Helpguide.org, in their article Common ways of avoiding emotions we don’t like, describes we are all born with a capacity to freely experience the full range of human emotions—including joy, anger, sadness, and fear. Yet many people are disconnected from some or all of their feelings. By trying to avoid pain and discomfort, their emotions have become distorted, displaced, and stifled. You lose touch with your emotions when you attempt to control them, rather than experience them.
Ways of avoiding strong emotions and feelings
- Distracting yourself with obsessive thoughts, escapist fantasies, mindless entertainment, and addictive behaviors in order to avoid emotions you fear or dislike.
- Watching television for hours, playing computer games, and surfing the Internet are common ways we avoid dealing with our feelings.
- Sticking with one emotional response that you feel comfortable with, no matter what the situation requires. For example, constantly joking around to cover up insecurities or getting angry all the time to avoid feeling frightened and sad.
- Shutting down or shutting out intense emotions. If you feel overwhelmed by your emotions, you may cope by numbing yourself. You may feel completely disconnected from your emotions, like you no longer have feelings at all.
Consequences of avoiding emotions and feelings
- You don’t know yourself. This is one of the most important consequences.
- It includes understanding why you react to different situations, how much or how little things mean to you, and the difference between what you want and what you really need.
- You lose the good, along with the bad. You either feel your emotions or you don’t. When you shut down negative feelings like anger, fear, or sadness, you also shut down your ability to experience positive feelings such as joy, love, and happiness.
- It’s exhausting. You can distort and numb emotions, but you can’t eliminate them entirely. It takes a lot of energy to avoid having an authentic emotional experience and keep your feelings suppressed. The effort leaves you stressed and drained.
- It damages your relationships. The more you distance yourself from your feelings, the more distant you become from others, as well as yourself. You lose the ability to build strong relationships and communicate effectively, both of which depend on being in touch with your emotions. Check out your level of emotional awareness – read more>