NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Sunday, November 13, 2022

What Does It Mean to Be Emotionally Available?

The healthiest and happiest relationships tend to have one thing in common: Both people are emotionally available to each other.  So, I think it's worthwhile to define what it means to be emotionally available and contrast it with being emotionally unavailable in this first article about this topic (see my articles: Emotional Vulnerability as a Pathway to Greater Intimacy in a Relationship).

What Does It Mean to Be Emotionally Available?

What Does It Mean to Be Emotionally Available?
Basically, being emotionally available means allowing yourself to be open, honest and emotionally vulnerable with a loved one (see my article: Emotional Vulnerability as a Strength in a Relationship).

Being emotionally available means you're able to share your deeper feelings with another person who is close to you and you also make room for their feelings.

When you're emotionally available you're able to:
  • Have deeper, more meaningful conversations with loved ones about yourself where you make yourself emotionally vulnerable.
  • Allow yourself to get emotionally close to your loved ones.

What Does It Mean to Be Emotionally Available?

  • Take in your loved ones' experiences and be empathetic to their emotions, even if their experiences and emotions are different from your own.
  • Allow your loved ones to comfort you when you're going through a difficult time.

What Does It Mean to Be Emotionally Available?

  • Comfort your loved ones when they're going through a difficult time.
What Does It Mean to Be Emotionally Unavailable?
Let's contrast emotional availability with emotional unavailability.

When you're emotionally unavailable you tend to:
  • Be uncomfortable with deeper, more meaningful conversations with your loved ones about yourself because you want to avoid feeling vulnerable. Emotional vulnerability scares you and you want to distance yourself from it (see my article: Fear of Emotional Vulnerability).
  • Be unable to take in your loved ones' experiences or be open and empathetic to their emotions, especially if their emotions or experiences are different from your own.
  • Get defensive if your loved ones want to comfort you when you're having a difficult time because it makes you uncomfortable. You might even deny to them (and yourself) that you're going through a difficult time because being emotionally vulnerable feels unsafe for you (see my article: Pretending to Feel Strong to Avoid Feeling Your Unmet Emotional Needs).
  • Have difficulty comforting your loved ones when they're going through a difficult time. You might minimize or dismiss their feelings because you're uncomfortable with difficult emotions.

Why Do People Become Emotionally Unavailable?
There are many factors that contribute to a person's emotional availability or unavailability, including experiences in their family of origin as well as experiences in prior relationships.

If a person is raised in a family where family members are encouraged to feel and express their emotions, all other things being equal, they tend to go into relationships being more emotionally available.  

But if they were discouraged from having and expressing more vulnerable emotions, they learned that difficult emotions are "bad" and if they express these feelings, they're burdening others and they won't be supported emotionally.

Even worse, they might be shunned or punished physically or emotionally for having and expressing vulnerable emotions, so they learned to suppress these emotions.

These experiences are psychologically traumatic (see my article: Understanding the Impact of Trauma on Emotionally Unavailable People).

In many families boys are especially discouraged from expressing their emotions or for even having emotions.  From an early age they're told they need to "be a man" or "boys don't cry."  So they are shamed for their emotions (see my article: Shame is at the Root of Most Emotional Problems).

As adults, they might not even know what they feel--with the exception of anger because in these families boys are sometimes allowed to feel anger, which is the one emotion they might recognize in themselves as adults.

Next Article
I'll continue to discuss this topic in my next article where I'll discuss how to become more emotionally available with loved ones: How to Become More Emotionally Available.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist.

I work with individual adults and people in relationships.

I have helped many clients to learn to be more emotionally available in their relationships (see my article: What is a Trauma Therapist?).

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.