Are You Too Emotional?

https://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/7/7d/Frenchmanweeps1940.jpg/512px-Frenchmanweeps1940.jpg

You’ve heard it before — “You are too emotional!” Surely you heard it as a child, at least once. But, what does it mean? How do you know if it is true? What is the proper place of emotions in any life? And, if you are “too emotional,” what should you do about it?

First let us establish some ground rules. Emotion is necessary. Imagine a life without it. No  love, no families based on that love, no compassion, no empathy, no righteous anger. What would be left? A life of relating to others as objects, like chairs or tables, their only value in utility — the function that they perform; only reason would be left — cold computation of what to do and how to do it. No laughter, no tears, no gratitude, no passion.

If you agree with what I’ve just said, then it is clear that emotion has a place. It binds us to others, plays a part in letting us know when we have been injured, allows for the possibility of good relationships and a joy in living. It also creates an energy that is necessary for self-defense and for the pursuit of causes. Emotion motivates us and permits the creation of communities.

But, when you are called “too emotional,” the accuser usually isn’t referring to love or happiness or even anger. No, usually he means that you are too easily hurt. And, when you are young, especially if you are male, you are encouraged to “be a man” and live by the “athlete’s creed;” if you are hurt, in other words, rub some dirt on the injury and get back into the game. Don’t complain; that is for whiners and wimps and little kids.

Well, if you are an athlete, that is what you have to do. Think too much about the injury and you won’t be able  to perform. Moreover, if you even think too much about your past failure in the game, you won’t have the confidence and focus to be able to succeed in the remainder of the contest. So, under those circumstances, being “emotional” does, indeed, get in the way. Similarly, emotion interferes with necessary behavior in war-time or in other crises that require focus, indifference to pain, and steadfast action.

But how about situations that are less demanding and fraught with danger or competition?

For me at least, emotion has become, for the most part, a friend. I can be moved by the sadness of my patients and those in my life who I love. I do not consider it a weakness. It is simply a part of being the responsive, sensitive person I aspire to be. And I can be moved by music or drama, again to the point of a tear. Life seems richer, warmer, more eventful and worthwhile that way. I don’t feel the need to keep up a brave front, an appearance of having tamed my emotions.

No, I’m not often whipsawed by my feelings, but, in part, that is because I give them their place in things and don’t keep them all bottled-up, looking for a way to burst out of the container that I would otherwise have put them in. And, when it is required, I am prepared to seek solace from a few of those closest to me, just as I give solace to my patients and those I love.

True, being emotionally vulnerable means that you can be injured. But, don’t fool yourself, life will have its way with you whether you are deadened to feelings or not. By killing your emotions, you are probably only succeeding in limiting the fullness of your life while attempting to create an illusion of strength.

Put another way, it is only human to have emotions and best if you are comfortable with that fact almost all the time.

But, beware when the emotions have you!

At the extreme is a condition called Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD).

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, states that “the essential feature of BPD is a pervasive pattern of instability of interpersonal relationships, self-image, and affects (emotions), and marked impulsivity that begins by early adulthood and is present in a variety of contexts.” These folks are, unfortunately prone to “frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment,” instability, recklessness, suicidal behavior, rapid and intense mood changes, emptiness, and anger. They are the flesh-and-blood definition of what it means to be “too emotional.” And, not surprisingly, they are difficult to treat, although Dialectical Behavior Therapy is a treatment specifically designed to do so, and has demonstrated great promise with this patient group.

For those who are not categorized with this diagnostic label, how do you know if you are too emotional? Here are a few questions you might ask yourself:

1. Do people, not only family members, often tell you that you are too emotional?

2. In an over-heated moment do you tend to make impulsive decisions that you later regret?

3. Do you have many arguments and blow up easily?

4. Do friends and relatives have to handle you with kid gloves?

5. Do your emotions suck the life out of you, change easily and quickly, and generally whip you around?

6. Do you weep easily and often in the absence of major set-backs or great losses (I’m not talking about having a tear come to your eye here, but something more gut-wrenching)?

7. If you are in mid-life, are you no less emotional than you were in your teens? (Most of us become less volatile, more in-balance, over time).

If you’ve answered too many of these in the affirmative, you may want to seek counseling.

A last word or two. Life is challenging. We need to permit ourselves feelings and we need to express them, within limits, and to have a sympathetic soul there to bear witness and listen to us. Balance is the key most of the time. It may help to remember a portion of the “serenity prayer:”

God grant me the serenity

to accept things I cannot change;

courage to change the things I can;

and wisdom to know the difference.

