Feelin' Good
March 4, 2009 1:54 PM   Subscribe

Do you feel feelings?

I seem to have some problem feeling...well, feelings. My standard base demenor is happy and positive which I am...constantly. Which is weird. I have alot of exciting and interesting things going on right now I feel I should be feeling something about, eg. travel coming up soon; dont feel excited, nervous...anything. People Im dating...nothing again, its becoming a pain because I have to kind of imagine what i might be feeling.
People are starting to worry about me, close friends rather because I can honestly tell them what i feel, or lack thereof. With other people Im starting to guess how I should be feeling and just act that way...be it happy or sad or whatever. My friends are starting to ask me wheather I think I should see a doctor or something but I feel fine...

I dont know when this started, but after a conversation with my Mum yesterday she things I have always been quite "reserved and cold" which I agree with when it comes to emotion and feeling.

So my question is, is this just me? Does anyone else feel like this? Am I kidding myself? Should I see a doctor? Is this normal?

FYI 23 year old female, good health, no medication.
posted by Neonshock to Human Relations (33 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
If you're worried enough to write this post, then that's an emotion, so you've at least got some.

But it sounds like you might have a mild depression and you could try taking anti-depressants to see how that goes. IANAD.
posted by delmoi at 2:01 PM on March 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

I am the same way as you. I don't get super excited about things that people often times get super excited about (dancing, wedding planning, trips etc.). I don't know why either...it's not really a depressive state for me..but just a state of being. I am excited to go places, but until I get somewhere..I guess I just always felt that there was something that could go wrong.

But I think cynicism plays a large role in my standoffish-ness as well. My mom characterizes me as, "so serious." which I am not, but we just don't see eye to eye on humor.

Take it for what it is worth. If you are happy and positive, it doesn't sound like yo need a doctor. you just are not giving off the social cures others are more accustomed to seeing.
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 2:02 PM on March 4, 2009

You might just be kind of even-keeled. Or have some other condition going on that causes a flatline of emotion. Can't really tell from over the internet.

Or - you might be kind of unaware of your own emotions and not that introspective, for whatever reason. It's not that you're not feeling things, but may not be practiced in identifying or noticing what you are feeling. Is this something you've only become aware of recently? Maybe you just need more practice getting in touch with your emotions? Professional mental health folks can help with this, but there are a ton of ways it can be accomplished.
posted by Knicke at 2:06 PM on March 4, 2009

gah! - If you are happy and positive, it doesn't sound like yo need a doctor. you just are not giving off the social cures others are more accustomed to seeing.

If you are happy and positive, it doesn't sound like you need a doctor. you just are not giving off the social cues others are more accustomed to seeing.
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 2:07 PM on March 4, 2009

Response by poster: Delmoi - Im just interested. I think its okay. I really dont think Im depressed.

Wocka - Its weird because I guess if I felt like you I would understand the 'lack' but...Im hyperactively happy and not cynical whatso-ever. I would say.

Thanks guys by the way.
posted by Neonshock at 2:08 PM on March 4, 2009


you should be thanking the lucky star you are not happy go lucky 24/7...........

My birthday is coming up and when people ask me what I am doing? I am like umm I am taking a day off and doing nothing and they always comment how I cant get excited at anything...i am quite able to be sad or to be happy (and lately I havent been happy really I just been neutral)...i just dont really feel very strongly about anything really and you know what? The period of time where I was highly emotional (and that hadnt happened at all in my whole ife) was the worst period in my life.....
posted by The1andonly at 2:13 PM on March 4, 2009

Best answer: This more or less happened to me for about 3 to 4 months when I was about 24 -- not depression, and not quite as happy as you seem to be; just, like, a sudden lack of affect. No cause that I could see, just like some switch had flipped in my brain that suddenly put a huge damper on my emotions.

