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Thinking & Feeling Differently than Others

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Hi! I’m a 17-year-old high school senior in San Francisco. Ever since I was in elementary school I would spin up stories to gain status or recognition. Now in High school, I’ve been through several relationships (6) that all ended for one different reasons, but I recently realized that a lot of it has to do with the fact that I love falling for someone more than being involved in a relationship, and after I get bored with one person I let the relationship fall apart. Then I’d find someone new and even though I knew that this happened, I’d start to like someone else again, hoping they might be the exception, and ultimately never knowing for sure if they were or not. The funny bit is I’m not even looking for someone to spend my life with. I just fall in love even though consciously it isn’t a priority.

There are a few other parts to this. I’ve always experienced emotions differently than others and I’ve suspected so for a long time, although it cannot really be proven. I just can’t relate to people when they discuss their emotions. I’ve always been an understanding person though, helping people through depression, some at times when they would have otherwise committed suicide. I’ve always understood how other people think and I have been able to empathize and understand their feelings, but other times I just felt different.

My recent revelation is that I am actually able to focus and decide how strongly to feel about different things. Depending on the situation I can actually decide to stop experiencing most emotions and it works, it’s been very helpful in getting over those six breakups. Or at least not caring about them.

I don’t know what all of this really is. I did some independent research and I don’t believe it’s psychopathy because I can allow myself to feel regret or other more natural emotions, though I typically prefer to shut them down. But I also want to be clear that it isn’t a defense mechanism; I’m don’t deny my emotions’ influence over me, and I don’t know how to describe what I do. But when relax, the emotion fades away. And when they’re gone, I can act out emotions perfectly. If you could provide me with any advice as to what this is or what it means, I’d be ever-grateful! Thank you!

Thinking & Feeling Differently than Others

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You stated that you experience emotions differently than other people, but how do you know that you’re right about what other people feel? The only way to compare yourself to other people would be to do well designed research measuring their emotional experiences and compare theirs to yours. Even if there were a difference, it would not necessarily mean there is a problem. If your emotional state negatively impacts your life and causes distress to you or to other people, then it’s a problem.

On one hand, it’s normal for people — especially teenagers — to have many relationships. That is the nature of dating. Those relationships tend to be (though not in every case) shallow and short-lived.

On the other hand, the reasons you gave for how and why your relationships end, may indicate a problem. It seems as though it is possible that you are easily bored, take people for granted and have unreasonable expectations about relationships. If that is true, it could cause future relationship problems. It’s good to be aware of potential problems and to get help for them, if necessary.

I agree with your assessment of psychopathy. You didn’t describe the emotional life of a psychopath. Psychopaths have feelings but they tend to be self-centered people who are unconcerned with hurting others. In fact, they have no problem hurting people if it advances their personal goals and feel no guilt. It is one of the reasons why they are so dangerous.

You describe an ability to shut down your emotions. I would need more information about how it happens and under what circumstances, to know fully what you mean but it could be an example of your trying to avoid painful emotions. Avoidance is a bad emotional habit. None of us can go through life without experiencing painful emotions; suffering, to one degree or another, is a part of everyone’s life. The goal for everyone should be making the best choices and using logic and truth as guides to help minimize psychological pains. These are skills you can acquire in counseling.

I would need more information about the nature of your emotions to determine if a disorder is present. Not having much information limits my ability to fully answer your question. I would recommend consulting a therapist, in-person, to discuss your concerns. He or she can gather more information and determine whether treatment is necessary. Please take care.

Dr. Kristina Randle

Thinking & Feeling Differently than Others

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW

Kristina Randle, Ph.D., LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist and Assistant Professor of Social Work and Forensics with extensive experience in the field of mental health. She works in private practice with adults, adolescents and families. Kristina has worked in a large array of settings including community mental health, college counseling and university research centers.

APA Reference
Randle, K. (2018). Thinking & Feeling Differently than Others. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 5, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 May 2018 (Originally: 3 Aug 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 May 2018
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