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The Necessity of Connecting to Self


I’ve had several recent discussions with clients about their male partners who are emotionally walled off, though women too are often disconnected from their feelings. This very human problem learned in childhood has sad ramifications in adulthood.

One problem, as many of you know all too well, is that you’re disconnected from both emotions and appetite. You recognize you want food even when you’re not hungry but not what you’re feeling underneath, usually some sort of discomfort you’d prefer not to experience. Distancing from your emotions is bound to mean trouble because what is the function of emotions if not to move you toward happiness and away from pain. 

One of my clients frequently laments, “But I don’t want to be uncomfortable.” As if she has a choice. What she means is that she doesn’t want to feel certain feelings because they make her feel badly, in her case, leaving her abusive husband and being single again. Sadly, in her alcoholic family which neglected her emotional well-being in all sorts of ways, neither parent modeled tolerating and growing from uncomfortable emotions (Dad drank and Mom placated him). Nor could they help her bear emotional discomfort because that would mean coming to terms with their own. 

The goal is to be able to stop at pretty much any time, ask yourself what you’re feeling and give a reasonable answer. If you don’t know, a wise response is, “I’m not sure. Let me think about it.” This is really not too much to ask of you. Moreover, if you’re often disconnected from feelings, that might be the cause of your problem with food and therapy will help with both issues.

A second problem in being disconnected from feelings is that you can’t authentically connect with others in any meaningful way (except sexually if you allow yourself to feel that kind of desire) if you’re not connected to yourself. I once had a boyfriend who covered his ears with his hands when I went on a rant about my mother. Clearly, I’d touched a nerve and he couldn’t bear whatever my rant had stirred up for him. 

In dysfunctional relationships either one partner is full of feeling and highly sensitive and the other is closed off and out of touch with their emotions. Or, alternately, in many instances, both parties are clueless about what goes on inside them. And no matter how frustrated and upset they get with each other, part of the problem lies within them. If the only emotion you can experience is anger, that does not bode well for long-term intimacy. Consider your ability to stay connected to feelings no matter what they are. That doesn’t mean you have to like or enjoy the emotion, just know its yours and own it.