If you do not “know the difference,” often enough and go to emotional extremes over the routine ups and downs of life, if even the small things seem too big, then it might be time to seek professional help. Not to kill your feelings, but to make sure that they don’t destroy your ability to have a good life.

You may find the following post of related interest: Vampires and Buried Feelings: The Therapy of Getting Over Your Hurt.

The above scene, Frenchman Weeps 1940, was used in the 1943 US Army propaganda film Divide and Conquer (Why We Fight #3) directed by Frank Capra. The photo shows “French people staring and waving at remaining troops of the French Army leaving metropolitan France at Toulon Harbour, 1940, to reach the French colonies in Africa where they will be organized as Free French Forces fighting on the Allied side, while France is taken over by the Nazis and the Petain regime collaborating with them.”

Wikimedia Source: Records of the Office of War Information, NARA. *Date: June 14, 1940 *L.

Surely, under the circumstances, this man’s emotions were quite appropriate.

48 thoughts on “Are You Too Emotional?

  1. wow really comprehensive thank you what does it mean if you answered yes to 3 questions? i have a friend who’s certain i’m an emotional monster! HELP!!! 🙂

    Like

    • I’m sure that there are many people who answered “yes” to far more than three questions. But you should know that the questions do not represent a validated psychological test. Rather, they are just something to think about for yourself, as are many of the essays I’ve written. I hope you keep reading my site and am grateful for your comment, Stephanie.

      Like

  2. Thank you for these words on emotion. I happened across this site in response to a discussion I had with my ex-husband. He made the statement that he did not feel joint counseling or continued communication between us would be beneficial so long as I continue to become “so emotional”. Please note that by “emotional” he is referring to shedding tears, not screaming, yelling, accusing or any other extreme behaviour, only tears. I fear that by tucking away my hurt and emotions, I will become detached and stoic and counseling at that point will be futile.

    Like

    • Of course, since I don’t know you, there is a limit on what I can say that is specific to your life. But I would say in general that it helps to have a spouse who accepts us, more or less, as who we are; and that “emotions” such as those you are reporting, are seen within the limits of what is a regular part of life. That is, unless one is depressed, in which case it is helpful if the spouse is responsive and supportive of the needs of his or her depressed partner.

      Like

  3. Wow! This was really helpful,thanks for putting down this article.I answered “yes” to five questions above,i sure need help.i’ve been through five relationships and they all brokeup wit me on grounds that am “too emotional” there are times i wished i could do something about it- kill al these feelings,all these emotions n just be cold but i can’t and now i know i shouldn’t… but they hurt bad,just help me please!

    Like

    • drgeraldstein

      You are welcome, Ester; and thank you for your kind words. Speaking generally, when one has strong emotions that are troublesome, the tendency is to try to suppress them. Ironically, it often helps to “make friends” with the emotions. That may open the door to understanding where they come from. Therapy is often helpful with this sort of thing, both achieving the understanding and learning how to manage feelings without being hostage to them; and without them harming your relationships. I wish you well in this process and hope you keep reading my blog!

      Like

  4. Thank you for this article Dr. I have been aware of my overly sensitive self for years now, and have been troubled by it. I tear up so easily. I tear up sometimes even when someone says a heartfelt ‘thank you’, its embarrassing. I am a sincere worker, and if anyone praises my work in front of people, I get emotional. I am so irritated by this weakness of mine. Any broken promise by anyone close is just unbearable. It’s hard on my personal life. I wish I could just stop the tears from showing, even if the feeling is hidden inside. As long as I am not showing it outside, it’s ok. But that is tough for me to accomplish that, because of the ever teary eyes. I even googled if I something is wrong with my tear ducts. But no, it’s the over sensitivity in my personality that is to blame. The eyes are fine.
    Is there a way out, so that I can be more normal?

    Like

    • You might wish to take a look at a couple of different forms of cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). Both make use of some of the teachings connected to Eastern traditions, meditation, and mindfulness. One is called Dialectical Behavior Therapy. The other is called ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy). Since I don’t know you, I can’t say that these will definitely be a good fit for you. But they are well-respected forms of therapy and are supported by significant empirical evidence of their effectiveness. Best of luck.

