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Socialising When You Cannot Understand Your Emotions

Let’s talk about emotional understanding and regulation, and the ways that it can impact how you socialise.

Neurodivergent people sometimes have trouble understanding or explaining how they’re feeling. This is called alexithymia.

We can also have differences in our emotional regulation. This is our ability to manage and respond to emotional experiences in a way that is healthy for us and is socially accepted.

The Challenges We Face

If you experience alexithymia, you may not always understand:

  • That you’re feeling upset or angry until it becomes unmanageable.

  • Why a social situation or circumstance is making you uncomfortable.

  • You’re feeling lonely or not meeting your social needs.

You may also struggle to communicate your feelings and needs to others. Which in turn can make it difficult to navigate friendships and relationships.

Which can contribute to the other challenge we’re discussing here, emotional regulation.

If you have emotional regulation differences, you might feel things very intensely and have trouble:

  • Ignoring or letting go of irritation, frustration, or anger

  • Resisting the impulse to react based on a big emotion

  • Returning to baseline after experiencing a big emotion

When we struggle to manage our emotions, we can end up damaging our relationships without meaning to.

We may have a harder time navigating conflict than other people.

Sometimes, we might even avoid close relationships altogether so that we don’t have to deal with the pain and big emotions that can naturally arise.

The Strengths We Hold

Because we can have such a hard time understanding how we're feeling, neurodivergent people can sometimes have, paradoxically, a greater insight into how our emotions work.

That’s usually because we've had to do more conscious work to understand our feelings and manage them.

Those of us who have difficulty regulating emotions often experience really intense negative emotions, but it also means we feel things like enthusiasm, joy, and love really intensely as well.

Our deeply emotional nature can make us much more empathetic to how other people are feeling, particularly if they are experiencing a big emotion themselves.

What can we do to help this?

For those of us who experience emotional understanding and regulation differences, learning therapeutic techniques like those taught in Dialectical Behavioural Therapy for mindfulness and managing intense and painful emotions can be really helpful.

These techniques can help you:

  • Learn more about the situations that are likely to trigger big emotions

  • Recognise when your emotions are becoming heightened

  • Figure out strategies to self-sooth and de-escalate

There are also great techniques to help you better identify and communicate your emotions, which can have huge benefits in helping you advocate for your needs, maintain positive relationships and manage complex situations.


Emotional understanding and regulation differences can be a challenge in maintaining our social relationships. These same differences can also be a source of great strength and understanding. There are tools and techniques available to help us understand and manage our emotions.

For more information about emotional differences in neurodivergent people, make sure to check out our program - We are Emotional.

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