Reluctant to Share After Being Hurt
BY: Troy Murphy | January 2012 (edited August 2018)
Healthy relationships provide a safe place to share emotions. Emotions are received with respect and support. Honoring a partner's vulnerabilities creates trust.
We can’t go at this alone. Even though we are afraid of the crippling emotions, we still long for connection. We may need help if past experiences of intimacy bruised and damaged our souls; but the answer is not protected loneliness. We must courageously navigate the hidden trails of love again, learning the vulnerability of sharing emotions to someone who honors those disclosures heals our brokenness.
When hurt from a relationship, we immediately attend to the obvious, plucking the thorn that punctured our tender flesh. Emotional pains, like a thorn, demand attention, but emotions are significantly more complex. We can blame, attacking the most salient trigger surrounding the emotion. But with complexity, what appears obvious is drawn from biased observation; we must examine a little more, digging a little deeper.
Our biological system has evolved to dynamically interact with experience. Our systems experience, feel and then respond. Our emotional systems are not isolated from others. Through interactions, we connect, adapt, respond and grow. While our brains are not physically tethered to others, expressions, words and movements communicate, starting a cascade of physical reactions.
We are emotionally tied to others; the more intimate the connection, the more significant the other mobilizes our emotions. Intimate relationships intensify biological responses. When insecure, we carefully monitor interactions, calculating deeper meanings, scrutinizing possible betrayals. We skeptically examine actions for hidden agendas, thinking if we discover the plot, we can prevent the inevitable abandonment.
But discoveries are often fictions built on flimsy scraps of evidence, proving nothing. But fictions are powerful; our emotions alert to a faulty conclusion as strongly as they do to the facts.
"However, emotions are nowadays also thought to have a significant role in social decision making."
Frontiers in Psychology
Regions of our brains dedicated to reading non-verbal communication, write the unspoken story and signal for a response. Harmonious relationships amazingly detect each other’s emotions, reading expressions, knowing triggers, and cautiously protecting each other from overwhelming emotions. The relationship strengthens through shared felt experience of sadness, anger, joy, desire, and even disappointment.
"Harmonious relationships amazingly detect each other’s emotions, reading expressions, knowing triggers, and cautiously protecting each other from overwhelming emotions."
Willingness to share emotions—both positive and negative—creates vulnerability; we no longer live on a narcissistic island of self. Emotions in these relationships expand beyond the borders of our skin; we feel excitement, joys, sorrows and hurt stemming from another person’s experience.
When someone has serious influence over our emotions, we are vulnerable.
We enjoy a productive and joyful day at work; but when at home must absorb and comfort a partner’s emotions ignited by a troublesome and hurtful day. Our fleeting joy must pause to share the pain bleeding from our partner. If past relationships (parents, lovers and friends) were unwelcoming to our emotions, then the vulnerability of shared emotions is threatening.
Sometimes those responsible to lift and support, miserably fail. Their errors (hand-me-downs from their history) stitch faulty threads into our souls, leaving holes where consistency should live. Betrayed trust weakens willingness to share. When vulnerability is not honored, but bruised by disloyalty or manipulated for gain, we become protective, careful to expose weakness, and scrutinizing over possible attacks.
"Given the tendency for feelings to blur into emotions and interpretations, sharing can easily become an act of persuasion, a way to vent, pressure, induce guilt or solicit pity."
Jeremy E. Sherman Ph.D., MPP | Psychology Today
We adapt; we recover because we are strong. But with recovery, we also protect, closing openness in exchange for security. A protective wall is a natural consequence of disloyalty and cruel exploitation of vulnerability. Deep wounds stand as a reminder, demanding protection for the tender healings in the heart. This is a fool’s game. The more guarded, the lonelier and more isolated we become. We need others. We can carefully step onto the slippery pavement without falling. We must be wise; but also, willing to explore and be explored.
A declaration of independence—no longer vulnerable—doesn’t disentangle emotions from relationships. We still feel because we are biologically programmed this way. Our minds—masters of deception—may block conscious recognition of anxieties and fears (chemicals still flow). Our conceptual processing of feelings may have cleverly adjusted to protect. Our closed, protective reactions default to unfeeling logical or any other deflecting response that denies the emotional needs of connection.
"Sharing the depth of your feelings that are in your heart takes emotional risk and courage, as it can make you feel exposed and vulnerable."
Logical Explanations vs. Understanding
We may masterfully explain emotion, understanding their purpose, but underneath the fancy words and the well-written prose, the liveliness of relationships still overwhelms and even the professional struggles and protects. Their emotions are the hand inside the puppet, directing behavior while hiding behind a charade of rationality.
When we fail to recognize the dulling of feeling, we fail to achieve the sought freedom. Blindness to the underlying guides of emotion create a dangerous ignorance. The unrecognized emotions continue to impose their will on behaviors—angry retaliations, frustrations, and cleaver passive-aggressive slights; but without the protections from self-disciplined corrections.
In our scrutinizing examination of cause, we must sift through feelings rumbling through our bodies, pushing for action. Emotions—biological in construction, social in programming—must be mindfully pulled to the surface, accepted and then evaluated for constructiveness.
Allowing emotions to safely exist but balancing the protective learned anxieties with the necessity of vulnerabilities in the present. This is a difficult path to blaze, entering frightening territory of openness and shared emotions, but our courage is rewarded with new opportunities for trust. The strengthening connections build the foundation essential for healing, stopping the flow of destruction from the gashing wounds from neglect and abuse.
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