Emotophobia is the fear of unpleasant emotions, not to be confused with emetophobia, the fear of vomiting.
There is little online about emotophobia.
The few articles I found offered the suggestion to “stop treating negative emotions as if they are your enemies and can harm you.”
This is somewhat condescending and implies that emotions themselves cannot harm you.
The person offering this advice clearly has never been in a situation where showing negative emotions could harm them.
So, they think it is rather ridiculous that someone would associate their negative emotions with danger.
The problem with this thinking is that there are situations where someone’s emotions can cause them harm.
This advise shows a complete misunderstanding of emotophobia and its root causes.
People with emotophobia are not “treating” emotions as if they are the enemy.
For people that have emotophobia, emotions were the enemy and they were followed by consequences.
People that grew up in mentally abusive childhoods were not permitted to have emotions like other people are.
The expression of emotion, which represents being an individual, is often punished by abusive parents.
Even children who were not physically abused, could have had their right to individual ideas and feelings violated.
Narcissistic parents and other overbearing, maniplulative parents do not want their children to develop independent thoughts and ideas.
They do not want their children thinking in terms of their own needs at all. When their children expressed feelings, the abusive parents retaliated. If the child thinks independently and can express their feelings then it might threaten the narcissistic parent.
The narcissistic parent wants to create a false narrative about the family. It is the vision of the family that is portrayed to the outside world. Everyone in the family has to back this story up.
Children are not allowed to talk about abuse that occurs in the home. The narcissist re-frames the abuse to the mind of the child. The child is taught to believe the shared psychosis of the family, created by the narcissist.
Punishments are inflicted on a child who goes against the narcissistic parent in any way. These can be emotional or physical in nature.
Everyone in the house is trained to cater to the narcissist. Everyone knows that there are consequences for disobedience. The family members are made into a kind cult that follows the lead of the narcissist.
These mentally abusive parents, want the focus on themselves. The needs and feelings of the others in the family do not matter.
They demand for the child to cater to their ever changing desires and demands. The narcissist will set rules and then change them when they feel like it.
The children are expected to follow the rules, even when the parent has not informed them of changes. It is like playing a game with someone who changed the rules randomly and does not tell you.
In order to survive in this type of environment, the child must learn to constantly read the parent’s body language and tone of voice.
They must anticipate the desires and moods of the parent. If they fail to do so, it is met with negative consequences.
If the child expresses disagreement, or unhappiness with a narcissistic parent, they will likely incur the anger and wrath of the parent.
The smallest indication of disagreement with the parent can bring out their anger.
For their own protection, these children and teenagers learn to disguise their feelings and push them down.
They do not want the parent to see their feelings because it will be used against them.
If you grew up in this type of environment, then feeling negative emotions was the enemy. It is not something we have suddenly developed an irrational fear of as adults.
This environment causes C-PTSD, which is Complex Post Traumatic Stess Disorder, in many people. This is carried over into adulthood.
So, the advice to “stop treating emotions as if they were the enemy” and to tell people that feeling emotions is safe, does not make sense to someone with C-PTSD from childhood mental abuse.
Adults can also develop emotophobia from ongoing abusive relationships with a partner. Women become afraid to disagree with their partner because they fear the consequences of his anger.
Abusive people do not tolerate their partner exercising their personal rights, or expressing opinions that are different from them.
Again, the brain rewires the neural connections to avoid showing negative feelings. This is a necessary survival tactic at the time.
It is not easily undone. The brain considers it necessary in order to protect the safety of the person.
It takes years to develop this survival tactic and to learn how to detach from one’s own emotions. The brain becomes wired to avoid entering into situations that may cause negative emotions.
To undo what was a learned survival skill takes a lot of work in re-wiring the brain.
Telling someone “emotions are your friends” does not work, especially without any idea why the person feels such anxiety about emotions like anger and sadness.
The only people who really understand what it feels like to have severe anxiety about showing anger, and sadness to others are those of us that are carrying the C-PTSD that causes it.
This is not a simple problem to just fix. You have to re-wire your programming. You have to learn that it is okay for someone else to be upset with us when we say “no.”
You need to learn how to identify what you want and what decisions will support you in a healthy way. It is okay if other people do not agree with your choices.
It takes practice to be able to stand your ground about things without fear of the consequences making you comply with others even when it is hurtful to you.
