21:43

We are soft as grease amilllionyears but not everyone is... smile

solidgoldbrass Mon 24-Sep-12 12:28:52

No, there is nothing wrong with preferring to keep aspects of your life private. Sometimes people who are forever ordering others to display emotion are bad news. They may be controlling, manipulative, nosey or just fucking idiots and emotionally incontinent themselves.

BurlingtonBertieFromBow Mon 24-Sep-12 12:42:45

Cogito - See, I can't even bring myself to keep a 100% honest journal in case someone finds it. Even if I write it on my laptop and password protect it, it makes me feel uneasy. In my job I have to think of the worst case scenario all the time and I think this makes me a bit paranoid. But then the reason I have chosen to do this job is probably because it's what I'm like naturally.

amillionyears - yes. I am happier talking to women. I get on with men very well socially and have quite a few male friends. But we don't really 'open up' to each other as men tend not to do that. We just talk a lot about other things like friends in common, books, politics etc. One of the worst counselling experiences I had was when my counsellor was a man and I was quite antagonistic towards him because I felt he was trying to manipulate me. I don't think I would have thought that if he had been a woman.

I am considering not having any more contact with the man who told me I need to open up and be more emotional. I feel he's trying to control me, as solidgoldbrass says. I'm not sure if that's reasonable response though.

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 24-Sep-12 12:51:59

When the male friend asked you to open up what was the context? If you're upset, for example, it's fairly normal for someone to ask if you want to talk. It's also normal for someone (like me) to suggest that opening up might be healthier than always bottling up. You're right about men being less inclined to want to explore your feelings than women... it's one of the reasons I have quite a lot of male friends. So for a male friend to suggest you're too buttoned-up it might be meant quite sincerely rather than maliciously. Still doesn't mean you have to spill your guts... but when good friends are saying this kind of thing, sometimes it pays to listen.

BurlingtonBertieFromBow Mon 24-Sep-12 12:59:48

He's not an especially good friend but we have had some long and interesting conversations. He has admitted before that it annoys him that he can't 'work me out' (he's a psychologist). I think he just wants to get more info so he can pigeon-hole me tbh. It wasn't in the context of me being upset and wanting to talk but not knowing how.

CogitoErgoSometimes Mon 24-Sep-12 13:06:40

Well then he's just a nosey-parker. Worse, in fact .. a nosey-parker with a degree that makes it official. smile

Zoonose Mon 24-Sep-12 13:09:16

I think people deal with emotions and 'private' thoughts in different ways. While I do talk to friends about things, I don't talk to everyone and I would probably only talk to one or two very choice friends, too. I remember being utterly shocked some time ago when a colleague of mine told me that after her partner's mother died, he sort of retreated into himself when he was grieving and didn't really open up to her, so she moved out! She couldn't seem to see that he needed to deal with his emotions and thoughts in his own way. I thought it was awful and selfish of her.

I do a lot of thinking in my head and in similar password-protected computer notes so I know where you are coming from. So I don't 'bottle up' but I do sort of think through things on paper (which is how I think best). And I don't tell friends or DH all my thoughts and feelings.

I am also not keen on being told how I should be in any particular way. I would not like to be asked to 'open up' about my own private thoughts. Talking to other people is not always helpful. If anything, I suspect talking in anonymity somewhere like this is probably more helpful, because you connect with other people who might understand because they might be more like you than your friends are. For example, I read this because at least two partners have told me I come across as 'cold' and I have had to make attempts to be less aloof or caught up in my own world in relationships sometimes.

I don't know if any of that is helpful. I think if you can find someone you really trust then you will naturally share your thoughts with them. But you don't have to share all your thoughts; no-one does. And also, having children has made me emotionally warmer, I suspect. So it doesn't mean you will never have a LTR or children, it just has to be right for you and who you are.

amillionyears Mon 24-Sep-12 13:15:05

See,I can see the difficulty here.
I may look at it differently.
It may be that the psychologist is a perfectly nicely behaved person.He may like you and want to know you better.And he may want to know you better for purely innocent, getting to know you better,reasons.
And therein lies the problem.It comes down to working out who is genuinely trustworthy.