      Like

  5. Gilbert Enriquez

    Hello!
    I’m Gilbert 31 years old. I’m really having a problem with myself being too emotional. I’m thinking maybe this has contributed for me to become more suspicious and paranoid most of the times. I would easily cry over a movie while others will not or even with a very emotional music. Please I need some advice. My nephew moves out of our home and I was to worried he will not comes back anymore, and so that added to the tons of problem I already have, and since I think that was too much, I had slit my wrist many times but not it starts to heal. I want to get out of this horrible life I have now and decided looking for some help online and here I am, After reading this article http://www.wikihow.com/Avoid-Suspicion-and-Paranoia, I cam across your site hoping I could get more help, since I know one site won’t be enough and things will not get over night, so please help me to become stronger. I really want to be. But please don’t tell me to sick a professional help ‘coz I can’t. I have the money to pay for one, have been thinking how’d I have enough for my nephews’ school’s fees.

    Thanks in advance!

    Like

    • Gilbert, it is impossible for me to provide therapy over the Internet. Nor is it clear to me where you are located and what kinds of therapeutic services might be available in that place. You might want to start by looking at the American Psychological Association website or the Association of Behavior and Cognitive Therapies website. Government provided health services may also be available to you at little or no cost. Some professionals will also provide services on a sliding-fee-scale that depends on your financial situation. Best of luck.

      Like

      • Gilbert Enriquez

        Thank you very much for the reply!
        I live in the Philippines, and our government doesn’t prioritize these kinds of problems, particularly Mental Health, what a shame isn’t? Though a hospital here has some kind of services for it but being schedules takes 3 months and more, I might be dead by that time. That is why here only the rich people can consult the private doctors because they have the money to pay.

        😦

        Like

      • I would still consult the professional associations of therapists in your country (psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers). There are undoubtedly some people who will consider your situation and attempt to be helpful. Best wishes, Gilbert.

        Like

      • Gilbert Enriquez

        Alright Doc, I think I just really have to look harder, thanks for the advice and time. More power to you blog!

        Like

  6. I am over emotional and it is becoming a huge issue in my life. It is effecting my family life, sleep, career and interfering with relationships. I can see it but I dont know how to stop it. I was wondering if you could recommend literature and advise how to find a good psychiatrist? Are there some types of counsilors that are better equiped for this type of counciling? Number 5 pretty much sums it up for me right now. Im worried that I have become my own worst enemy.

    Like

    • You might want to look at the literature on Dialectical Behavior Therapy, a treatment created by Dr. Marsha Linehan. This treatment focuses in particular on the issue of emotional regulation. You may be able to find a therapist using the referral directory on the website for the Association of Behavior and Cognitive Therapies: http://www.abct.org/ Best of luck.

      Like

  7. I thank God for finding this information that now made me aware of the problem bordering me for long. I think mine has reach the stage of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) except that one thing isn’t mention here which is that i easily get distracted by interference with questions while i am trying to make a speech, statement or even to ask question in a class and within my friends to the extend that i would be sweating. Please what can i do? Thank you.

    Like

    • Please look at my response to Charlee re: Dialectical Behavior Therapy, which is among the comments to the post your read. While I cannot diagnose you, your description of giving speeches and having anxiety doing so is not unusual. However, sweating excessively in social situations, as you say you do, suggests that you examine the possibility of Social Anxiety Disorder. You will find essays I’ve written about that on my blog, as well.

      Like

  8. @Gilbert Enriquez, how are you? I hope you’re still trying some positive things in your life. Ah, honestly, I’m an HR specialist with some knowledge of therapy based on individual experience. Please feel free to send an email in arknoshe2010@gmail.com. I’m currently here in Philippines. Please be patient with yourself. Remember you’re alone on this.

    Paul

    Like

  9. I mean you’re NOT alone on this predicament, sorry typo errors. I was in a hurry. Just feel free to send an email about your condition. Let me see what can we can do improve your situation?

    Like

  10. Um, so being I answered “yes” to all of them with the exception of #7, I should’ve saught counseling a long time ago….

    Like

    • drgeraldstein

      You can always start now. I treated some people who only began counseling in their 60s, a few even older. Thanks for your comment.

      Like

  11. Gilbert Enriquez

    Hello!

    I’m back, but now I have a positive comment to post.

    if you’ll read back you’ll get a little idea how I was last year, and now
    I am doing really great.Thanks to God! He was the answer to all my problems, and still He is, since problems keep coming but at least now He got me covered.
    Now I look to myself being too emotional not a problem at all, but something God gave me, that I can use to easily relate myself to other people who suffers in some other means.

    Thank you for all the concerns you’ve shown me and to those who replied to my posts.

    I pray to God that all of us here will received help from God through His people that are just around willing to help.

    God Bless everyone!

    Like

    • drgeraldstein

      I’m happy to hear that things are better for you. All the best.

      Like

    • What a beautiful testimony. I pray you are well Gilbert

      Like

      • I am very happy for you, as well, Gilbert.

