People who grew up with emotionally unavailable parents usually display these 8 behaviors (without realizing it)

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Growing up with emotionally distant parents profoundly influences one’s personality and behavior. The emotional void from childhood often leads to unconscious behaviors in adulthood, puzzling both oneself and others.

Based on personal experiences and extensive research, I’ve identified 8 common behaviors seen in individuals raised by emotionally distant parents. These behaviors, often overlooked by the individuals themselves, offer insight into their emotional landscape and upbringing’s impact.

This awareness serves as a powerful tool for self-improvement and healing. Our past shapes us but doesn’t define us. With understanding and effort, we can reshape ourselves.

1) Emotional detachment

Growing up with emotionally distant parents often breeds emotional detachment as a survival tactic. It’s a shield against potential heartache, a way of saying, “If I don’t get too close, I can’t get hurt.”

This detachment might make someone seem distant or cold, struggling to express or understand emotions. But it’s not a lack of empathy—it’s a defense mechanism built over time.

To break free from this behavior, make sure you understand its roots. It’s not about faking emotions but embracing vulnerability. Seeking professional help, like counseling, arms you with tools to navigate emotions and forge healthier bonds.

2) Difficulty trusting others

Growing up with emotionally distant parents often breeds a deep-seated distrust in others.

When those who should’ve been there emotionally weren’t, it’s no wonder trust becomes a tightrope walk in adult relationships.

Sadly, this distrust doesn’t just sit idle—it shows up in every corner of your life. You’re forever on the lookout for signs of betrayal, always bracing for the next emotional abandonment. 

But here’s the kicker: overcoming this isn’t a sprint—it’s a marathon. It’s involves facing those trust demons head-on, rewiring those deep-rooted beliefs that everyone’s just waiting to let you down.

3) Overachieving or perfectionism

Growing up with emotionally distant parents often plants the seed of overachieving or perfectionism. It’s this belief that reaching the pinnacle of success will finally earn you the emotional validation you craved but never received.

So, as an overachiever or perfectionist, you set the bar sky-high, aiming for nothing less than flawlessness. But here’s the kicker: when you inevitably fall short of these impossible standards, you unleash a torrent of self-criticism, drowning in feelings of inadequacy.

But here’s the silver lining: therapy can help matters. With a therapist’s guidance, you can learn to ditch the perfectionist mindset for one rooted in self-compassion and acceptance.

4) Tendency towards people-pleasing

People who were raised by emotionally unavailable parents often develop a tendency towards people-pleasing behaviors. This is because, as children, they learned to suppress their own needs in order to keep peace or to receive any form of emotional validation.

The need to please others can manifest in always saying yes, even when you want to say no, or constantly prioritizing others’ needs over your own. This behavior can lead to feelings of resentment and frustration, as well as a loss of personal identity.

The first step in overcoming this behavior is recognizing it. Awareness will allow you to make conscious choices rather than automatically defaulting to people-pleasing behaviors.

5) Fear of rejection

The legacy of emotionally distant parents often leaves a heavy burden of rejection fears on their children’s shoulders. 

This fear? It’s a shapeshifter in adulthood. You dodge tough talks like a pro, terrified of facing that familiar sting of rejection. And hey, you might even stick around in toxic relationships, all because the thought of being alone sends shivers down your spine.

But here’s the thing: unpacking this fear starts with acknowledging it’s there and understanding where it came from. It’s about rewriting that narrative in your head and reminding yourself that rejection’s just a pit stop on life’s highway, not a verdict on your worth.

6) Tendency to suppress emotions

People who grew up with emotionally unavailable parents often learn to suppress their emotions. They might have been dismissed, ridiculed, or punished for expressing their feelings during childhood, leading them to believe that showing emotions is wrong or dangerous.

As adults, this can result in a tendency to bottle up feelings rather than expressing them. This behavior often leads to emotional outbursts or physical manifestations of stress, such as headaches or digestive issues.

To overcome this behavior, it’s crucial to understand that emotions are a normal part of human experience. It’s okay to feel and express a range of emotions.

7) Difficulty forming deep connections

The shadow of emotionally distant parents often casts a long shadow on one’s ability to forge deep connections in adulthood.

Echoes of childhood emotional neglect can reverberate in adult relationships, leading individuals to gravitate towards partners who echo the same emotional void. Opening up becomes a minefield, with the fear of rejection or abandonment lurking at every turn.

In essence, breaking free from this cycle starts with recognizing the patterns and actively working to rewrite them. It’s about learning to trust again, daring to bare your soul, and choosing partners who bring emotional warmth to the table.

8) Self-reliance to an extreme degree

The final behavior often displayed by people who grew up with emotionally unavailable parents is an extreme degree of self-reliance. This is born out of the necessity to fend for oneself emotionally from a young age.

Such individuals may find it challenging to ask for help, even when they need it. They might also struggle with the concept of interdependence in a relationship, viewing it as a threat to their independence.

While being self-reliant is generally a positive trait, an extreme level can lead to isolation and difficulties in forming meaningful relationships. It’s important to understand that everyone needs help sometimes, and it’s okay to lean on others.

Embracing the journey towards healing and personal growth

Understanding and acknowledging these behaviors is a crucial step in your journey towards healing and growth. These coping mechanisms developed during your formative years, serving a purpose. 

But as adults, we have the power to adopt new ways of handling emotions and relationships. Recognizing these behaviors sets the stage for change, allowing you to make conscious choices that align with your current needs and goals.

This journey often involves working through past hurts, learning healthy emotional expression, building trust in relationships, and fostering self-love. It’s challenging, but immensely rewarding. 

For what it’s worth, seeking professional help can provide invaluable support and guidance along the way.

Remember, it’s okay to seek help and take things one step at a time towards healing and growth. It’s not about perfection; it’s about becoming a healthier, happier you.

Lucas Graham

Lucas Graham, based in Auckland, writes about the psychology behind everyday decisions and life choices. His perspective is grounded in the belief that understanding oneself is the key to better decision-making. Lucas’s articles are a mix of personal anecdotes and observations, offering readers relatable and down-to-earth advice.

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