The inner wall
Many of us grew up in families where one didn't talk about feelings. Maybe it was seen as self-indulgent or it was just experienced as embarrassing. So we never learned to deal with feelings, especially difficult ones, in a constructive way. They were either acted out through screaming and shouting, through aggressive or even violent behaviour, through harsh words and criticism, or they were bottled up and dismissed. Maybe we were asked sometimes: "How are you?" and we responded: "Yeah fine, not too bad". Probably nobody ever insisted and said: "No, how are you really? How do you feel? What's on your mind?" We stay at a safe distance from each other and make sure nobody ever gets too close to how we really feel.
This may be the appropriate thing in a social situation but not in a relationship or family. There won't be real closeness if we can't talk to each other about our innermost feelings. Children will then never learn that there are other ways to deal with difficult feelings than acting them out or bottling them up, and that the results will be different if we act angrily and aggressively or swallow the anger, or if we say: "This makes me really angry!" and the response would be: "Right, I understand! Do you want to tell me why this makes you angry?" (or sad or scared etc.). If we are allowed to express our emotions, including the pleasant ones like happiness or excitement, and are heard by someone who really wants to know, we learn to be aware of them and to understand them. We also learn that to express emotions in this way creates closeness. It's how love comes about! If there is a mountain of unspoken feelings between us, then we lose sight of each other, we feel lonely, and the love we might have felt for the other person at one time gets buried under a heap of rubble. It's still there but we can't feel it anymore. But if we learn to speak and to listen to one another, then love will come back.
This is of course not as easy as it sounds. If it feels dangerous to speak about feelings, if we are scared to be rejected or humiliated, then that is probably what happened to us in our childhood. We then learned to build defences, like an inner wall, that protected us from hurt. But later this inner wall will get in the way; it won't allow us to be really close to someone else. We might still long for closeness but at the same time we won't let anybody come close and we'll push them away without even realising it.
Counselling can help you to bring love back into your life!
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About Judith Schuepfer-Griffin
My name is Judith, and I'm writing in the way I do because I would like to make psychological thinking more accessible for everyone. I have noticed that it often helps to create a context within which new ideas make more sense. With my articles I'm trying to create that context and hopefully also an enjoyable reading experience.