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Guilt Around Sharing Emotions

We didn’t all have the shared experience of a secure attachment in our childhoods, or for a long enough period to build a safe haven with someone else. Sometimes we learned to feel guilty about expressing our struggles to anyone.


Thinking for a moment about current or prior attachments, has there been a point in time where you’ve told yourself, “I don’t want to put more on their plate.”

Oftentimes, this becomes a repetitive pattern for individuals in their relationships. Whether they’ve just started to cultivate a connection with someone new, or they’re still learning to understand themselves or their partners, they find it difficult to share parts of themselves. This tends to be aligned with our own partner’s experience. “They have _______ (this thing) going on right now, and I don’t want to put more on them.”

In various cases, we feel the need to manage the emotional struggle on our own. When we grow up in insecure attachments with primary caregivers, we learn to address our emotions within ourselves. Because we are only children, still growing and developing, it’s difficult to understand what emotions we are experiencing at all given times. Hence, we find ourselves wrapped in a blanket of anxiety, trapped, and tuning into our mind for help.

We stay “stuck” in this cycle for so long, until we realize as adults, “I keep finding myself struggling to connect to my partner.” And for individuals who want to tune into that space we always end up in during emotional struggles, they feel rejected or hurt by our “need for space” or “time to process.” This battle might convey an underlying message of fear or anxiety – “I’m worried my partner won’t be there for me when I open up,” or, “It’s scary to share this part of me with them, because others have not listened.”

On the other hand, every time we tried opening up to a primary provider for emotional support and comfort, they may have disregarded the pain we were feeling in the moment. i.e. The little boy turns to his father to address how another child has bullied him at school. With tears in his eyes, he tells his father, “He called me stupid, and I don’t know what to do dad.” Dad responds, “don’t cry about it, it’s going to be okay, you need to stand up for yourself.” In the following example, a child who has been hurt by a very specific incident turns to his father for emotional support. In a secure attachment, the father might be able to tune into the helplessness and sadness the child is experiencing. He could address the emotion and comfort the child in their feelings.

Keep in mind, there is no perfection in secure attachment; in this research, it’s about how quickly we bounce back from emotional struggles. If the consistency in this relationship is mom or dad responding in a manner that disregards the emotional experience of the child, the child can eventually learn, “my emotions and needs aren’t important.” They hold on to these emotions, and without awareness of what feelings are there, or which attachment needs are unmet, they disconnect from the experience and find other sources of distraction and ways to cope.

In the end, they internalize, “it’s not okay to share these emotions.”

We move into those adult attachments in the future, and we start to find it hard to connect on an emotional level with our partners. A very valid experience that’s happening in these moments of insecure connection with our loved ones is, “you feel guilty about sharing those emotions with someone,” even when your partner is going through things themselves.

We didn’t all have the shared experience of a secure attachment in our childhoods, or for a long enough period to build a safe haven with someone else. Sometimes we learned to feel guilty about expressing our struggles to anyone.

In some relationships, where one partner comes from a secure family background, and another does not, the secure partner is confused or bewildered by the disconnect they’re experiencing from their partners. As counselors, we try to help the secure partner attune to the struggles and guilt the other partner might feel sharing their vulnerable experiences. This is a process of understanding the tendency of what happens when one partner is shutting down or pulling away and how the other partner is responding to this rejection or hurt.

Of course there are also relationships where individuals on either side have experienced a great deal of insecure connection throughout their lives, and they face a battle of pushing away from one another. There is such great value when we, as counselors, can help guide these individuals into a deeper map of how they learned to manage and cope with their emotional struggles. In many ways, “they have this going on,” could mean something like, “they work a lot, so I know they’re really busy most of the time.”

In a secure attachment, once we cultivate that, and we bounce back quickly from emotional struggles, our partner will attune to our experiences despite the emotions they’re also dealing with. Both partners begin to turn to each other for support, to co-regulate and manage emotions together when a struggle arises on either side.

If you’re looking for emotional guidance, and you’re struggling to cultivate that security within yourself or your loved ones, please reach out and schedule an appointment with us. We want to help cultivate security and resiliency within your relationship. Thanks.

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