It was weird, and I kind of worried about it in an offhand way, but having gone through mild depression in the past, I figured, "Eh. This thing ain't so bad. Let's just see how it all pans out." And after a little while, the damper disappeared on its own, and my life went back to emotional normal. I still don't know what caused it or what made it stop, but I remember reading, a few months later, about a similar thing happening to some author (I forget who, now) when he was in his mid-twenties. It sounded familiar: suddenly, a weirdly even-keeled damper on major emotions, then it went away and things returned to normal. Maybe this is just a thing with some people, a momentary blip as the brain settles into adulthood.
posted by Greg Nog at 2:26 PM on March 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

sounds like equanimity, a highly praised quality in Buddhism.
posted by desjardins at 2:26 PM on March 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: You're fine. I have been described the same way by family members and even good friends. But their criticism makes me a little hot under the collar, which helps demonstrate the expected emotion.

I think some people compare their lives and habits to the exagerrated, irrational characters on TV and movies. Your behaving like a rational, satisfied human being might strike them as odd and flat.

And that's just sad.
posted by General Tonic at 2:29 PM on March 4, 2009

Feelings are subjective but if you're a living sentient being you have them. You feel no sadness, or joy?

I have alot of exciting and interesting things going on right now I feel I should be feeling something about, eg. travel coming up soon; dont feel excited, nervous...anything.

Could it be that you're just not stimulated by any of this? Maybe you need to find something that does make you feel excited. Maybe it's not that you don't feel anything, but that what you're involved with just doesn't make you feel much one way or the other.
posted by nola at 2:32 PM on March 4, 2009

I don't get super excited about things that people often times get super excited about (dancing, wedding planning, trips etc.). I don't know why either...it's not really a depressive state for me..but just a state of being.

Me too. In my case it has mellowed out as I've gotten older. When I was younger, I would get nervous, or excited, or feel butterflies in my stomach in certain situations, but these days in the same situations I get a lot less of that kind of feeling or none at all. It makes a lot of things less exciting (riding roller coasters, for example) but it makes other things more bearable (such as speaking in front of a large audience).

I'm not an expert on psychology or biology, but based on what little I do know I would say that for whatever reason my body is producing less adrenaline in those situations. The reason I say that is because in extreme cases I would feel all of the normal symptoms of an adrenaline rush (high pulse rate, feeling sick or light headed, etc.) followed by a crash afterwards.
posted by burnmp3s at 2:35 PM on March 4, 2009

Some people just have a low-level baseline and (I honestly think) don't experience extreme emotions. Low key, downtempo people.

Some people are always happy, or sad, or pissed off. They just have no other emotion, or if they do it rarely surfaces.

And then some people are mentally ill. Like manic, or depressed, or schizophrenic. They have emotions, but they're not quite the right emotions for the situation. Or they have no emotions at all, regardless of what is going on around them.
posted by fiercekitten at 2:43 PM on March 4, 2009

I'm the same way, for what it's worth. Generally upbeat, never feeling any crashing waves of emotion. To the point where other people's responses to their daily drama just seems a bit melodramatic and alien to me. Your guess is as good as mine, but as the Buddhism link suggests, I think it's mostly a good thing!
posted by naju at 2:48 PM on March 4, 2009

Oh also - did you have any really traumatic events in your childhood, such as the loss of a close loved one? I sometimes suspect that's when it started for me.
posted by naju at 2:55 PM on March 4, 2009

Response by poster: naju - yes, I have quite a disturbed home life and I still live there.
posted by Neonshock at 3:03 PM on March 4, 2009

Maybe you're an introvert, who's accustomed to hearing extroverts burble about their INCREDIBLE EMOTIONS OMG!
If so, that might make your own feelings, which are more reserved but still genuine, seem flat by comparison? My boyfriend is more reserved than me and sometimes I want to shake him and yell "OMG FEEL SOMETHING RIGHT NOW OR I WILL EXPLODE" and he says "uh, I feel pretty good". He's not depressed or defective, though. He's just able to feel feelings without YELLING ABOUT THEM.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 3:05 PM on March 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

Your description is so short that it doesn't give us much to go on as far as understanding you. You asked whether we feel feelings. In order to answer that, a common definition of "feel" and "feelings" would have to be established. If you are interested in it, investigate it in the talks attributed to the Buddha. I recommend http://www.accesstoinsight.org/. I happen to think some of the insights in there are fascinating. One model which is proposed, for instance, is to categorize "pleasant" "unpleasant" and "neutral" as the only three feelings. (This is a proposed definition of feeling that completely contrasts with a common one in ordinary usage today.) However, the model also includes associations - for instance, if you have recently had a death of a friend, you might experience the "unpleasant feeling" in association with thoughts about that friend. But in that particular model, the thoughts about that other person are just associations and *not the feeling itself*.

