5 signs you are emotionally constipated

emotional constipation

It’s a familiar scene. The plane lands and smart phones are changed from airplane mode as passengers get a fix of social media, email or text; movies are often interrupted by the light of a smart phone and family time becomes a euphemism for being alone, together. It’s not just our down time or travel routines that are suffering from this digital addiction. Our expectation of instant personal gratification means we have become less patient and less aware of each other’s personal boundaries. For example, studies show that we are have become so ‘mind-blind’ to the implications of our own actions that we frequently interrupt, and are frequently interrupted by others at work – on average every 3 minutes. Creating disruption, chronic deficits in attention and millions of dollars in lost productivity.


What’s the payoff? What might be driving our need for instant gratification and our craving for digital connection? Not only does it increase FOMO, our digital fixation distracts us from how we really feel about ourselves, our lives and the world around us. Most of us will use any number of psychological defense mechanisms to distort or deny our reality, but our digital fix is probably one of the most powerful defenses we have to prevent us fully engaging in the real world. What’s interesting is that to date, most of the studies into the effects of prolonged ‘screen time’ have focused on its impact on attention.  Yet the biggest loser in all of this distraction is us. We are steadily and relentlessly losing a connection to ourselves. This goes beyond emotional intelligence; it’s a form of emotional constipation that numbs our ability to fully experience our own emotional state.

Distracted adults grow irritable when their phone use is interrupted; they not only miss emotional cues but actually misread them.

Erika Christakis


5 Signs you are emotionally constipated


Here are 5 signs you are suffering from emotional constipation 😳.

  1. Disassociation: You become so lost in a ‘screen’ you have no connection to your surroundings. This can result in a chronic loss of interest in, or curiosity about the people around you.
  2. Monoemotional: You have only one type of emotional response to an event. Most people are stuck in the frustration – anger – rage rut. Every event triggers a negative feeling on the continuum from frustration to rage. Road rage and air rage are examples of a population on an emotional hair-trigger. Similarly, a friend recently turned me on to a ‘rage-vacation’ – she was so angry at work she had to take the day off to rage about it.
  3. Numbness. You find it hard to access or experience emotion and so ‘flee into your head’ to rationalize situations or events. The most chronic version of this condition results in an inability to access any emotional response to a significant event or experience.
  4. Empathy Gap: Empathy is the ability to tune in to another person’s wavelength and see the world from another person’s perspective. One sign you have an empathy gap is that you are constantly surprised by how people respond to you, or to others around you. If you are always saying to yourself, “didn’t see that coming”, or “wow, she really surprised me”, you definitely need some emotional ex-lax.
  5. I think therefore I am: We live in a society that prizes thinking, yet as the neuroanatomist Jill Bolte-Taylor observes, ‘we are feeling creatures who think, not thinking creatures who feel’. If someone asks you how you feel and you always respond by saying ‘what I think is’ you are intellectualizing – a common defense against emotion where we focus on logic, facts or analysis. The down side of this unconscious ninja move is that you are completely out of touch with how your feelings are impact your choices, actions and behavior. 

If any of these ‘symptoms’ apply to you, or you feel emotionally blocked, it’s time to ditch the device, get in touch with your boundaries and engage with the world you can see, smell and touch.

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