Divya Venkattu discusses the detriments of the emotional unavailability that seems to be common amongst Gen Z.
We are the generation that has more opportunities than ever before to connect with people; yet we still struggle to form real connections. One of the biggest hurdles that we must overcome is emotional unavailability. According to Healthline: Emotional detachment is an inability or unwillingness to connect with other people on an emotional level.” There are several reasons why people become emotionally unavailable, including trauma. When someone gets heavily invested in their relationship and it doesn’t work out, it leaves them with a void, a blatant disregard for love. Think “once bitten, twice shy”. Except emotional unavailability is far more than shyness, it is a fear of opening up to anyone, a defence mechanism. Apart from being inherently unhealthy, emotional unavailability affects everyone around the person as it finds its way into friendships and relationships and clogs them.
“Think ‘once bitten, twice shy’. Except emotional unavailability is far more than shyness, it is a fear of opening up to anyone, a defence mechanism.”
Pop culture glows with examples of emotionally unavailable people. Think about how many times you’ve watched heartbroken heroes in movies drown their heartbreak with booze and smoke? Much of the media, including films and songs that render a male perspective, have normalised a lack of emotional vulnerability in men. The social upbringing of boys certainly plays a role in how they feel about expressing their emotions without inhibition, which then affects how they handle loss as young adults. Staring blankly at what the singer Lorde labelled a “loveless” generation, it’s not hard to recognise that both the media and society have pretty much failed in their roles to teach the value of emotions, empathy and the importance of being “available”, especially to men.
My generation has normalised several things, some of which I am proud of, and yet emotional unavailability is definitely not one of them. When you talk to people in your age group and every second person mentions the term, it’s clear there’s a problem with the way we discuss such a serious topic. Not acknowledging it as a problem, and instead making it a joke is harmful to our mental wellbeing. Without resolving core issues such as this, and working continually on ourselves, no number of right swipes is going to result in meaningful encounters.
“My generation has normalised several things, some of which I am proud of, and yet emotional unavailability is definitely not one of them.”
For most people my age, one of the scariest and most untoward questions we are asked is “When are you settling down?” Our heads suddenly ring siren sounds. The phrase “settling down” is upsetting. “Settling” is a term you may use when you didn’t get what you wanted so you went for the next closest thing; the term “down” is even more depressing, implying that the days when you happily captioned your Instagram stories “onwards and upwards” are behind you. Nobody who still wants to live young and free would settle down. While I understand why long-term commitment sounds terrifying, I don’t see the point of not investing yourself in people. By doing so you are depriving yourself of enriching friendships and bonds. Like the Hot Priest in Fleabag says: “Love isn’t something that weak people do. Being a romantic takes a hell of a lot of hope.”
To my emotionally unavailable generation: do not dismiss or give up on love, because I promise you that the experience of forming close human bonds is unparalleled. There is nothing quite as magical as seeing someone in their entirety, and having them know you up close, understanding all the depths and layers that make you who you are.