If that doesn't seem to give you a hard on, then we aren't surprised, of course. Honestly, I have a hard time believing that anyone does not experience feelings. Often times people accuse me of this type of thing. Even my birth family; indeed, partly because of their inability to cherish who I am and insistence on trying to come up with petty theories about me illustrating something they consider a fault, I don't associate with them any more than absolutely necessary.

In another Buddhist model, feelings are seen to be the aftereffects of thoughts and actions. Someone who never takes initiative would according to this model likely have less intense feelings.

As for your suggestions of the "seeing a professional" flavor - there's nothing wrong with talking with others whether professionals or not, but the goal of trying to feel feelings strikes me as absurd. A goal like to understand different models of feelings sounds more interesting to me, or to learn about your own desires, fears, fantasies.

I have two suggestions for you.

1. make art projects based on your dreams. you may need to keep a pencil and pen next to your bed in order to quickly write down some memories when you wake up.

2. go visit the third world; spend some time volunteering with people who are very different.

feel free to PM with private message if you want to talk more about this.
posted by peter_meta_kbd at 3:06 PM on March 4, 2009

If this is only a problem because your friends think that the way you describe your feelings is weird, don't worry about it. It could be just a quirk in the way you describe your feelings.

If, however, you are independently concerned about it, I'd schedule a visit with your doctor or with a therapist. You could benefit from talking about things that are going on in your life, or from treatment for something like dysthymia.

But again, if it doesn't bother you, don't let other people's reactions convince you that you're broken.
posted by decathecting at 3:13 PM on March 4, 2009

For what it's worth, you sound exactly like my younger sister, and she's always been that way. Desjardin's reference to "equanimity" fits perfectly.

I find her reactions odd, and because I kind of enjoy the ups and downs of mood, I wonder if she's missing out on something. But she's happy so I wouldn't wish depression on her just so she can experience the excitement and highs that I get. She is who she is, and she's happy with it - what more can you want for someone?

Are you normal? No (most people experience more highs and lows than it sounds like you do), but that's not a bad thing. Normal is just the most common state, that doesn't mean it's something to aspire to!
Do you need to see a doctor? Doesn't sound like it - you're happy and content.
posted by finding.perdita at 3:37 PM on March 4, 2009

Your description of your home life rings some bells.

Sit down and think about this carefully.
posted by kldickson at 3:39 PM on March 4, 2009

naju - yes, I have quite a disturbed home life and I still live there.

To elaborate: my understanding is that when someone has gone through incredibly powerful emotional events as a developing child, the kinds of things that kids are not prepared to handle, they may form a kind of emotional shield with the expectation that life will always be that intense. So after that point, fairly ordinary events that most people treat with emotion - a break-up, or an exciting trip, for instance - don't really register all that much on the emotional scale. And even though you're an adult and those traumas may (or may not) be long gone and forgotten, it's still how your mind has learned to operate in the world.

That's just my theory by the way. I defer to psych folks who deal with this stuff..
posted by naju at 3:43 PM on March 4, 2009 [3 favorites]

What naju says makes sense. My home life was filled with drama, and I learned that reacting to it made it worse, so now it unnerves people when they are upset (yelling and stuff) and I'm calm and collected. I also learned not to get too excited about impending plans because I would often be disappointed.

However, there is nothing that needs to be "fixed" unless you deem it broken.
posted by desjardins at 3:59 PM on March 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

There's nothing wrong with this. Its typical of many people. Heck, some people go their whole lives striving to have this level of calm and detachment. I prefer the company of people like you. Im sure others do. Perhaps the real issue is that you and your friends are fundamentaly different people. Im mostly introverted but can be extroverted when I want, but I dont like being with a loud extroverted person for too long.

