Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Hidden emotions

Sometimes I think I control my emotions too much. I'm seldom spontaneously happy or enthusiastic or angry or jealous or admiring. The emotions are there all right but I don't often show them.

Add to this the fact that my emotions tend to be slow-burning anyway, and may only bubble up some time after the event, and I know I sometimes seem to be emotionless. But that isn't so.

It always puzzles those people who voice their feelings loud and clear. They wonder why I'm so cool about something I ought to be really excited about - holiday plans, or moving house, or a sudden windfall or a great new job. Or they wonder why I’m not distraught and tearful over some personal catastrophe or someone’s death. Well, I am excited or distraught but I just don't pour it in all directions.

I suppose I'm a bit suspicious of people who splurge their emotions so easily and so openly. Are they genuine or are they only putting it on because that's what people expect? They're probably totally genuine and I'm just perversely cynical.

I must say at times I find emotionally uninhibited people rather hard to take - it's tiring being assailed by a constant flood of passion and spleen on every conceivable subject. Though maybe they're just being human and I'm a repressed tight-arse.

But I think expressing my emotions too impulsively and thoughtlessly can have unintended consequences, not always positive. I might easily say something that embarrasses other people (or myself). I might be unwittingly offensive or insensitive or shocking. It seems better to keep my emotions to myself unless there's a good reason for blurting them out. Or at least let them settle for a while.

Am I that unusual or are there plenty like me? Come on, tell me honestly. Am I sensibly cautious or am I just a cold fish?


  1. Nick,

    Are we a product of our generation? My father frowned on weepy women and I often heard him say "Their bladders are near their eyes!" Perhaps that left a mark on me as I tend to hold my emotions in check.

  2. Nick, familliar with statistics? Bell curves? There is bound to be a statistical distribution of human character, you happen to fall into one bin, while someone else falls into another. No big deal. I gave up worrying about such things long ago, I just try to make sure that my 2 girls at home know I love tham loads and always will, after that it's mostly unimportant and can be covered (in my case) but "Mr. nice_but_dim_(but often a good deal sharper than expected)".

  3. Grannymar - Their bladders are near their eyes? Never heard that one, very witty. Given that I often want to pee the moment I turn on a tap, I think my eyes are near my bladder.

    Thrifty - Ah, the diplomatic response - statistical continuum etc. Good point, the important thing is that other people know you love them and care about them. And that you aren't going to do them any harm.

  4. I would go with thriftcriminal, we are all different.

    Don't beat youself up over it.

  5. That's what makes life so interesting Nick, how boring it all would be if we were all the same.
    I'm a mixture. If with dear friends and family, I'm all over the place. But cautious, even silent with people I don't know very well.
    Like GM, I was told the same thing as a child re the bladder. an awful expression, mixing up tears with bodily waste.
    Sometimes it's lovely to just hug a secret joy all to ourselves.
    You certainly show us your inner self here on your blog!

  6. Muddy - Well that's true enough, we're all different. Okay, I'll relax a little and not get too worried about it!

    www - So the bladder expression must be an old Irish one. Yes indeed, sameness is boring, which is why I always gravitate towards quirky, offbeat people. And I like to show my inner self a bit, I like to reveal all the different sides of Nick!

  7. I find most men in particular rather hesitant to show their emotions as they age. I'm not talking about weeping and wailing but open displays of affection or anger or frustration . . .I tend to be on the emotional end of the scale. Love deeply, anger easily, frustrate a lot but not much on the weepy end of the scale. We're big physical contact is natural to us. Big as my boy is, he get's his hug a day and told how proud I am of him on many an occasion. It's important to let others know how you feel without turning into a snivelling mess . . .I find it very hard to control frustration at work tho and often have to bite my lip to keep the peace.

  8. You're reserved. And there's nothing wrong with that. :) I'm the same way. Frankly, I don't find over-the-top emotional displays very appealing - from anyone. Jai yen yen.

  9. Like WWW said, it's good to have a diversity of ways we people can react to stuff that happens. We all balance each out quite well. But, if it bothers you that you control your emotions so well, maybe you can do things to change that. I used to do the same, then I went a little toward the opposite end, and now I'm starting to swing back toward keeping my emotions under wraps a bit more.

