“I Don’t Do Emotion”*

stone_wall Well, at least he was consistent. Like a stone wall. It was the first sentence he uttered after she accepted his proposal: “Just one more thing. I don’t do emotion.” She laughed. “You don’t do emotion! I’m all emotion!”

She really didn’t get it. And, more than five years in, shared life experiences, kids’ triumphs and tribulations, illnesses and deaths, work ups and downs, disagreements and joys, counseling and avoidance, he’s still saying “I don’t do emotion.” And she still doesn’t know what he means.

She knows how it manifests: In puffing himself up, convinced he impresses a polite, more learned, audience. In defensive justifications rather than admitting when he gets it wrong. In feeling disrespected when someone else passionately debates a difference of opinion. In leaving the room when deep feelings emerge: loneliness, anxiety, sorrow, passion. In running out of counseling when he is touched and sheds a tear, apologizing for displaying weakness, shocking their therapist. In having access to a remarkably limited range of feelings: Upset. Fine. Happy with no smile.

He never gets angry, or so he says (between gritted teeth). “I have to defend myself!” from attacks real, or more often imaginary. He shoves feelings away in a lock-box, safer that way, more robotic. Sneaking and hiding: passwords on the passwords. Technically not lying while not being honest at all. Or just lying through those teeth…

He is like a little boy who covers his eyes and thinks because he can’t see you, you can’t see him . He expects you to collude in his fantasy that all is as he so desperately wants it to appear; he is infuriated when you don’t.

His emotional intelligence quotient is low; all emotions scare him. He pretends he’s rational while really playing a shell game with feelings. The space between who he appears and who he feels himself to be widens, and he is threatened. And when he’s threatened or hurts, he attacks. You. He accuses you of behaviors that are in fact his own.

He could learn, if he had the courage to face himself. But not only doesn’t he know what he feels, he can’t face who he is. He certainly can’t begin to get what you feel. And try as you might, you can’t do feeling and intimacy for two. Emotional intelligence, anyone?

*While the couple in this post is unfortunately all too real, please be assured (as per our blog privacy policy) they are neither patients nor clients.

Copyright © 2009 Marlin S. Potash. All rights reserved.


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