Why Can’t I Feel Deep Feelings?

By Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

From Portugal: Hi, I’m not sure if this is a problem worth of your time, but it causes me a lot of distress. Lately I’ve been spending my days at work looking for answers on the internet, but can’t find anything. It’s affecting my work a lot.

I’ve come to realize that I can’t get emotionally attached to people. I mean, I’m very sociable, talkative and get along with everybody, even though I’m also very introspective. I’m that kind of person that gets along with everybody. People usually like me a lot, they say I’m really nice or funny. The problem is, I can’t get emotionally attached in a deeper level, like in a relationship.

I never fell in love or anything like that. I think I’m very needed and also have a need to please people. If I find a guy who gives me attention and is cute, I start to think a lot about him, but as soon as it comes, it also goes. This also tends to happen in my relationships, for example, I find a guy that is really nice to me and I’m convinced that I like him because I’m always wanting to talk to him, but after awhile, everything fades away or I start to feel suffocated for no apparent reason. Then I feel like they start to annoy me for no reason, even just their presence. Also, when my ex said he liked me, it always made me really uncomfortable. The 1st time he said it, I actually tried to convince him that he didn’t like me, he even got upset. For the entire relationship I never believed it and always expected that one day he would come and say that he was messing with me, and other people would come and laugh at me. I end up breaking up with them and feeling really bad and guilty for hurting them.

I don’t know why this happen, I’m actually a very sensitive person, I’m a very good listener and people tend to come and talk to me when they have troubles. I also cry very easy when I see people hurting on tv, like natural disasters, or tv dramas. I’m also very sensitive to people’s troubles, animals and human rights. In some ways I’m very introspective, I like to be alone a lot and need it to recharge my batteries. Actually in my house, we are always in different rooms, we get together to eat meals.

I’m also not the sharing feelings type, even with my friends. I’m a little suspicious and think they will tell someone about my issues. I’m a very private person. When I find that someone told something about me, even if it’s a little stupid thing, I feel exposed and upset, even if they do it in front of me. I never tend to focus the conversations on me, it makes me uncomfortable, I always let other people talk about themselves and they actually tend to like it a lot.

I don’t know if this is relevant, but my family is a little dysfunctional (not the drinking or drug type). There’s always fights and drama, we can’t seem to have a normal conversation. It is not the type of showing affection either, my father is the one that shows a bit more, my mother never gives me kisses or touches my hair or has said she is proud of me, but she’s like that to all of us, she’s a little cold in that way. Me and my mother always had a very hard relationship. I don’t feel comfortable around her, because sometimes she abuses me verbally and emotionally. She’s always criticizing me, and sometimes when I feel like crying from rage, she would say things like “oh go on and cry, you’re trying to hold it, just cry”, which makes me feel angrier and embarrassed. This is also why I prefer to be in my room alone, it is where I feel calm and comfortable.
I’m sorry for the long text, I know you have to read too many. I hope you can help me, but I understand there are a lot of people with bigger problems, it’s just that I’ve been so lonely. Anyway it was good to let it all out. Thanks for time.

A: Thank you for writing. Everyone’s problem is big to them and is therefore deserving of respect. You’ve presented a very complicated picture. On the one hand, you know how to get along with people and are apparently well-liked. But then you have trouble connecting. I have to wonder if your relationship with your mom has had a greater effect than maybe you think. It could be that from a young age you learned to protect your feelings from your critical mom by keeping a big piece of yourself to yourself. That strategy helped you survive but at a cost. You didn’t get the affirmation or the practice for being in a close and nurturing relationship that usually occurs when parents and children are loving with each other.

I strongly encourage you to get into some therapy to work this through. You are young. You have lots of years ahead of you. Give yourself credit for having become the personable person you are. Then give yourself a chance to learn how to be in a healthy relationship.

I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 5 Jul 2014

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2014). Why Can’t I Feel Deep Feelings?. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 17, 2014, from http://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2014/07/05/why-cant-i-feel-deep-feelings/