Low self esteem.
Lack of being able to self generate feelings of self worth.
Fear of doing things that make other people upset, angry or disappointed.
Difficulty prioritizing oneself.
Trouble feeling motivated to get ahead in life.
These are some of the symptoms of C-PTSD from growing up with a narcissistic parent. Your subconscious brain is programmed very early about your identity, and your role in the family and your place in the world.
Associations are deep in the subconscious.
If you do not comply with the other person, there will be consequences to pay. If you cause someone to become upset , you will pay dearly.
People from more health families learn to look out for themselves. You learned that in order to protect yourself, you have to look out for others.
People from functional families were taught to be in touch with their own feelings and to love themselves.
If you were the child of a narcissist, you were taught to defend against the wrath f the narcissist by not expressing your own feelings. Eventually you began to have trouble identifying what you want at all.
As an adult this wiring in your brain keeps you from taking care of yourself properly.
You still have that hyper-vigilance that there is a threat of danger when someone near you is not getting their way.
You may have a fear of being abandoned by the people you love, if you consider your own needs to be equal to theirs. The longer you cater to the desires of other people, in a relationship, the more they come to expect that treatment from you.
People around you can become conditioned to expect you to always agree, always go along with them, and never challenge them.
One of the many problems of this “people pleaser” behavior is that it attracts narcissists and predators. Narcissists and psychopaths want easy prey or at least a victim that had obvious emotional wounds that they can use to use against you.
If you have never practiced standing up for yourself, then you have no idea how to do this, and you fear the consequences of doing so. What would happen to your relationships if you said “no” to someone?
What would happen to your world of you began to prioritize your own needs? What consequences would follow if you believed that your needs and ideas were just as valuable as those of the people in your life?
Well, you can see the people in the world who are not afraid to say “no.” You interact with them all the time. They say “no” to you all the time. These people are not all in the same category.
There are people who do what they want all the time. They never let people cross their boundaries. In fact, they cross over into your world and stomp all over your rights and invade your boundaries all the time.
These are the narcissists. You may have a fear of becoming like that. You do not want to become the parent that emotionally abused you. The very person that caused much of your difficulty in getting what you want out of life.
But there is another category of people who stand up for themselves. These are people that have healthy boundaries but still respect the rights of other people. They do not exploit and manipulate others.
They express their feelings and let people know what they want. They go after the things they want out of life and they consider their personal dreams, desires and emotions to be a high priority.
These are not narcissists. They do not use aggressive, emotionally manipulative communication. They do not covertly try to get emotional reactions from you, in order to exploit and control you.
There is a line between assertive and aggressive. You are being assertive when you express what you do and do not want.
You are being aggressive when you make it clear that you do not care what the other person wants. You undermine, lie to, and gaslight people to get your way.
Being assertive and having healthy boundaries does not have to injure other people.
You are not a bad person for looking out for yourself.
You are not a narcissist if you care about your own feelings and needs. You are a normal human being.
I will write about this topic again in the future. Please leave comments below about a specific question or particular problem that you have.
Give me some ideas about problems of having C-PTSD (complex PTSD) that you are dealing with.
I want to hear from adult children of narcissistic parents. Also from anyone that grew up under the heavy cloud of a narcissist in some capacity. It is not always a parent.
Also, if you feel that your ability to move forward and get momentum in life has been affected by narcissistic abuse, either during childhood or as an adult, please leave me any ideas about questions I can address in a future post.
People that care about you…and care about others in general, do not use bullying tactics to get their agenda met. They do not intentionally overblow, contort, and reframe events.
Caring people do not have a ridiculously overblown reaction to a little thing that you did “wrong” ( against their personal rules) and then tell all of your friends, family or co-workers that you victimized them.
Someone who wants to be your friend does not refuse to hear your side of a disagreement, shift blame for their over reaction onto you and then put malicious words in your mouth that you never said.
Toxic people pretend to be your friend until they feel threatened by you, have no more use for you, or you refuse to agree with everything they say…and do everything they want.
Narcissists see themselves as more entitled than you to everything , whether you deserve it more or not.
Narcissists want you to admire their greatness and submit to being their minion.
If you stop catering to their ever-changing whims, they will gather their other minions to turn against you….and destroy things you care about…..friendships, your reputation, your job, your marriage, your business, your self esteem, or your ability to move forward with your life.
