Becoming emotionally available is a journey that requires the willingness to look at yourself through a lens of honesty and ask, “Am I being true to myself and my needs right now?”
When it comes to being emotionally available, if there isn’t the capacity to engage with ourselves and others, it leads to a disconnected experience of life.
Emotions are part of the human experience.
Acceptance of ourselves is in one way acceptance of our emotions.
And to be available for others requires us to become available to ourselves.
And so, in the question of emotional availability, it comes down to one thing.
How much capacity do you currently have to both accept yourself and receive others in their authentic expression of self?
And is it enough?
What Does it Mean to be Emotionally Available?
Being emotionally available involves understanding how we experience ourselves through a state of receptivity that is our emotional capacity, and also extends to how available we are to receiving the emotional expressions of others.
This emotional openness-emotional and availability forms the basis for how we relate and form connections in our life. It is the gateway to the human experience, as without receptivity, there is closedness, avoidance and unwillingness.
Emotional availability is a process that’s rooted in our emotional intelligence, our emotional literacy and vocabulary. It’s a capacity – and skillset – that can be expanded over time, which includes improving self-awareness, emotional regulation and empathy and understanding.
The Importance of Emotional Availability
Emotional availability plays a vital role in all types of relationships, whether they be interpersonal, family, parent-child connection and/or romantic partnerships. At its core, it’s about being present by sharing our feelings and being receptive to the emotions of others. When this quality is lacking, it’s referred to as being emotionally unavailability. This can have consequences, on relationships and overall well-being.
What Does it Mean to Be Emotionally Unavailable?
Emotional unavailability refers to a state where individuals find it challenging to express their feelings or empathise with others’ emotions. People who are emotionally unavailable often struggle with sharing their emotions, forming bonds or investing themselves emotionally in others.
Unavailable individuals may display behaviours such as withdrawing, experiencing difficulty in expressing their feelings and a strong aversion to emotional intimacy. They often have trouble opening up to others resulting in a lack of connections. These individuals might seem distant or uninterested because they find it hard to comprehend or articulate their states.
Emotional unavailability can significantly impact relationships by hindering communication and preventing the development of fulfilling connections. People who are emotionally unavailable may find it challenging to provide support or show empathy towards others leading to feelings of isolation and misunderstanding within their relationships.
Recognizing and acknowledging these barriers is the step towards addressing them. Potentially fostering more fulfilling and emotionally healthy relationships. Embracing the challenge of being emotionally available brings us closer to connections enriching our lives as well as those of the people we deeply care about.
4 Signs of Emotional Unavailability
Emotional unavailability can be hard to discern and requires being able to recognise the pattern those around you may be presenting. Here are four signs that may indicate emotional unavailability:
1. Emotional Detachment: This relates to creating distance from any kind of emotional expression whether it be something that may be something good that’s happened to them, or a receiving the good news of a friend.
2. Unable to Invest or Commit: Emotionally unavailable individuals tend to avoid situations that ask them to make a commitment. They might try and change the subject during conversations or deliberately make excuses to avoid social obligations.
3. Lack of Responsiveness in Relationships: There might also be a sense of non-commitment in terms of responding to other people in social situations. They might see displaying probability as a sign of weakness and hold back from sharing their true feelings.
4. Difficulty Establishing Meaningful Connections: Due to the lack of empathy, it might also be hard for the emotionally unavailable individual to ask meaningful questions of those in the inner circle which might come across as aloofness or arrogance.
What Causes Emotional Unavailability?
Emotional unavailability often stems from experiences with one’s primary caregivers, who either provide a secure base script, leading to emotional availability, or an insecure attachment style that leads to emotional unavailability as a result. Although, it can just as easily be rooted in other relationships:
Here are some of the factors that might contribute to emotional unavailability:
Past Trauma or Hurt: This isn’t just confined to the relationships that one may have with primary caregivers. This can just as easily be rooted in romantic and interpersonal relationships. The fear of experiencing the same pain as before can lead to withdrawing and avoidance as a means of self-protection.
