Why Can't You Talk About Your Feelings?

28 September, 2020
Do you find it difficult or impossible to talk about your feelings? Would you like to understand why? Don't miss today's article to discover the potential causes of this common problem.

“Why can’t I talk about my feelings?” Have you ever asked yourself that question? Emotions are often difficult to manage. Some people find it easy to talk about how they feel and share their emotions with others in a spontaneous way. However, other people have a very hard time with this. Why is that?

In this article, we’ll talk about some of the reasons why certain people have a hard time expressing themselves. We’ll also explain a few of the consequences of this behavior. Don’t miss it!

A woman hugging a pillow.

Why can’t I talk about my feelings?

Why is it so hard for some people to express what they feel? To answer the question, it’s important to first define the term “emotion”. According to Fernandez, Zubieta, and Paez (2001), emotion is a complex subjective phenomenon with primary aspects as well as expressive, motor, and physiological components.

Thus, emotions are complex processes that manifest themselves in your thoughts, desires, and actions. Emotions aren’t always easy to manage or understand. Thus, it’s logical to think that not everyone knows how to verbalize or express what they feel.

Here are some of the common causes of this behavior:

Emotional repression

Fernandez, Zubieta, and Paez (2001) argue that emotional repression involves non-confrontation or avoidance of stressful facts. Psychologists also believe it’s an inhibition of the brain’s emotional response.

It’s important to mention that there are many different triggers of emotional repression. One of them is the inability to cope with what’s happening both internally and externally.

In a way, it’s a coping mechanism that can be either temporary or permanent. Thus, emotional repression might be the reason why you’re having a hard time talking about your feelings. But what causes emotional repression?

Lack of assertiveness

Another factor that might explain why it’s so hard to talk about your feelings is lack of assertiveness. Authors such as Matson et al (1980), Bornstein et al (1977), and Romano and Bellack (1980) cited by Caball0 (1983) argue that it’s a social skill.

Others, such as Alberti and Emmons (1978), defined the concept as the behavior that allows a person to act based on their most important interests, defend themselves without inappropriate anxiety, comfortably express honest feelings, and exercise their personal rights without denying other people’s rights.

In that sense, lack of assertiveness can prevent you from expressing your feelings. Assertiveness, like so many other psychological skills, is something you can practice and improve. Consequently, psychotherapy is a great option, as it can help you improve your social skills.

“When you say ‘yes’ to others, make sure you’re not saying ‘no’ to yourself.”

-Paulo Coelho-

Being excessively shy

Shyness also has multiple definitions. In the field of psychology, Pilkonis (1977) defined it as “the tendency to avoid social interactions and an inability to appropriately participate in social situations”.

Although that’s a useful definition, shyness doesn’t just affect social interactions. It also impacts your ability to talk about your feelings.

Shyness, like assertiveness, is something you can work on. If you train yourself to come out of your shell, you’ll be able to express yourself better. If you learn how to manage your shyness, you’ll find that it’s much easier to live with.

“I was the shyest human ever invented, but I had a lion inside me that wouldn’t shut up!”

-Ingrid Bergman-

An insecure woman.

The consequences of bottling up your emotions

According to psychologist Angela Corona, repressing or hiding your emotions often leads to social isolation. Keeping all of your emotions bottled up inside makes it impossible for your feelings to flow freely, which can make you feel emotionally obstructed.

The negative health effects

On the other hand, a study conducted with a group of 304 women in 2019 by the North American Menopause Society found that silencing yourself and your feelings can negatively affect physical and mental health. In women, it can also increase the risk of suffering from a stroke.

Of course, every individual case is different. Thus, it’s important not to make generalizations. Nevertheless, we think it’s important to mention that the healthiest thing for everyone is to find a way to express, manage, and channel their emotions. Ideally, each individual will be able to find their way, whether it’s through art, literature, spoken words, the body, etc.

  • Caballo, V. (1983). Asertividad: definiciones y dimensiones. Estudios de Psicología, 13: 53-62.
  • Fernández, I., Zubieta, E. y Páez, D. (2001). Emocionarse en Latioamérica. Sociotam, XI, 1.
  • Matson, J.L., Kazdin, A.E. y Esveldt-Dawson, K. (1980). Training interpersonal skills among mentally retarded and socially dysfuncional children. Behavior Research and Therapy, 18: 419-427.
  • Pilkonis, P.A. (1977a). Shyness, public and private, and its relationship to other measures of social behaviour. Journal of Personality, 45: 585-595.