They won’t change, even if they tell you they will. If they turned against you or discarded you once …they will do it again…and harder.
Once you begin to feel your self esteem go down every time you talk with someone, it is time to back away.
Once you begin to notice that every time you have a conversation with them you have to go back over the entire thing in your head to figure out what the hell just happened….it is time to back away….or run if you can..
Relationships should involve two people…..
Two different sets of opinions that are respected
Two different sets of personal boundaries that are respected
Two sets of ideals and thoughts that are respected
Two different schedules that are respected
Two different ways of feeling about situations that are respected
Two different sets of dreams , skills, talents and aspirations that are supported and respected
Two different individual people that are respected
Get the idea?
Narcissists are poisonous.
Toxic people sometimes exit our lives, and then suddenly reappear years later and act as if no time has passed.
They pretend that none of the cruel things they did to you ever happened or that your perception of those events is exaggerated. They suddenly, out of the blue want to rekindle the old relationship.
It may be that you are the one that stopped talking to them, and now they are suddenly barging into your life, as if nothing happened. They act as if you accidentally drifted apart, and they are unaware of any incidents which caused you to disconnect from them.
Out of curiosity, your first reaction will probably be to wonder what they are up to, and then you will allow them whatever contact they are asking you for. It might be a lunch date or a phone call. They may be asking for your new address or wanting to confirm your old one.
They will ask you how you have been doing, as if they have great concern for you and have been worried about you all this time. There is no apology from them for anything.
More likely they will make you feel as thought you were over sensitive about the past situations with them or that your memory is in question. They will deny, avoid, redirect, and minimize any conversation you bring up about the past.
If this is a toxic personality that is skilled in gaslighting tactics, then they will create a false past reality that is not the way you remember it to be,
They were very supportive of you an always believed in you. They will attempt to draw you into this fantasy reality in order for you to trust them,
If your memories do not match what they are telling happened then they are gaslighting you. This is an intentional manipulation of reality, in order to confuse you, make you question your own memories and perception, and also create a false ideal of them in your mind.
If they begin to do a lot of talking about themselves and how many great things they have been doing, then they may be trying to get you to see them in a false light, that makes them look like a more compassionate person than they are.
They may want themselves to appear more together, more mentally balanced or more successful and desirable than they really are.
If the relationship did not mean enough to them, to keep up on it for a long time, then why are they suddenly interested in you now? If this is a red flag going off in your head, then listen to it.
If there is any cognitive dissonance occurring in your brain, then something is wrong with this situation. They are playing a game with your memories and your thoughts. Cognitive dissonance happens when you have two realities that are co-existing in your mind and they do not match together. In fact the two realities are mutually exclusive.
Here is an example.
You remember this person talking about your family as if they hated them. They called your sister a stupid slut who lived off of others like a parasite.
They called your other a greedy manipulator. And they said that you were always defending your family and putting their needs first.
Now, in this present conversation, they ask how your lovely sister is doing. They talk about how they always used to like her and knew that she could do something good with her life.
The ask about your mother. They say how they know she always worked hard for all the things she has and never asked a soul for help.
They tell you that you were always independent minded and did things for yourself. Maybe you could have done more to be supportive of your family, but you can’t help but to have the personality that you have.
Thus they have altered your perception of the past and how they see your sister and your mother.
They always cared about them and thought well of them. You however have changed from the clingy daughter, who did too much for the family to a selfish daughter who let her mother struggle and did not offer to help.
This is Gaslighting.
You remember one thing and the person is telling you a completely different version of reality and hoping that you have low enough self confidence that you will believe that your own perceptions are wrong. They are so smooth and certain about what they “remember” that they do not seem to be lying.
If this is kind of toxic person that is trying to hoover their way back into your life, then do not let them. They want something from you and then they will leave you injured for letting them in. The “hoovering” tactic refers to the vacuum cleaner that sucks up things in its path. If you are “old Supply” of their and not they are drawing you back in then it is called hoovering.
Maybe you have run into this person at a family event. Maybe you were hospitalized and this person has suddenly appeared to be there for you, even though they have not given 2 cents about you for 2 years.
What does your rational brain tell you?
If this person has turned their back on you in your times of need in the past, then why do they suddenly care now? If is does not make any sense to you, then it is not right.