        Like

      • Thank you very much! Please keep praying for me, and also for the other persons here that are still suffering.
        I’m doing fine right. Glory to God!
        I do have some problems right now, but I don’t get too deep anymore. I have found refuge and strength from God, I always seek His presence to guide and love me with each passing day.
        I speak blessing for all of you here! May God bless you more and also you Dr. Gerald Stein. Thank you for this blog!

        Like

      • Although perhaps it is something we should do more often, at this time of year one is often reminded to simply wish someone “peace.” Peace to you, Gilbert.

        Like

      • Thank you for that!
        Let me say it then.I wish everyone peace.
        and Peace to you too Dr. : )

        Like

  12. I’m 24yrs old. I’m not sure wetha I Have this problem or not but I had lots of yes to the qtns above. first of all al say that I feel too much but always pretend to be a ninja. I cry a lot a lot a lot tho I hide Wen I’m doin it.most of the times tho other times I break down in public. I like making fun of frnds and we laf Bt the same joke cn be made on mi and I almost want to fight. if sm1 annoys mi I always picture myslf hurting them ie break thr legs Bt dnt kill mi. oh I also hate being asked too many qtns. I easily gt pissd if I call u and u dnt pic mostly if I love…Anywe Thez smthn abt mi that I cnt seem to figa out. I dnt want to accept but I Thnk I need hlp

    Like

  13. drgeraldstein

    The list of questions is not a formal psychological test, Theresa, but just something to help you think about the place of emotions in your life. That said, however, if you believe that your emotional life isn’t as balanced as you’d like it to be, then seeking a professional evaluation is certainly something to consider. All the best.

    Like

  14. m 18 i lost dad at 16 i didn’t cried although was so close but after his funeral i feel very emotional i get hyper or super hyper cry easily i come in any body saying quickly. help me
    i also feel tat m been neglected by mom and sisters..

    Like

  15. p.s for me almost all points are yeS

    Like

  16. I have read many forums and blogs and your’s is the only one that feels real. Your smart and intuitive where as other’s do not make sense or come together. Many people get hurt by there parents, familys, friends and deal with so many issues that it becomes overwhelming. If I knew what you knew I wouldn’t feel
    so upset and tired I would be able to control my emotions better.

    When issues arrive to me it’s not one but it comes in strides for months then disappears for a year and it starts back over. For instance my fiance and I have a baby he is 9 months old and we have 2 conure parrots. We moved from our last home because our landlord would peek through our windows and we had lack of privacy.

    We spent 1500. to move into a different rental and we are paying 3,000. a month in rent so it costs us 7500.00 to get settled in here, The first 2 days the toilet overflowed we left the caregiver a message since he is the entrepreneur of the landlord and it took him 5 days to get a plumber here. Well the damage got so bad that if wrecked the carpet in the living room and damaged the walls we had to live in sewage for 5 days, then my son developed a cyst on the back of his head, The landlord finally gets a plumber out here then a mold inspector. They came and ripped out half the home and plasticized it off.

    In the meantime my son is screaming all day because of the giant cyst on his head and all of the loud workers and materials being thrown around. The workers hung plastic and separated off our home and took out drywall and wood after they were done to get it tested for Asbestos. It came back positive. So now were living in hazardous waste and Asbestos which the fibers have been released in the air and we cannot find another rental available who is excepting pets under 3,000 a month. The caregiver said the landlord will not let us out of the lease and is considering to comp us this months rent. I then go to text my fiance at work and my neighbor who is 16 shows up in my back yard limping and showed me her foot that is scratched up. I told her to hold on i put my Iphone in my chair ran in my front yard and picked her a piece of my Aloe vera plant. While I was gone she had stolen my phone which I did not realize until later I thought I misplaced it in my house. So Now I did not have a phone to use to let my fiance know to come and get us and that the asbestos report is positive. So I look through my house and I didn’t realize she had taken my phone until my fiance came home, went online and saw text message sent out on our at&t bill he then text ed them and threatened to press charges if they didn’t give us the name’s of the people using my phone to talk to them.

    Well that night around 9pm a young boy called and gave the name and it turns out to be the girl I helped. So My fiance knocked on there door and told her to return my phone she denied having it I then called the police to file a report and the police felt sorry for her and took her side. She started crying and admitted she took the phone and someone had stolen it at school out of her bag and she didn’t realize it was mine. no one else has access to our yard and the police let her go. All of my sons baby pictures and videos were on there and being very busy that I am I never took the time to back them up. I am so devastated and I cried all day long with anger hate sadness frustration and I cant handle any more of this. Do I fit into your category or am I experiencing to much stress because I feel like I’m going to explode or have a heart attack.

