Written and verified by the psychologist GetPersonalGrowth.
Last update: 15 November 2021
Affection and its daily demonstrations are undoubtedly the psychological and emotional tendon that sustains any happy and lasting relationship. However, there are those who do not know, fail or refuse to give shape to this language. Such people are defined by the heart of ice; they are individuals full of contradictions, fears and wrapped in wire, causing deep sadness to their spouses and also to their children, because they are unable to express their feelings.
It is no surprise that both affection and affectionate communication itself are the cornerstone on which any meaningful bond rests. They are to the point of being the main cause for many people to go to couples therapy. It is very common, in fact, for a member of the couple to declare that they do not feel recognized or appreciated or even that there is a clear inequality between what she offers and what she receives.
Many psychotherapists define this problem as skin hunger, even if in reality it is a problem that goes far beyond the senses. We speak of unsubstantiated emotions, of difficulties in expressing one's feelings, which are not only neglected, but sometimes treated with hostility and coldness. Few situations can be this destructive to a person how to see oneself enveloped by this texture, in an abysmal emotional void in which, sooner or later, one begins to doubt the relationship and be truly loved ...
Affection and our emotional survival
People do not need only food to survive, nutrients from which to obtain energy so that cells can carry out all those fascinating processes that allow us to go beyond mere survival. Strange as it may seem, affection also nourishes us, offers us strength and a sense of belonging to a small group of people with whom we identify e we argue, but they also make us feel safe and happy: our friends and our family.
An example of this can be found in Juan Mann, founder of the famous Free Hugs movement. This young man felt so deprived of human contact that for some time he thought the worst. Abandoned by his girl, by his friends, with his divorced parents and his sick grandmother, he felt like he was dying. One day, however, during a party, a wonderful thing happened, a girl spontaneously hugged him, empathizing with her sadness. The cold, for a moment, left his heart and the world recovered harmony, balance and, above all, meaning.
After this brief experience, Juan Mann decided to go to the street with a billboard announcing that he offered to hug anyone who needed it. He was therapeutic, fantastic, sensational… he felt so deprived of touch and affection that his mind already bordered on the abyss of depression, of extreme despair.
He had never been so happy and, in fact, just as he himself explains in a documentary, the aspect that fascinated him most was seeing how people approached before bewildered, but that after parting from the embrace, they all had a big smile printed on the face: they all came out victorious.
Heart of ice or the inability to offer affection
We already know that offering affection is "primitive" and necessary, we do not see it only among us human beings, even our animal friends are always looking for that caress, that look through which to get excited with our complicity, with our sweet words . If these connections are natural, instinctive and magical, then why are there people who act as if they have a real heart of ice?
- First of all, we need to understand that there is no single cause related to this emotional difficulty. We cannot group all these behaviors under the same label or conceive such inability as pathological, as a disorder.
- In most cases there is one low self-esteem This lack of self-confidence leads such individuals to always be on the defensive in their emotional relationships. In this way they try to minimize the risk of feeling rejected or, even worse, avoid showing what they mean by "vulnerability".
That is, if I show myself warm, affectionate and sensitive with others, I highlight my inner fragility, my low self-esteem. The most prudent thing, therefore, is to keep your distance, avoid demonstrations of affection and, with this, safeguard my (false) appearance of a strong person.
- On the other hand, there is another aspect that we cannot overlook: it educational style. Being born and growing up in an environment characterized by total deprivation of affection, in which attachment is insecure or even non-existent will certainly lead the person not to understand, not to value, not to have the courage to offer this emotional language which, in some way, he could not know during his childhood. Hence his difficulty in expressing his feelings.
- Let's not forget the alexithymic manifestations. There where there is not only an inability to show one's emotions, but also a lack of introspection, empathy and a cognitive style oriented only towards the outside, rationality and concreteness. However, and it is important to take this into account, alexithymia, or emotional illiteracy, occurs in many cases in people who have been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).
Finally, and to conclude, we cannot ignore one last fact. We cannot force these people to express their affection, as this strategy has no effect. Conversely, trying very directly can cause a counterproductive result, opposite to the desired one. Let's not forget that they cannot express their feelings.
The ideal is to work starting from the needs of each person, from their psychological and emotional reality. In most cases, the most logical therapeutic strategy will focus on the growth of the subject's self-esteem, in order to build a more positive and confident self-image.