Another characteristic of toxic people is that they are self centered and cannot help but to center the attention around themselves. They may be able to play the game of pretending to care about you for a short time, but they will go back into talking about themselves and how everything affects them.
I had not heard from my sister in 5 years. I was recently (about 2 months ago) put into the hospital. I notified my step mother, so that she could tell my father. I got an email from my sister.
She was sooo concerned. At this point during the hospital stay I was very ill and I was very week. I told her that, but she decided to ignore my state and just chat cheerfully away over the email.
She talked about how she understood my suffering and that it was so bad to have to be the hospital. Then she went into her story about being in the hospital and how it was so much worse than my “little situation”.
This is interesting because she did not ask much about my situation and had no frame of reference to decide that hers was worse.
Their is always more than yours.If you are sick, they were once sicker. If you almost died. they came closer to dying than you and their pain lasted longer.
I had gastro specialists called in for my case in the hospital. Her version of her own story, had to top mine. Her version was that she ended up with such a bad infection that the Center for Disease Control was called in.
They had to isolate the entire section of the building. Now, I have some recollection of this incident and I hardly remember the CDC coming on the scene.
And all of this was while I was lying sick in a hospital bed. Your rational mind tell you that this person is not being considerate, they are being rude, and they do not seem to care what you are feeling.
But your compassionate and trusting side might want you to believe that this person must be telling you the truth. They must actually be worried and concerned for you, not just trying to top your situation because the family is worried about you and it is taking attention away from them.
So, once you feel these 2 contrasting realities beginning to collide, take a rational look at what is happening. Do not assume that the other person is always telling the truth , especially when they are clearly changing the facts.
Don’t assume the toxic person has changed.
Look at their behavior. Not what they are saying about themselves and how great they are. But their behavior. What are they attempting to do with what they are saying? Are they listening to your feelings and thoughts ir just telling you what to feel?
Are they letting you talk and being considerate about whether or not you want to talk to them right then or at all? Are they listening to you or are they dominating the conversation? Is the conversation based in reality or is reality suddenly magically in their favor and against you?
Be careful allowing toxic people from the past, back into your life.
If they were self centered. selfish, malicious, cruel, energy sucking, or even dangerous in the past, they probably still are. If they tell you they have changed, they are probably lying. If they tell you that things were not as bad as you remember them to be and that your perception is wrong, then they are lying.
You have other people that actually care about you. Do not let anyone guilt you into having to interact with them, give them your new phone number or whatever.
Do not allow people to tell you that their perception of the past is the actual version and yours is the version of an overly sensitive, confused person.
This is an excellent article about narcissistic abuse and the effect it can have on the victim. Recovery is brutal and take months or more.
You can’t Wake a Person up Who is Pretending to be Asleep.
This is an ancient Native American Proverb. It can be applicable in various contexts. I want ti discuss this statement in the context of toxic personalities that we deal with.
If you are in any kind of relationship with someone who you feel is toxic to you, then they are probably using communication skills that are inauthentic. They are dishonest in the way they interact with you, and probably with others as well.
We are used to expecting people to communicate what it is that they want, whether we agree with them or not. Most people will demand, ask for, explain or otherwise communicate their desires to you.
When you are dealing with a toxic personality, they will not be up front about what it is that they are after. Their communication often leaves you feeling confused about what their purpose was in saying things.
They sometimes seem to say things that are the opposite of what you would expect them to say. They do things that seem contrary to their own purposes.
You find yourself questioning why their behaviors seem contradictory to their goals. The reason for this is simple….you do not know what their purposes are.
In thinking of these people as people who think like you do….you will never see what they are up to. Their purpose may be far more insidious and intentionally destructive…simply for the sake of the destruction of other people.
They will shift blame upon you, when they are at fault in situations. They will accuse you of having the bad characteristics that they have. They will lie and then accuse you of lying. They will cause a situation of chaos and then blame you for having caused it.
No matter what happens, there is wreckage and carnage in the wake of their path. People are in states of anxiety when this person is around and they will cause people to turn against each other.
The toxic personality loves to triangulate people. This means that they will intentionally place people in situations which cause confrontation and ill will. They enjoy the emotional torment of other people.
They will never take responsibility for causing any problems, even though they know that they created them intentionally.
Toxic people lie and you can never tell what parts of what they say are the truth. They are intentionally causing you and others mental and emotional torment. But they will claim that you are not trying hard enough to get along with them, or the other people.