  10. I tend to bottle things up and then at some point the volcano errupts ! Run for cover when that happens!

  11. Baino - Funnily enough, unlike most men I'm very good at showing affection. I'm always touching and stroking Jenny and telling her I love her. In fact she calls me an old slopbag sometimes. At least I'm aware of my emotions, a lot of men still deny they have such female inconveniences.

    Chani - I guess there's nothing wrong with being reserved. I like the expression. Here's the explanation I found: "This literally means 'cool your heart'. It is not the Thai way to lose your cool so if anyone sees a friend beginning to get angry and emotional they will urge them to 'jai yen yen'".

    Liz - Interesting you were able to become more emotionally expressive. Not sure how I'd go about that. I'll have to think about it (or maybe do rather than think!)

    Quickie - Funny, your "photo" suggested that to me! I assume though that the eruption doesn't last very long - you get it all out of your system and then you're just a cuddly puppy again!!

  12. I have the opposite problem - I would probably be one of those folks you are cynical about. I can tell you that in my case, it is genuine. I have no idea how to control my emotional responses to things, as is probably most evident in my blog!

    My husband is more like you describe yourself, and I know plenty more who are the same, so I wouldn't worry that you're alone there. Being emotional has often proved to be a liability for me, so perhaps you've got the right idea!

  13. FG - If you say your emotions are genuine, I'm sure they are! I expect some people are cynical about me, they probably think I'm terrified of showing my emotions and being my real self! Still, if Max is similar maybe you have some idea how I tick!

  14. I tend to keep a lot inside because of my early conditioning, probably. I know that I feel things deeply, but people have to know me really well to be aware of that.

    I am naturally very interested in others and most people consider this personal warmth, but I know how much I'm not showing.

  15. Heart, I can tell from the way you write and what you write about that you feel things deeply. That can often be deduced even if someone seems at first glance to be quite phlegmatic.

  16. Nick, without meeting you in person, it would be hard to judge. From the writing on your blog and your sensitive comments on other people's blogs I deduce that you are emotionally aware, perceptive and giving of yourself. A traditional male boarding school education is not given to unwarranted displays of emotion. That is not the same as being a cold fish.

    My emotions are never far from the surface, yet I also feel things deeply. Sometimes I withdraw into myself, put up the barriers and show little of what is going on inside. That is a very early defensive mechanism and happens mostly with my family of origin.

  17. Hulla, what a very flattering assessment of me, thank you! True enough about male boarding schools discouraging emotional display. I tend to be emotionally much the same with my mum and sister - it's just that there are lots of things I choose not to tell my mum!

  18. I think you're perfectly normal and necessary to balance out people who are more emotive (is that a word?). What matters most is that you understand your feelings and that you're partnered with someone who understands (and accepts) how and why you are. I have a good friend who's like you and she's the person I rely on most for sound, nonjudgmental advice. I know she's a good hearted person, but also capable of removing emotion from a situation and looking at it logically. I don't always do that.

  19. Nicole - Yep, emotive is a bona fide word! Thanks for equating me with your very supportive, nonjudgmental friend! And yes, fierce emotion can be a great asset in some situations but in others it can definitely cloud our judgment and lead to some very foolish decisions.

  20. Nick,

    I can totally relate to your conservative emotional expression... I think it comes from a combination of learned behaviour from our parents/unbringing, and what is demanded from us in our current lives/relationships.

    I think it is healthiest to observe your reactions to people and situations BEFORE showing them explicitly - whether said reactions would be percieved as "good" or "bad". (This is one of the things that regular meditation practise has taught me...)

    Also, people can come across as hyper-emotional as a way of HIDING themselves. Much in the same way people repress their emotional response to create a neutral persona.

    Gosh, this is complicated! The bottom line, I guess, is this: are you happy the way you are? Or is your approach to emotional expression inhibiting your life experience in some way?

  21. Shelly, thanks for that sympathetic response! I'm glad you think it's healthy to examine our emotions before we hurl them everywhere! Yes, I agree emotional outbursts can be another way of concealing oneself. And I guess I'm happy the way I am, I don't feel inhibited.

  22. I'm also wary of the overly emotional drama queens.
    We don't have to share everything.

  23. Medbh, very true we don't have to share everything. Mind you, I don't think many do. Some people are expert at appearing to be utterly frank but actually under the gush they keep a great deal well hidden.