Dahlen Mon 24-Sep-12 13:23:01

I am very emotionally self-contained, although I'm also extremely sociable so quite a lot of people don't notice that while I can chat all day long to anyone, I'm very careful about what I give away to whom and only a very select few are privy to my deepest feelings and thoughts. I think that's quite healthy TBH.

I'd say that as long as you are aware of your emotions (in the sense that you know what they are and why you are feeling them), and you can articulate them to people you aren't close to when there is a need to, it really isn't a problem if you only let a small number of people close to you.

BurlingtonBertieFromBow Mon 24-Sep-12 13:40:37

Zoonose that is helpful. Sometimes it just helps to know that other people feel like you and they are not weird or fucked up or lonely. I do feel a societal pressure to constantly be open about my emotions but I think it's just a construct really, primarily promoted to make good telly!

The thing is, when I am in a relationship I'm happy with I am very comfortable and it is very emotionally intimate - not so much about telling each other everything but just being very accepting and non-judgemental and not being controlling at all. I am happy to spend time by myself so I don't feel the need to encourage them to be physically with me all the time. I like 'just being' with each other - i.e. sitting together reading in silence. I am much more affectionate than people might think, even my very close friends.

I guess I just get a bit frustrated about this not being understood, but then as I don't open up much I can't expect people to magically get it. People say I am 'not maternal' or 'like Thatcher' or 'an ice maiden' but I think that's just the exterior

Mayisout Mon 24-Sep-12 14:10:14

I am reading a book called 'the Introvert Advantage. How to Thrive in an Extrovert World'. It lists the attributes of an introvert and I think I tick all but one.
It's just a shame I didn't read it 20 years ago because I would have accepted myself more and not felt I wasn't as sociable and outgoing as I should've been.

I'm 3/4 way through it and haven't come to the bit where it says what the advantages are (I hope it does somewhere) but you might find it an interesting read Bertie.

BurlingtonBertieFromBow Mon 24-Sep-12 14:28:41

I would like to read that - there is another one called the Power of Quiet or something which is similar. I can pretend to be an extrovert at dinners and other social occasions and no problem with small talk. But after a few hours it leaves me feeling burnt out

solidgoldbrass Mon 24-Sep-12 20:21:47

BBFB: Yes, dump this man. He is a manipulative fucker sniffing for vulnerability that he can use against you. Your feelings are none of his business and someone who is a trained psychologist and not a predatory shitbag would respect that and leave you alone. You are not his patient, you have not asked him for help; for him to diagnose you as having a problem and order you to change your behaviour is rude and intrusive.

BurlingtonBertieFromBow Mon 24-Sep-12 21:55:18

Thanks solid, I think you're right. We did used to get on really well and had some really interesting conversations. But lately they have descended into him just blatantly digging for private information, and also subtly criticising me. I can't stand being criticised or teased so he's a goner. I know this makes me sound egocentric but I just can't be doing with it. I don't criticise or tease others.

solidgoldbrass Mon 24-Sep-12 22:30:32

You're not sounding egocentric at all. He sounds horrible; I have known one or two people like this and they are not nice and definitely not well-intentioned towards you.

There's a big difference between someone asking for more information if you (generic 'you') have chosen to weep all over them about some distress you are in - then another person might well want more information in order to offer help - and someone asking probing questions in the course of a theoretical/philosophical discussion. This man is not entitled to 'work you out', you are not a piece of his coursework dumped in front of him and he doesn't need to know anything you don't choose to tell him.

(I have often found 'What's it got to do with you?' to be a reasonably good diflecting tool for nosy bellends, though it does escalate the conversation to Condition Rude fairly quickly.)

solidgoldbrass Mon 24-Sep-12 22:32:05

Actually, another thing you could do is ask him equally nosy questions, about his relationships, his feelings, his family history and how often he can get it up. And if he grumbles, smile sweetly and tell him he should be more open and honest...

BurlingtonBertieFromBow Mon 24-Sep-12 23:04:55

Yes, I think it started off as a philosophical/theoretical kind of thing - one of the good conversations - and is now just outright nosiness. He thinks he's really clever but I'm not sure he is...

amillionyears Tue 25-Sep-12 09:06:24

One of the best ways to gauge what a person is like,is to look at their actions.
Some people are very clever with words,but it is far more important to look and watch people actions.

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