Emotional Lockdown - New Study Looks At Why People Hate Sharing Their Feelings

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A recent study by PsychTests.com reveals that people who shun emotional disclosure tend to do so for a number of reasons, including the fear of ridicule, or being seen as vulnerable and weak.

People who are comfortable sharing their feelings are happier, more resilient, and have higher self-esteem.

What’s at the root of emotional censorship? In most cases, fear - of being vulnerable, of being seen as weak, or of being ridiculed.

Expressing what’s in your heart takes courage - it requires a willingness to be completely open and vulnerable.

Being in lockdown with a partner can translate to a lot of quality time together - and a lot more time to talk. This can help deepen a couple’s emotional bond, especially with a DIY version of Valentine’s Day coming. However, being in close quarters with family members can highlight issues that, prior to the pandemic, were masked by being caught up with work, or the buffer of outings with friends. Emotional intimacy isn’t easy for everyone. In fact, a new study by the researchers at Psychtests.com indicates that the majority of people struggle to come to terms with their emotional nature. The question is, why do people find talking about their feelings so threatening?

Analyzing data collected from 12,259 people who took the Emotional Intelligence Test, PsychTests’ researchers investigated the attitude, personality, and behavior of people who consciously avoid sharing their feelings (Emotional Suppressers) and those who don’t (Emotional Expressers). Here’s what the analysis revealed:

OF THOSE WHO ARE NOT COMFORTABLE WITH EMOTIONAL EXPRESSION:

  • 61% said they are not comfortable with the vulnerability required to be emotionally intimate with someone (compared to 17% of Emotional Expressers).
  • 45% believe that people will exploit or take advantage of them if they show their true feelings (compared to 6% of Emotional Expressers).
  • 56% believe that a person should never show their weaknesses (compared to 22% of Emotional Expressers).
  • 47% are not comfortable with overt displays of emotion (compared to 14% of Emotional Expressers).
  • 57% indicated that in the past, discussing sensitive issues like feelings has blown up in their face (compared to 4% of Emotional Expressers).
  • 47% assume that people won't welcome or accept their self-expression (compared to 2% of Emotional Expressers).
  • 58% are afraid of looking stupid or being ridiculed (compared to 4% of Emotional Expressers).
  • 63% said that they don't want to share anything that would embarrass them (compared to 28% of Emotional Expressers).
  • 62% hate any form of confrontation (compared to 19% of Emotional Expressers).
  • 62% don't have anyone they can talk to or confide in (compared to 9% of Emotional Expressers).

AS A RESULT OF THEIR TENDENCY TO AVOID EMOTIONAL EXPRESSION:

  • 52% of Emotional Suppressors have made it a habit to ignore or suppress negative feelings (compared to 33% of Emotional Expressers).
  • 65% won’t ask for what they want, even if they feel they deserve it (compared to 20% of Emotional Expressers).
  • 72% struggle with compulsive habits, like overeating (compared to 11% of Emotional Expressers).
  • 67% a strong desire for approval and desperately want to be liked (compared to 27% of Emotional Expressers).

When PsychTests’ researchers compared “Emotional Suppressers” and “Emotional Expressers” on different personality traits and skills, the differences were astounding.

EMOTIONAL EXPRESSERS HAVE:

  • Better at controlling and regulating their emotions (score of 82 vs. 25, on a scale from 0 to 100 - a 57-point difference)
  • Less likely to engage in unhealthy and excessive rumination (score of 23 vs. 78, a 55-point difference).
  • Happier (score of 81 vs. 35, a 46-point difference).
  • More optimistic (score of 84 vs. 40, a 44-point difference).
  • More self-motivated (score of 81 vs. 42, a 39-point difference).
  • More self-aware (score of 79 vs. 48, a 31-point difference).
  • Better at coping with stress (score of 83 vs. 53, a 30-point difference).
  • More resilient (score of 87 vs. 51, a 36-point difference).
  • Better at adapting to change and ambiguity (score of 72 vs. 41, a 31-point difference).
  • More assertive (score of 69 vs. 37, a 32-point difference).
  • More likely to have higher self-esteem (score of 84 vs. 40, a 44-point difference), and are more self-confident (score of 74 vs. 46, a 28-point difference).
  • Better at adapting to different social situations (score of 81 vs. 65, a 16-point difference).
  • Better at resolving conflict (score of 80 vs. 62, an 18-point difference).

“Expressing what’s in your heart takes courage - it requires a willingness to be completely open and vulnerable, which means that you always run the risk of being hurt, rejected, and even ridiculed,” explains Dr. Ilona Jerabek, president of PsychTests. “When we looked at the data we collected from over 12,000 people, the average score on Emotional Expression was 50, which is quite low. This tells us that for the majority of people, sharing feelings is very difficult. What’s interesting is that the Emotional Suppresser group scored quite well on scales assessing Empathy, Ability to Read Body Language, and Social Insight. So although they are able to recognize and identify with other people's emotions, they struggle to use that ability to look inwards. This unfortunate pattern is quite common. It’s often easier to deal with other people’s emotions and offer comfort and advice than to face and unload our own emotional baggage.”

“For people who struggle with emotional expression, especially on romantic days like Valentine’s, it’s important get to the root of that discomfort. Perhaps you opened your heart in the past and were hurt or betrayed. Maybe you were raised to believe that showing emotions makes you weak, or a sissy. Possibly, you grew up in a family where emotions were not expressed or shown, so you never developed this skill. Once you understand why you avoid emotional expression, you can then learn how to gradually become more comfortable sharing your feelings. I always recommend starting small. Express gratitude or joy to your partner or a friend. Mention something that made your day or annoyed you. Then slowly work your way into deeper emotions, stepping more and more out of your usual comfort zone. Sharing your feelings may make you vulnerable, but it’s the only way to truly connect with someone, and it helps you to release negative emotions, which is essential to your mental health. If a person mocks you for wearing your heart on your sleeve, recognize that this person is probably terrified of his or her own feelings. Remember, it take a strong person to be vulnerable.”

Want to assess your EQ? Check out our Emotional Intelligence Test at: https://testyourself.psychtests.com/testid/3979

Professional users, such as HR managers, coaches, and therapists, can request a free demo for this or other assessments from ARCH Profile’s extensive battery: http://hrtests.archprofile.com/testdrive_gen_1

To learn more about psychological testing, download this free eBook: http://hrtests.archprofile.com/personality-tests-in-hr

About PsychTests AIM Inc.
PsychTests AIM Inc. originally appeared on the internet scene in 1996. Since its inception, it has become a pre-eminent provider of psychological assessment products and services to human resource personnel, therapists and coaches, academics, researchers and a host of other professionals around the world. PsychTests AIM Inc. staff is comprised of a dedicated team of psychologists, test developers, researchers, statisticians, writers, and artificial intelligence experts (see ARCHProfile.com).

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Ilona Jerabek, Ph.D
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