Fear of Rejection or Abandonment: This can often prevent people from establishing and maintaining connections, as they don’t want to risk experiencing the same sense of abandonment which they may have in their previous relationships.
Self-Esteem or Insecurity: Self-esteem issues can often lead to a lack of emotional availability and emotional intimacy due to the perception of how one believes they might be received by others, which relates to the lack of a secure base script
Limited Emotional Intelligence: Someone who struggles identifying, understanding and therefore managing their emotions will inevitably find it challenging expressing themselves, due to their limited emotional vocabulary.
How to Be Emotionally Available to Yourself: The Essential First Step
Emotional availability begins first with establishing that connection with ourselves. This serves as the foundation for truly authentic connections with others. Neglecting this step will simply result in a further disconnection from our own emotions, which, in turn, will make it more difficult to relate to the emotional needs of others. Over time, this will inhibit our growth, creating more distance between ourselves and others. And so, we must learn to be accepting of ourselves and how to fill our own proverbial cup.
How to Become Emotionally Available: Enhancing Your Connection With Yourself
Becoming emotionally present results from developing awareness, acknowledgement, and acceptance. Allowing yourself to experience the full spectrum of emotions.
This is rooted in your capacity to be compassionate towards yourself, and building a solid relationship in which you truly care about your own needs and emotional well-being.
Here are five qualities that can assist you in laying the foundations for greater emotional availability:
1. Vulnerability: There can be no emotional availability without leaning into vulnerability, because bearing one’s emotions is such a deeply personal experience. One that opens up the possibility of rejection. Vulnerability is the key that unlocks emotional availability.
2. Honesty: Honesty, in particular self honesty, is so intertwined with vulnerability. To build a supportive relationship with oneself, there needs to be an acceptance of what you’re feeling instead of trying to suppress anything that might feel uncomfortable or shameful.
3. Empathy: When something difficult, raw, or tender surfaces, it’s important not to pylon more shame onto yourself. Treat yourself with compassion. If this were a child that was expressing the same emotions how would you speak to them? Treat yourself the same way.
4. Patience: If you’ve been avoiding your own emotions for years or even decades, it’s going to be very difficult to create a complete change overnight. It’s a gradual process. And so you need to be patient with yourself and allow for the time to open up and blossom.
5. Courage: There can be no acceptance without courage. It takes bravery to accept some difficult emotions that surface and to own them in favour of dismissing them. There is no greater expression of courage than the courage to accept oneself exactly as you are.
Emotional availability starts from within. By nurturing these qualities you can develop a connection with yourself and open up the possibility of being more emotionally accessible in your relationships with others.
How to Be Emotionally Available in a Committed Relationship
Cultivating emotional availability within a committed romantic relationship is the reason why we enter into these relationships in the first place. It’s to experience something deeper and more emotionally intimate than is available to us in our family relationships and our interpersonal relationships.
Entering into a romantic relationship that is based purely on physical attraction and it ignores any of the emotional aspects of connection will inevitably lead to dysfunction. Neglecting the emotional components of a romantic relationship will lead to communication gaps, hinder growth and create an atmosphere of resentment over needs not being met.
However, being emotionally available for your partner goes beyond just sharing feelings. It involves being fully present with what they actually mean, displaying empathy, understanding and creating an environment of trust which deepens the connection. One in which you both have an equal voice within the dynamic and feel safe enough to share your most vulnerable parts without the fear of being judged.
Here are some strategies that can assist you in becoming more emotionally available in your romantic relationships:
1. Improving Communication Skills: Effective communication is a catch-all term, which is very broad in scope. What the appropriate way of communicating looks like within each individual romantic relationship will differ greatly.
Ultimately, it comes down to listening and responding to needs. On a practical level, setting up regular check-ins with your partner and providing the opportunities to both share and receive what is most important for you.
2. Nurturing Emotional Intimacy: Encouraging conversations that go beyond the trivialities of your day-to-day responsibilities and speak to your core emotional needs is vital.
In some relationships, where there is a secure base on both sides of the foundation of trust this will may come naturally.
However, in relationships where there is greater insecurity on either one or both sides, there will be a greater commitment required to create a sense of emotional intimacy.
