Composure and Emotional Non-Expression

Highly sensitive people experience very strong emotions. Sometimes these emotions can be so overwhelming that they impair these people’s ability to maintain their composure and function at their best. In attempt to prevent the consequences that come with this loss, many of these people do not express these emotions and hope that others do not as well.

People with OCPD may be closed to the expression of certain emotions because their all-or-nothing thinking hyperbolizes the consequences of losing their composure.

Many people with OCPD have adopted the wrong idea from their past that some of their human emotions are unacceptable. They may have once expressed those emotions freely, but were punished with hurtful consequences. Those consequences, however small, were then magnified by their unmerciful all-or-nothing thinking.

People with OCPD then fall for another one of their tendencies: they make it a rule not to express those emotions. Even though it is a difficult rule to follow, people with OCPD do a good job following it because of their strong work ethic.

But to their frustration, it appears that everyone else seems to be breaking that rule. This can feel so unfair to people with OCPD. They question, “Why am I the only person who makes the effort to keep myself controlled?”

If the answer to this question comes from their all-or-nothing thinking, many of these frustrated people will judge that it is because others are “weak.” This is a very dangerous judgment for people with OCPD to make because they will eventually judge themselves in the same way when they break their own rule. This then leads to perfectionism and guilt.

The emotion that I have so much difficulty handling is anger. My father, like many other traditional Asian men, did not let me express this emotion because his culture taught him that speaking in an angry tone around elders is disrespectful. He would shut me up and I would be left feeling unheard and invalidated. I learned from him that the only way I would be taken seriously is if I suppress this emotion, communicate in a controlled manner, and validate all my points with logical reasoning.

After functioning out of this condition for so long, I have become a very controlled communicator. I carefully manage my choice of words, the tone of my voice, my body language, and the expression on my face as I construct what I want to say. Many times, my service of containing my emotions has saved others from becoming over-stimulated while we discuss sensitive topics. Giving others no reason to get defensive, I have been able to efficiently debate with others and be heard.

But others do not seem to work as hard as I do in controlling this emotion. They use offensive words, raise their voice, position their body as if they about to fight, roll their eyes, flare their nostrils, etc. I then quietly judge them in my mind. “You are so weak. How can you possibly think that your offensive language and tone of voice strengthen your pathetic argument? You are not worth listening to!” But as they keep on expressing this emotion that I never got to express, my anger builds up inside of me until I cannot hold it in any longer. I explode. Extreme guilt then follows as I tell myself how weak and pathetic I am.

Now I am moving towards handling anger in a healthier way through a process of forgiving my father and teaching myself that what I have to say does matter, regardless of the perfection of my communication. Along the way, I am also becoming more compassionate for those who express anger.


Be open to others about your difficulty in handling their expression of certain emotions. Let them know how you feel. Let them know your boundaries. Ask them kindly to be more sensitive to you.

When you catch your OCPD friend breaking one of his or her own emotional non-expression rules, let him or her know that it’s ok. Fight against his or her guilt. Help him or her realize that the consequences of his or her loss of composure are not as bad as his or her all-or-nothing thinking makes them out to be. If your OCPD friend gets upset at you for breaking one of his or her emotional non-expression rules, be strong and do not allow yourself to feel guilt. Let your OCPD friend know that you prefer to give yourself more freedom to express your emotions. Let him or her know that the consequences of your emotional expression are not as bad as he or she thinks.

Think about that time when you adopted the wrong idea that it was unacceptable to express your emotions. What did you tell yourself? Understand that your all-or-nothing judgments were inaccurate. Forgive the person who made you feel that you should have never expressed those emotions. Tell yourself that you deserve to express those emotions just like everybody else. Whenever you feel those emotions come, face your fears and try to express them. If guilt follows, tell yourself that it’s ok.

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2 thoughts on “Composure and Emotional Non-Expression

  1. Chris B says:

    I have read a lot of the postings on this blog yesterday, I went to bed knowing there were some good things in it, but instead of stopping and taking it in I kept reading, expecting another nuget of wisdom round the next corner. In the end I realised I was in overload, at the suggestion of my partner, I tried to find the few lines that were most meaningful to me, Daniel advice on what to say to show understanding of the condition to others. All Imnaged to do was continue the quest of seeing whats round the next corner. Reluctantly I admitted defeat and watched TV instead.
    This morning I awoke with a clarity of ideas, most of these centre around the rules of my life. The part of OCPD which seems most prominnt in me is the rules and what I do when I break them. This can be simplified to if I break a rule I do not do it again or least thats what I try to do, I realise from the blog that it is unavaoidable for us to not break the rules, but the rules I have grown up with (I am 53) are cause of my current relationship falling apart. There seem to be primary rules, do not get angry and do not cause upset to those who you care about.
    I was diagonosed as OCPD (anakastic) by a phychiatrist over a year ago, however, in the UK this condition does not seem well recognised and my current phychiatrist is unaware of the condition, it is good to talk with her and have someone to listen to issues but I am doubting that her approach is helping in the long term.
    Sorry if this rather garbled, I decided when I woke I would just write as feel, I know I have a lot to say but that needs to much thought and when that happens I just get bogged down with the need for accuracy. Thats probably why most OCPD sites are mostly the writings of non-OCPDers, OCPDers worry too much about the acuracy of what we write.
    I am not even going to re-read this, I am just going to hit send

    • Daniel Kim says:

      Thanks for going ahead and posting your comment 🙂 Yes it is a lot of information to handle. You don’t have to read everything all at once. I would suggest starting from the very first post (my recent posts are all building off of earlier posts) and soaking in the lessons of just a few blog posts every day as your partner suggested. The categories below should also help you narrow down your reading according to what is most relevant to your immediate needs.

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