    Thanks

    Like

    • While I cannot say anything definitive since I have not personally seen you, your description of the circumstances suggests that they would overwhelm a great many people. Best of luck in managing what sounds like a very difficult situation.

      Like

  17. please help

    Like

    • Please give me a bit of time before I respond. You have asked some very serious and important questions and I’d like to give you something useful, although it is not likely to solve all your problems. Rather, it will be intended to give you some sense of direction and hope.

      Like

    • I have responded to you privately.

      Like

      • thank you sir.I live in India (nagpur,maharashtra,india) there are not many psycholigist at our place.I ll be thankfull if you can help me regarding psychologist in india or any online help plz suggest.thanks a lot for your reply sir.

        Like

      • I have given you sites to explore, some international, in the email I sent today. Additionally, I have suggested some research you can do to find more. I have no knowledge of the Indian mental health system, so I’m afraid that is as much as I can offer you. Best of luck with your search.

        Like

      • thank you:-)

        Like

  18. I stumbled onto this site by looking up “overly emotional” online. I’m not sure if my problem fits into this catagory or not, or even if it IS a problem. I did, however, answer “yes” to all the questions. My problem is that I get deeply emotionally involved in just about anything…a book, a movie, a TV show, even my own writings (I’m an amateur writer)…so much so that I take on the feelings of the person/s that I’m watching/reading about. I will feel their pain to the point of being in tears and depressed. I will feel their hurt and anger to the point of being enraged. These feelings don’t go away when the show is over or the book is done. Sometimes they last for days, even weeks. The emotions affect me so deeply that they interfere with my real relationships..with my spouse..my children..my friends. It is even worse if it is a series of books or a TV series. With those, it’s almost like I become the character. I become so caught up in the character’s emotional struggles that I make them my own. My partner has even had to say to me at times, “you can’t watch this. you get too emotionally involved.” Is this a problem or am I just highly empathetic? I have a therapist that I see from time to time. Is this something I should bring up or am I being overly dramatic??

    Like

    • Since I don’t know you I can’t say anything with certainty. Being highly empathic is possible, but regardless, it is the sort of thing that would be appropriate to discuss with your therapist. Best wishes.

      Like

  19. Dr, my father committed suicide when I was 4. Mother started dating a very abusive man when I was 7. He physically, emotionally, mentally and sexually abused my sister’s and I for 10 yrs.i became a father at the age of 15 and again at 18. I married at 18 and join the military. My first tour was in Korea. Within 2 months my wife got pregnant by my best friend. We separated and later divorced. I became an alcoholic and started experimenting with drugs. At 24 I remarried a drug and alcohol addicted woman whom I spent countless hours cleaning up after her, from self defecating and sleeping in her own vomit. That lasted 10 yrs because I felt guilty for even thinking of leaving her, although I was miserable. I suffer from PTSD (due to the abuse). I find myself crying or getting extremely emotional when watching talk shows, seeing anyone get hurt, too include animated programs. If my current wife doesn’t acknowledge any of my good deeds I get emotional. Please help!

    Like

    • First off, I’m very sorry that you’ve had such a difficult history. I will reply to you privately and perhaps can suggest some resources for you.

      Like

  20. I am 29, I get angry and sad easily. Im starting to notice it more and my husband is too. He cant tell me anything bad, as in to tell me to make sure I mop the floor. Or a simple question, as did you make dinner? I say what do u think? He says I am sensitive. Then I start to cry, and I sob as if its the end of the world. I get angry when I drive. Some times I feel depressed then within a minute I am happy again, my emotions are taking over. Idk if its hormones, no birth control for 3yrs and not pregnant. Ive gained 30lbs, barely eat. Im so tired of feeling sorry for myself, its getting between my marriage and worse the outlook in my life. How is that possible? Being so sad or angry one minute then happy again. I want to go to the doctor but am so embarass and ashamed, was required to see both a psychologist and psychatrist by a judge due to being sexually abuse as a child. All that is past me, maybe its not. I just want to feel normal, and not cry over because my husband wants to help clean(yes that bad). I cant even watch suspenseful movies because I start getting real nervous and scared, or romantics are the worse. Any advice wiould be great. Thank you.

    Like

    • I would suggest you seek a consultation with a good therapist in order to be evaluated. At that point, a decision can be made concerning the appropriate treatment. Consider reading about Dialectical Behavior Therapy, Borderline Personality Disorder, and Depression, and ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy). I can’t diagnose you, but the above might give you food for thought — a fresh perspective and help you direct yourself to the proper help. Best wishes.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s