3. Embracing Vulnerability: There can be no real sense of trust without vulnerability, And there can be no sense of vulnerability without trust. It’s something which needs to be worked on throughout the course of a relationship.
Being vulnerable means allowing those parts of yourself which you might not have the best relationship with to be seen and heard by your partner and to trust that they will be held with love and respect.
4. Engage in Active Listening: Active listening is more than just hearing and receiving. It involves fully responding to what is being offered in a thoughtful and empathetic way. When your partner shares their emotions, imagine how you would feel if this were your piece.
Active listening involves reflecting back and summarising what you received in a way in which feels good for the other person. That doesn’t mean repeating everything word for word, but just briefly reflecting before expanding on what was offered.
How to Be Emotionally Available in Interpersonal Relationships
Emotional availability is the foundation of healthy and fulfilling interpersonal relationships. It plays a role in fostering understanding, deepening connections and creating an environment of trust and openness. Developing this quality can significantly enhance the quality of our interactions with friends, colleagues and extended family members.
Now let’s explore some qualities, techniques and strategies that can help nurture availability in interpersonal relationships:
Understanding Your Emotional State: Start by recognizing your own emotions. For example, if you’ve had a day at work or home being aware of this can prevent you from venting frustrations onto a friend during a conversation. Learn effective emotional regulation
Use Emotional Regulation Techniques: It’s important to manage your emotions in a way that helps you navigate situations. When a coworker confides in you about a situation it’s crucial to respond with empathy and support by reacting impulsively.
Show Empathy: Make an effort to understand and share the feelings of others. For instance, if a family member is going through a time demonstrating support and patience can be a way to show empathy.
Effective Communication: Clearly. Respectfully express your feelings while also making an effort to understand the perspectives of others. This could involve letting a friend know that you’re feeling overwhelmed and need some time or seeking input from a coworker on a project.
Exercise Patience and Consistency: Developing availability takes time. Regularly practising self-awareness, empathy and open communication in your relationships will gradually lead to connections and better understanding.
How to Be Emotionally Available for Your Child: A Parent’s Guide
By practising availability in your role as a parent you not strengthen the emotional bond with your child but also promote their emotional well-being. By being responsive and supportive towards their emotions you create an environment where your child feels acknowledged, listened to and understood. However neglecting emotional availability can hinder their growth and strain your relationship with them.
Cultivating Connection, with Your Child: Nurturing Deeper Parent-Child Bonds
Building availability in parenting is a mutual process that involves understanding your child’s emotions and effectively expressing your own. It revolves around creating an environment where emotions are acknowledged and valued rather than brushed aside. Parental attunement, which means being aware of and responsive to your child’s needs plays a role in this journey.
Here are some practical strategies to help you develop availability, with your child:
Practising Patience: Recognising that your child is in a developmental stage and will therefore make mistakes as the experiment is vital for a sense of security. Instead of punishing your child, work with them and show them how they can improve.
Embracing Honesty: Building trust starts with being truthful yourself. For example, instead of fictionalising stories to protect a child from the realities of life, using unsettling and inevitable events such as death can be a way to be more emotionally available for your child.
Being consistent: Being consistent in how you show up emotionally for your child is integral for them to develop their own secure base script, which will lead to them having a secure attachment style and being consistently emotionally available themselves.
Understanding: Understanding your child’s perspective and that they have their own likes and dislikes is vital for them to develop their own sense of identity. It’s important to anchor in the fact that a child does have their own sense of autonomy which should be encouraged.
Showing affection: Affection doesn’t always need to be physical, it can also be expressed verbally through encouragement for an activity that your child is interested in or emotionally in the case of providing loving affirmation, telling your child, “I love you.”
Using Positive Reinforcement: Recognising the things that your child does well and offering praise for them is a great way to help them develop a healthy sense of self-esteem. It could be through active thoughtfulness or positive learned behaviour that the child demonstrates.
Being Emotional Expressive: Children take many of the behavioural cues from their parents. And so, If they don’t receive any forms of expressive emotion, they will have nothing to model their own behaviours off as they mature into adolescence and adulthood.