Sometimes we don't feel our emotions. It is as though they are hidden or frozen inside us. Such emotional detachment may have occured occassionally in your past, for example if there were certain notable experiences in your childhood when you felt nothing. Or perhaps your disconnection is ongoing, and you often fail to emotionally respond to significant events in your current life. Maybe you are a person who has rarely felt your emotions, past or present.
More likely, you have felt some of your emotions, but you have overlooked or been confused about others. For example, if you are easily irritated, or take a lot of risks, you may be disconnected from fear. If you are overly nice, you may ignore your anger.
While some people may see emotional detachment as a blessing or even a source of pride, it's not really natural for human beings and mammals to be indifferent to changes that pertain to their happiness. This is only really normal for aliens from Vulcan.
Humans react to meaningful events with basic emotions: anger, fear, sadness, disgust or joy. People who don't feel their emotions often experience an inchoate, but pervasive sense of emptiness. This is a common problem in our postmodern society, where so many of us have stopped paying attention to our personal feelings.
The absence of certain feelings can be a clue to a problem, or to what I call metaphorically an "emotional crime." Because emotions are a universal part of human nature, not feeling them suggests that something has gone wrong. Sometimes it is obvious that something is emotionally amiss, for example, when emotional coolness is accompanied by extreme sentimentality. In these circumstances, the excessive emotionality in certain areas of life seems to be compensating for the lack of feeling under ordinary, personal circumstances.
The lack of "normal" emotions in response to certain stressors can be an important clue to missing feelings, one that is easily overlooked. Emotional numbness should be a signal that sends you looking for feelings that have been hidden or disguised. Unless, of course, you are Mr. Spock.
How to lookout for missing feelings?
Learn when to expect emotions so you know what emotions to look for. Certain specific types of triggers reliably prompt certain basic emotions:
- Frustration triggers anger
- Threat triggers fear
- Satisfaction prompts joy
- Loss prompts sorrow
- Revulsion prompts disgust
Reflect on which of these basic emotions you rarely experience, or which ones you experience regularly that seem somehow "off.". Use your private eye to look inside to uncover your more natural emotions, signals that will direct you to more of your true self.
- Think about why you might conceal certain unpleasant feeling states, even from yourself.
- Be on the lookout for your missing emotions.
- If you discover remnants of an unfamiliar or seemingly inappropriate emotion, jot it down in your notebook. (for example, if you well with tears when it would be natural to become angry, or always become angry when you are hurt).
The more you learn about your emotions and feelings, the more you'll start to notice when they occur inside you. As an Emotional Detective, you will eventually come to see emotions like a carpenters sees nails.