I really relate to this. I was a highly emotional child as well, and the reaction I so typically received was of shaming me for having such strong emotions. My emotions were not understood or validated by my family and therefore I came to distrust them. I was labeled very young as insecure, too sad, depressed; so I tamped my emotions down as a means to survive. What’s worse is that I then became friends with people who replicated the dynamics of my family. Because it wasn’t safe for me to express my strong emotions, I too began to have situations where I came off like an emotionless “sociopath.”

I wasn’t a sociopath, of course. It’s just my emotions weren’t accepted so I trained myself not to have them. But I still had them. I just denied them, which led to depression and a lot of other problems.

I was lucky to finally find a good therapist, who taught me to embrace my emotions — to be authentic. The upside was that I felt amazing. The downside was I lost all my friends.

I had to realize that I’d been choosing friends and boyfriends who didn’t understand me and who didn’t respect my emotions. These were often also people who liked me exactly because I was such an amazing listening board and allowed them to take up all the space with their strong emotions. But to allow me to share the space? Never.

Now I simply do a better job of choosing people who actually respect/accept me, emotions and all. That and I’ve also had to learn to express my emotions more calmly. Though I should be able to express any emotion, like anger, I should do so in a way that is respectful to my friends or lover.

That means holding space for my feelings but not yelling or acting out in seriously negative ways. But in the beginning, the important thing was just to feel the emotions; so yes, for a while I did just have to be alone.

You do have the emotions. It’s just our world too often doesn’t accept emotions. Being authentic to ourselves means losing or hurting people. And when we do get into relationships, all we can do is to build relationships with good boundaries, where neither side takes up all the emotional space and both sides practice expressing their strong emotions in respectful ways.

I write about relationships, women’s issues, and my highly imperfect life. Learn more about me: my.bio/theformerlymrs Support: ko-fi.com/ellesilver

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