Some of the immigrants I know are like this. They dont smile in photos or put up a "happy person" front. There's nothing wrong with that. In fact, Im a little jealous of them for being able to do this as I feel I'm fully Americanized and always have to put up the "happy person" front.

I hate the idea that we all must be like characters in a sitcom or a reality show and always smiling and having all these overwhelming emotions and outbursts. It says something about society that we can look at completely ridiculous, easily offended, loud, impulsive, and uber-dramatic people and think that not only is that normal, its something to strive for.

As far as the arm chair psychology goes, well, if youre not feeling pain or its not interfering with your life then its not a problem.
posted by damn dirty ape at 4:06 PM on March 4, 2009 [1 favorite]

naju - yes, I have quite a disturbed home life and I still live there.

Red Flag! Alert!! As someone else mentioned, this is certainly something
to take into consideration. Unsolicited advice: leave home. Become
independent. Learn to stand by yourself. Not saying that your current emotional
state is wrong, just saying that you'd be pleasantly surprised to know
that there are other emotional states waiting to flourish. Current home life *might* be toxic.
Been there, done that.
posted by theKik at 4:23 PM on March 4, 2009

From the scant description you've provided, I'll venture that my roommate throughout college was much like this -- calm, cheerful, collected; nothing seemed to really bother her. Random rude girls would insult her, and she barely noticed the insults. Lovely things would happen to her, and she would shrug and smile and seem to barely take note of how cool it was that X thing had just happened. Boys would dump her, and she'd be quiet for a day and then perk back up and hit the dating scene again.

It puzzled me. Sometimes I was deeply envious of her equanimity. More often, it frustrated me. I'd offer her my support at times and in circumstances when (it seemed to me) any human being would need and want support. Her response? She would look baffled for a moment, and then say amiably that she was fine, thanks for asking. Mostly, I felt frustrated because it seemed to me that I couldn't fully connect with her; that she was keeping her true feelings from me for some reason, despite the fact that we were ostensibly very close friends. I graduated from college feeling as though I'd never really gotten to know her, despite having shared a room with her for four years.

We fell out of touch. You probably could have predicted that.

Fast forward four years. We end up in the same city. We have lunch. She says she's doing so much better now that she's gone on anti-depression medication. That the whole world seems so much brighter, more vivid. I attempt to hide my surprise. I fail. I say, "You mean you were depressed in college? But you seemed so...happy." She says, "Yeah, it never really occurred to me that I might be depressed. But [post-college boyfriend] finally convinced me to see someone, and yeah, apparently I was depressed all through college."

This isn't to say you're depressed. Just to say that in her case, she found that a lack of strong emotions was something that ended up hampering her experiences of life, and that a bit of medication therefore made her feel more -- alive. I will speculate that it has also helped her relationships with others. Our friendship has tentatively been resurrected, and it's ironic but perhaps not surprising that I feel closer to her after a few shared meals than I did all through our shared residence in college, because now, she actually reacts in a manner that I am able to sympathize and empathize with.
posted by artemisia at 4:54 PM on March 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

I'm the same way and I don't think there is anything wrong with me, I have always been like this and I am certainly not depressed. I have had people tell me they never know what I'm thinking, and have been accused of being "unfeeling" or "afraid of showing emotion" by ex-girlfriends (which usually meant that my reactions to situations were not nearly as dramatic or over the top as theirs). In more positive terms people have described me as laid back, low drama, and low maintenance - someone who is calm, collected, and thinks things through. A lot of people tell me I "have my shit together". When I get in an argument I don't scream or shout, I just try to get to the bottom of the problem. When I am looking forward to something I don't get all OMGOMGOMGOMG ecstatic, but I still look forward to it. It takes an awful lot for me to get pissed off. I do not get offended when people insult me and have always considered my skin pretty thick. A lot of the petty fights and drama my friends get involved in seem ridiculous to me, maybe I am just not as sensitive as them or maybe they expect life to be like a TV drama. I don't know, but I don't think it necessarily means you are depressed just because you don't see the world as one giant emotional rollercoaster.
posted by bradbane at 6:45 PM on March 4, 2009

you should watch Esther Kahn. i'm like that too.
posted by MrMisterio at 8:03 PM on March 4, 2009

