Emotions are something we all have in common and the fabric of our humanity. When these feelings are absent, it can be hard for us to connect with others. Feelings are a pathway to relating with one another. Connection with our emotions allows us to create deeper and meaningful relationships through empathy and communication. Emotional detachment deprives us of showing up authentically in our relationships.
Emotional detachment disorder can show up several ways. The first is when someone avoids situations that can cause anxiety or overwhelming feelings as a way of coping (ex. attending a funeral, revisiting a traumatic situation, dealing with conflict). Another way is using it as a protective barrier that keeps us from feeling painful or negative emotions.
The Cause of Emotional Detachment
There are several reasons why we struggle with connecting to our emotions; many of these occur during childhood. For many children, the power exerted by a caregiver or other adult can shut down the self-expression. Children will then control the only power they have which is to control their own emotions. The practice of internalization stops us from feeling painful surface emotions in order to protect the subconscious by disconnecting. Emotional suppression can lead to unhealthy or destructive behaviors like drugs and alcohol use in an attempt to escape from negative emotional buildup (think volcano eruption!)
Symptoms of Emotional Detachment
One of the signs that someone is struggling with emotional detachment is an inability to express their emotions or show empathy towards others. This is not because they necessarily don’t want to, but the practice of suppression has hindered their pathway of connection. Another sign of emotional numbness is being overly rational about a situation. So instead of leaning into their negative emotions they instead will be overly logical to manage the sting of the painful feelings. Many sufferers of emotional detachment have unsuccessful personal relationships because they struggle to connect.
What Traits Do Emotionally Detached People Have?
Most people who experience emotional detachment have neurotic personality traits that are characterized by symptoms such as anxiety, insecurity, phobias, and depression, which may have resulted from a chaotic childhood. They are likely to be philosophical, devalue emotions, and extremely independent. They will often be uncomfortable at a public display of emotions and react either inappropriately humorous, or disgusted. Relationships for them often fail because they are unable to connect and are usually distant from their partner.
Emotionally detached people are usually drawn to animals, nature, and art in an attempt to connect. While this can be helpful in feeling some emotions, it can’t replace the () of processing emotions, therefore hindering them from living a meaningful life. Emotionally detachment can come with perpetual loneliness, disconnection, and ambivalence in life and appear aloof and uncaring.
How To Treat Emotional Detachment
Emotional detachment is a serious problem that needs professional help. However, you can start without counseling by simply working on relating to others. This means consciously and openly moving towards others emotionally, and letting down your guard. You will feel uncomfortable initially but the connection will come.
Counseling will help you to identify emotions, as well as teach you how to express them properly. Learning how to understand and feel emotions can be very scary, but it can also give you tools for connecting with others that will create meaningful and authentic relationships. You will be able to experience the highs and lows, instead of going through the motions of simply existing.