The Art Of Being Emotionless

When I was younger, I had pretty severe anger problems. I would yell at people during school, get in fights, and in general be utterly incapable of controlling my emotions. I was a wreck, with constant ups and downs, unable to find any stability or normalcy. I had basically no friends, and in retrospect I can totally understand that.

At the time I was obsessed with these fantasy books about a girl training to be a warrior. One of the passages in the book was about learning to control her emotions. “I am a rock. I am stone. I am the unbroken surface of a lake. All that ripples, I absorb.” Being twelve, I thought this was really intense. I knew something had to change, so I became a rock.

Becoming a rock served me well in high school. I learned to control my emotions, stop getting angry, stop being upset. In order to prevent violent bursts, I just didn’t let myself feel any extremes. I was permanently neutral.

My friends would at times call me a robot, laid back, cold. I took pleasure out of thisto me it was proof that I had succeeded.

In time it became less a technique for managing anger, and more a deep-rooted facet of my personality. I became proud of it. I still frown on people who show great displays of emotion in public, be it anger or sadness. Even people who are exceptionally happy make me cringe.

Keep it in. Why are you showing that?

When I allow myself to express those great bursts of emotion, I usually come to regret it. In my four years at college, I have had one meltdown and lost my temper twice. My roommates were present for the meltdown, and only one friend saw the full force of my anger. I know it changed her perception of me. I hope she understands now why I can appear so emotionless at times.

I consider those lapses in control the dark spots on my college career.

There are bad sides to this though. I have a difficult time expressing affection and sentimentality. Few people understand the small ways in which I show how I care. I don’t hug or say I love you often. I don’t cling to my friends. My main confidant is myself. Sometimes people will break throughmy boyfriend and dog are notable exceptions, occasionally family. But I keep to myself. The more people I allow in, the less control I have.

But this lack of emotion that I call strength takes upkeep. I need to constantly allow myself to channel my stress, or else it will all explode out at once in one terrible, humiliating mess. I used to de-stress with guitar or piano, sometimes writing. But since I’ve been in college I’ve realized that I don’t necessarily have the time for these activities. So now I de-stress by turning off my mind and turning on my hands.

It’s incredibly therapeutic for me to be productive. If I’m not, I get anxious and everything builds up. But it’s difficult to relax while working, so I often chose a mindless activity like television or something, but I will organize my day while I do it. Or make a quilt. Or create graphics for my website, or do the layout for the newest issue of the newspaper I’m an editor of.

This helps me unwind, to keep myself in check. It keeps things from spiraling and piling up around me. It keeps me from losing control. It helps me manage incredibly stressful environments calmly and rationally. And I’m a control freak, so I like it.

As a woman, giving the appearance of emotionlessness can get you a lot of flak. You’re supposed to be warm and inviting and nurturing, and instead you get called cold, frigid, a workaholic, stubborn. You often get called a bitch.

But I’m not a bitch. And I want you to understand that.

I do care about you. I do feel emotions. When you say hurtful things, they don’t roll off of me. Because I seem strong does not mean I cannot be hurt.

I’m not suppressing my emotions, I’m just keeping them to myself. I’m a private person, these are private feelings. It’s true that I sometimes lose out on the adventures and emotional depth of my uninhibited friends. But thus far this has served me well. I don’t feel like I’m missing much.

My lack of outward emotion is a defense mechanism, one that I take great comfort in. I grew up in a world that was constantly outside of my control, and I allowed my emotions to mirror that. I was an emotional roller coaster. I couldn’t depend on myself. But now I can. And I’m proud of that.

View Comments (25)
  • I identified myself with this story so much…I too have been called the same names…I too have felt as if everyone else thinks we don’t have emotions or a heart..But by God I do feel and so intensely, I just don’t like to live my life guided by emotions since they are not reliable. I am okay being that way but I wish others would know too how I do feel…And not be scared by my random outburst of reactions.

  • I’m a guy and identify myself with your article. Everyone tells me that I am too reserved and show no emotion. As of late, however, I’ve been trying to be more emotional and feel what others experience as best as I can. I’ve grown so used to it, I am set on creating change as I’ve grown bored.

  • I have come across so many articles but this one is just relates so well 1. Anger 2. How people though that i was becoming cold. 3. Showing emotions towards dog :) 4. I followed Stoic philosophy to keep myself emotionless .

