She hasn’t said anything to us all day, did we do something wrong? And with that, so begins the internal inquiry, the examination of behavior, the frustration, and the cycle of miscommunication. For those of us who tend to withdraw when we feel uncomfortable, we may not be aware of our impact on other people. We don’t intend to hurt, offend, or frustrate other people, it is just that the situation is too much for right now and we need to pull back. The problem isn’t that you pulled away, it is that you didn’t let people know why.

Our emotions have a tremendous impact on the way we behave. People experience their emotions differently. Some people are less emotional, which in our society may be idolized. The problem for these people is that they typically struggle to form intimate relationships and to empathize. For others, we experience our emotions more intensely. We may care deeply about other people and form empathetic bonds with ease, but our feelings can be overwhelming. When we feel this way, it feels like we need to pull back to find a safer place.

The problem occurs when we unconsciously react to our emotions; when we withdraw not out of choice but from reflex. In a way, this is a loss of control that can negatively impact relationships. If you want to reduce your reactions and gain more control over your decisions, you must identify the emotions that cause you to withdraw. You will also need to share your need to pull back or your reasoning. What you choose to share depends on your relationship with the people around you.

Identifying and sharing your emotions and thoughts is no easy task. To do this, you will need to develop mindfulness and self-awareness. You will need the ability to see your emotions as they happen rather than fully experience them. We suggest starting with mindful meditation as well as journaling about your feelings. The first step in change will require you to identify your emotions. Without these labels and observations, how could you control them?

You might say to yourself that you are okay with pulling away, that it is the other people that have the problem, but this isn’t true, and you must understand that. Even though you care for others, you may be unintentionally causing them pain. When you pull back, people don’t know why, and they will either blame themselves or blame you; neither one is healthy. When they blame themselves, they think they did something wrong, when in actuality, they didn’t. When they blame you, they will harbor resentment, which will drive a wedge in the relationship. Either way, your leaving without notice caused some unnecessary pain.

If you feel uncomfortable sharing your reasons for pulling away, you can use some simple techniques to help people understand the situation. First is telling them that you need a break. You can reassure them that they didn’t do anything wrong, that it is you, and you need a few minutes to regroup. If they don’t respect that, then it is on them, and you did your part. Also, you deserve to be respected when you express this need, and if someone doesn’t respect that, they may have some work to do on themselves.

Understanding our emotions and expressing our needs are challenging tasks for everyone. It doesn’t happen overnight. It is something that we will work on our entire lives. We can’t expect ourselves to change overnight. Still, when we learn to be more mindful about our internal reactions, we become better communicators. We help other people feel better about themselves and not take our reactions personally.