You can try to explain to the toxic person that they are setting up situations which are uncomfortable for you. You can try to explain to them why the things they want are not appropriate. They are often very inappropriate in social situations.
story number one…
I was with a narcissistic personality who once intentionally hired back an ex employee, just because the other workers in the office hated working with her. At this point in our relationship, I did not realize that he was doing these things intentionally. He would ask my advice about social etiquette …saying that he did not understand people.
He asked me my advice about hiring this ex employee back. He explained to me that she always seemed to cause trouble in the office with the other workers. One of his sales women in particular, really hated this girl.
He knew this and still he was asking me if he should hire her back. I thought he was confused and needed to talk it out. I asked him if he knew what the situation was between the ex employee and his current sales woman. He said they his sales person had told him flat out that she would never work next to this woman.
She interfered with her work and was overbearing in the office. She was rude and crude and otherwise unprofessional. I asked him why he would want to hire someone like this again. He just said that she was good at sales and that he needed another sales person.
I told him that if he hired her , the same problems would occur again. It would be an insult to his sales woman, who had been loyal to him for many years. It would be very disrespectful to her, to rehire this person and force her to work next to her.
He was planning to open another office, in a different location. he said maybe he would put one of them in the new office and one of them in the old office. I told him that he could try this, as long as they had no interaction with each other. There was no reason to create a hostile work environment for his sales team, especially when there other people he could hire.
So, the next day he hired her back, He put her in the desk right next to the sales woman who hated her. She was dominating and rude and made everyone’s life miserable. All of the sales people were upset and this clearly affected their work.
As much as he wanted sales, he was willing to risk the quality of the sales calls, just to torment his employees, especially the loyal sales woman who had begged him not to rehire the ex employee.
Night after night, he relayed to me stories about how everyone was arguing and upset. He did not seem to mind. He almost seemed amused, but I was not ready to see that he really was.
It is a power trip. The toxic people love to create chaos and torment people. It is deliberate. They will do this even to their own detriment.
The reason that you cannot teach them or explain to them that the things they are doing are wrong…..is because they already know.
No matter how I tried to explain to him and warn him, when he would plan to do things like this (which was very often) he did not seem to understand. he would tell me “I just don’t understand people” He said that people always ended up i chaos around him, and he was the innocent victim.
He claimed to have no idea why his employees and friend were always unhappy with him. He did not understand why people felt taken advantage of by him. He did not understand why people eventually refused to take his calls.
He would tell me these stories about how people “abused him” in his past and in his present situations. He shifted the blame of all situations onto someone else.
He used to ask my advice about dealing with people. I thought he was asking in order to know what the right thing was to do. Well, he was in a way….he wanted to know what the right thing was….in order that he could do the opposite.
Anytime I explained to him how people were going to feel if he did certain things, he would always do the thing that I told him was the worst thing to do. The most disrespectful, degrading, humiliating thing. He would take advantage of people all the time and say that he did not take advantage of them.
He claimed that other people always took advantage of him. He claimed to be completely oblivious to the fact that he caused volatile situations, by doing inappropriate things. Any time he asked my advice, he did the opposite.
story number two…
He once used the mother of one of his female friends, in order to do work for him. His friend already had a shaky relationship with her mother. She had been trying to spend time with the other to work on the relationship.
In the mean time, this friend had been working for him and he had been paying her. Upon realizing that he could get the old woman to do the same work that the daughter was doing….and not pay her….he used her to do the work. He no longer had the daughter do work for him.
On top of this, he dominated all of the mother’s time and made sure that she was not available any time that the daughter wanted to speak with her. He blew off the friendship, he took the mother away from the daughter and he got work done for free.
And…..he complained ! He complained about the quality of the work that the old woman did! he complained that the daughter was sending him emails, asking him to at least pay her mother for the hours she was working.
He complained that his “friend” was out to get all of his money and all that anyone cared about was money.
This is a narcissist. This is a toxic personality.
The reason that I could not “wake him up” was that he was not sleeping. He was pretending to be sleeping. He was pretending to not understand what he was doing wrong.
I told him that he was causing damage to the relationships. He knew. He did not care.
You cannot wake up someone who is “pretending to sleep”
Keep these things in mind as you are dealing with people. Just because they seem to be asleep or they tell you they are asleep….does not mean that it is the truth.