  • This exactly describes me. I went to anger management when I was a kid because my mom thought it would help but all it really did was teach me to bottle up how I really feel or everyone will think you’re crazy. I don’t really have anyone to confide in. I’ve got a good deal of friends but I feel like if I told them how I really feel they’d think I’m a freak. People that don’t know me think that I’m bad news and a dick. Why the hell do I have to be and feel different than everyone else?

  • when i was a child i was emotionless. When my grandmother came into my life she showed me that it was okay to feel, it was okay to be human. As a child I never got hugs or kisses, and it tore me apart that I didn’t have that from my mother. I became cold hearted because I learned early that people only cared about their own emotions and not the emotions of other people. My grandmother got me a long way past being this person, she taught me to except pain, to cry if i needed to and to care because I always said I don’t care. I’ve been through hell battling my own demons and putting up with people who emotionally shut down and treat you like a snake if you feel anything but happiness. I’ve learned now that it is better to be emotionless. I remembered now why I was so cold hearted. I vow to never feel emotion again.

  • Heya, I know I’m pretty much a year late noticing your article, but I feel the same way. Must be the coming of age and into becoming adult that helped balance out the emotional outbursts with understanding and a sense of placid calm. The real reason I’m commenting however is this: What was the name of the novel you were reading, the one where the quote was from? Your experience made me want to seek it out and read it, so if you spot this comment drop me a line with it if you have the time or desire to.

    Thank you for sharing your experiences.

    • Hi! Like ‘Ayoxin’, I too am enquiring about the quote “I am a rock. I am stone. I am the unbroken surface of a lake. All that ripples, I absorb.” I’m really interested in reading this and unfortunately, nothing comes up on Google! So if you happen to find this comment, it would be awesome if you could reply. Thank you!!

      • If I ever manage to solve the riddle you’ll be the first one to know :) Let’s hope the author beats us to the punch however since this happens to be a really tough task. With all of Google’s machine learning prowess I have still failed.

        • Yes me too!! I even tried Yahoo answers, all they could come up with was that it was from ‘Anonymous’. Hopefully our mystery will be solved soon!

    • Hi Ayoxin & Cassie!
      The book in question comes from Tamora Pierce’s fantasy series “Protector of The Small.” Since writing this article I’ve realized I butchered the original quote a bit, but the gist is the same! I highly recommend any of Tamora Pierce’s books- they’re amazing reads for kids, but also hold up shockingly well for adult audiences.
      Thanks so much for your kind words, and I’m glad you enjoyed my article!

      • Thankyou for responding! I was wondering if it was going to remain a mystery… Will definitely check out the series, thanks again!

      • Yaay :) Thanks for the update Hope, I’ll look the book up and I’m sure Cassie will be glad too. YA fiction can be pretty amazing sometimes, so I concur. See you on the web!

  • I really admire how you managed to become a rock. I try so hard to control my emotions but I never can. I’ve tried creating a behavior chart or thinking rationally but my true nature keeps coming out. Please tell me what you did to become emotionless. Right now I’m like paper and need to become a rock.

  • I found this after searching “I want to make an intentional decision to become emotionless.” I feel my own emotions and the emotions of others so deeply. It’s a huge part of my identity and something I’m known for – one friend calls me “the empath.” I once felt it made me special and that it was a gift. I don’t think so anymore. I just feel hurt over and over by others not caring as deeply. I don’t think I can survive any longer being this way.

    I feel like I need to take a very intentional and huge step to become emotionless to every one except my children. My husband is a narcissist and I haven’t lived with him for a few years because I needed a safe place. We continued a sex life and sharing time with our kids…now I’m pregnant again and feel so alone.

    I know I need to do something extreme to make the pain stop. I don’t know if becoming emotionless is more self-preservation or a way to punish everyone for being so careless with my love and care…I think it’s both.

    Thank you for sharing your perspective and quote: “I am a rock. I am stone. I am the unbroken surface of a lake. All that ripples, I absorb.”

    • This has truly inspired me. I am 13 years old. For years I have had “multiple personalities” because of my constant mood swings. I have been trying to become emotionless for a while this has truly helped. Thank you so much Hope!!!!

  • Is it too late for me to become emotionless? (I’m a 2nd year university student)
    Since I had become an open book for everyone.

  • I literally have no emotions something happened to me in year 4 I got over it and stopped feeling but now I’m ready to enter the real world but I can’t

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