Knowing what feeling you're feeling at any given moment is sometimes a practice rather than a reflex; don't worry if you can't pin it down right away. I've had that. You clearly know what 'happy' and 'sad' are - you had enough frame of reference to say in your question that you feel happy most of the time - so I would not worry if I were you. It isn't incumbent on you to know how you feel at any given moment, thankfully; and if you ever feel awful, well, I imagine you'll know it.
posted by koeselitz at 8:05 PM on March 4, 2009

feeling your feelings is hard especially if you dont know what your feeling are! A really good way that works for me is when I go to bed ask each part of your body how it feels, from your toes to your head, if you feel pain in a specific area accept that and move on, not only does it relax you but it starts to journey of connecting with yourself and then after a while you will start to learn about how things make you feel. Try reading Ekart Tolle - a new earth it would be great for you :) Hay also, if you feel good thats GREAT, one step at a time and get to know who you are and what makes you tick!
posted by annie1 at 8:19 PM on March 4, 2009

Wow, this sounds familiar. I also had a disturbed home life, but I left at 18. I like naju's theory: things really sucked for many years when I was a kid, and nothing I could experience as an adult could be that bad, so why get worked up over things? Nothing is all that awful, and everything is temporary.

I wonder if people are noticing your reserve more because it's coming from a woman. Women are supposed to gush. For example, a man I was dating said he wished I would say things like, "Oh, that's so TERRIBLE for you! You must feel AWFUL!" which I am constitutionally incapable of feeling, much less exclaiming.

Some very strong and healthy people have come out of bad childhoods. So I don't think there's a reason to sound a lot of alarm bells, though I would recommend creating your own home and life now rather than staying in a bad situation. To feel emotions around people you have to feel like it's safe to be (even in secret) vulnerable around them, and if things suck at home, you might have made it a habit to never feel even slightly vulnerable.
posted by PatoPata at 8:31 PM on March 4, 2009 [2 favorites]

"My standard base demenor is happy and positive which I am...constantly."

First, you recognize that you DO have an emotion: happiness. You wouldn't be able to recognize happiness if you didn't recognize unhappiness. That's two emotions right there, right? You sound like a pretty stable person, and to me that doesn't seem unhealthy. You remind me of what many Buddhists attempt to achieve: equilibrium.

It appears that you doubt yourself only in response to others' comments about you. We have a real penchant in our society for pathologizing anything we think is different or incomprehensible. I would say to you that if your range of emotions- no matter how short- works for you, and causes no harm to anyone, then why worry about what others think? If your range of emotions truly upsets you, then that is a reason for you to explore further.
posted by Piscean at 8:46 PM on March 4, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks so much everyone for your helpful replies. Its been really interesting to listen to everyones opinions. Just some clarification.

For many reasons (70% economic and 30% location) Im not moving out. Also there is no need to anymore. This isnt the problem.
posted by Neonshock at 3:05 AM on March 6, 2009

Best answer: I think you do have and have always had feelings; excitement for your trip, warmth for people you're dating, anxiety about not being "normal" enough. Everyone has these, it's part of being human. I think that with you it's that you've learned to block them out and avoid them. You're a little afraid to let things affect you.

I think you've put up a barrier to the outside world that protects you from the bad times. It's been really helpful for you to have that growing up, but now it's inhibiting you from feeling the nice times.

Some might liken your situation as being inside a giant tea-cosy. All of these external influences are like balls being thrown at you. The balls hit the tea cosy and bounce off, you're aware that it happened and did feel it a little, but not enough for it to affect you.

As you get older you need to take more risks. Things aren't planned out for you any more, there's no defined path for you to follow: Go school, go uni, get job, then what? Now you have to take responsibility to find your own destiny and happiness. It's possibly the hardest thing in the world, and to manage it you're going to need your full emotional spectrum.

I think your barrier has been there a long time and is like a big familiar comfy blanket. Now that you're old enough and strong enough to live without that barrier though, it could be time to take it off.

Good friends will help you. Confide in the ones you trust the most.
posted by Ten98 at 4:26 AM on March 7, 2009

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