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Can't show any emotion

Community Member

I was brought up in a household were no one showed any emotions e.g. no signs of affection and we did not talk about things. When I was 18 months I was sent to stay with my paternal grandparents and because my father was scared of his mother and could not say no I stayed there until she died when I was 10. I then went back to my parents who were strangers to me. Nothing was discussed it was not the done thing to speak about problems no hugs given. So of course as I have married and had children I can't speak about my emotions. I can hug my grandchildren but not my children. When I meet my sister's I don't hug them but they hug each other I just can't do it. If someone tells me sad or exciting news I don't know what to say. I would so much like to tell my children who are in there 30s that I love them. My husband is like me whilst we love each other and have been married for 40 years we don't show any signs of affection and never have.

My parents were strict my father a soldier who treated his children like recruits- beaten for speaking out of turn or making a noise hence I don't speak unless asked a question and then only say what's needed. I tell people nothing about me at work I am regarded as aloof. I just can't talk about myself or initiate conversation. Is it too late for me I am 65. I am scared to speak to people as when growing up I was always put down or told to shut up. We went to the airport to pick up my cousin who I had not seen for 20 years and all I could say was good flight no hug, other people there meeting people hugging and kissing why can't I show emotion

3 Replies 3

Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Dear Contrarymary

Welcome to the forum. Here we all have various difficulties in our lives. Writing on this forum has helped many to express themselves and learn to say what they mean without feeling ashamed of speaking up or causing any kind of fuss. I think you had a difficult childhood growing up where love and distress were not mentioned or tolerated. I can see how this has made expressing your emotions very difficult.

May I ask, what was the attitude of your grandmother? Were you allowed to show what you felt, to laugh and play like other children? Returning to your parental family must have been difficult, almost like being adopted into a new family. Can you remember how your sisters managed? I see they have no problems about hugging when they meet.

I see no reason why you cannot learn to talk about the things that are important to you. It is a basic human need and comes more readily than holding everything in. For this reason I think it would be the easier way to show you care rather than the enforced silence you grew up with. And you have found you want to talk openly which is a great first step. Wanting to do something makes it all so much easier than being told to do something.

Another question. What makes you want to be more open about your emotional life? Do you feel emotional inside? I think it's great you want to enjoy more of this rich side of our humanity. It is truly amazing. It can hurt on occasions but this is part of our emotional life. We also become enriched by the positives of joining our feeling world.

How very sad you feel unable to hug your children. I wonder if it would start the ball rolling to write a letter to your children explaining your situation. Use your post or simply give a copy of your post to each of your children. Tell them, in your letter, how much you long to hold them as you hold your grandchildren. Perhaps you will be able to talk to them about your difficulty. Not everyone together but one at a time and for short periods. Ask for their understanding and help.

I suspect this will be a little hard and not something you can leap into. However starting is a huge step to take and will give you some confidence to continue this most rewarding journey. Using your post start composing a letter, add comments as you think of them until you are satisfied you have expressed yourself. Being afraid of stepping out of line can affect the process so please remember it is not an imposition.

Write in again.


Community Champion
Community Champion

Hi contrarymary, welcome to beyond blue.

You asked a question about whether it is too late. My honest answer is that it is not too late.

My parents were not as strict as yours, but showing emotion was a no go one. Put down or teasing was the main consequence. So, how do you stop the put downs - don't show emotion. Unfortunately, it can get to you at some point in your life as I found out. As you pointed out, with your grandchildren, or myself with other people, it is easier to show emotion by hugging, crying, laughing etc.

I was lucky I guess in that I was able to find out why dad was the way he was. On stress leave from work, I would go to my parents place one day a week as a safe place and would mostly talk with mum. Sometimes would talk to dad, but these were awkward. However, there was one time when I was talk with both mum and dad and I opened up about something (I think it was school grades) and dad said something about his time in school and then mum asked him to elaborate on some point. To make a long story short, it was low self-esteem that drove him to do things a particular way.

You have indicated that your habits are a result of your upbringing and similar for me. The above story was a result of something my psychologist asked me and to get to the bottom of the it, I had (?) to talk to my parents. Honestly, at the time I did not want to as I would have to admit to them that I felt stupid, and not living up to their expectations (in my mind) etc, but it actually went OK. To use that old cliche - you are not alone. I am sure there are others on the forum here similar to you.

If there is anything to take from my post it might be this - have you allowed yourself to be vulnerable and really open with your children? What would stop you?

Peace to you,


Champion Alumni
Champion Alumni

Hello, how are you going? I am dropping by to see if you want to talk about anything.

Please take care of yourself.