6 signs you’re a emotionally complex individual, according to psychology

Emotions aren’t always as easy as the pictures held up and shown to toddlers.

Downturned lips? Obviously sad.

Glowing grin? Happy – duh!

Unfortunately, understanding our own emotions can often be harder than being plopped down in a room full of people speaking a language you don’t speak and trying to understand them.

We’re not always straightforward when it comes to our feelings, either.

Sometimes we stare off into space and disassociate even when we’re thinking happy thoughts. 

Other times, we grin and giggle, when really we’re crumbling inside.

One visible emotion doesn’t always mean that a person is feeling the same thing inside…

And some people are more guilty of this than others.

Maybe you’ve also found yourself feeling like a walking contradiction; one minute you’re on cloud nine and feel like life is a blessing…

The next you’re grappling with absolute misery.

Sound familiar?

If so, read on to see how many of the 6 signs that suggest you’re an emotionally complex show up in your everyday life:

1) Feeling emotionally extremely intensely

If you’re like me, emotions are never mild.

Sadness never comes in a light tinge.

It’s more of a wave of despair and loneliness and desolation crushing over you.

Equally, you’re just as moved by a vibrant sunset or a cute squirrel. Admit it – that lil’ fluffy creature is so cute and squishy, it brings a tear to your eye.

Emotions aren’t brief and fleeting, in your experience.

You find yourself feeling things on a deeper level than most people do, not because you’re dramatic or exaggerating for attention.

It simply means your emotional depth is far more pronounced than average.

You might even qualify for being a highly sensitive person, to whom each and every emotion comes at such an intense and awe-inspiring degree.

And guess what? That’s perfectly okay. It’s part of what makes you a uniquely emotionally complex individual.

2) Sudden highs and lows

Some days you wake feeling invigorated and energized for the day ahead.

But by afternoon, it’s as if a damp blanket has settled itself over you. You feel irritated, exhausted, and foggy.

One minute you’re laughing, the next you want the earth to swallow you up. 

It’s impressive how quickly your mind can move from one great high to a deep and cumbersome low, and sometimes the conflict between the two even scares you a little.

Being an emotionally complex individual often invites such emotional cascades into your life.

It makes life challenging – of that there’s no doubt – but equally, it’s far more exciting than living life in beige.

3) Extreme empathy (to the point where it is almost painful)

Empathy, empathy, empathy.

We constantly hear how we must learn to become more empathetic. To assimilate ourselves with the sorrows of others, and feel their pain to better help them cope with it.

Yet emotionally complex individuals often possess barrels full of empathy. 

To the point where it becomes even exhausting to carry so much care for others.

Seeing a bony street cat wrecks your hope in humanity.

Watching conflict and war on the news causes you so much inner despair.

A friend sharing their own hardships and struggles leaves you reeling for days.

Absorbing the emotions of others as though they were a sponge can be so incredibly tiring. 

You feel and understand them to such a degree, it’s as if you take one step beyond empathy and actually ingest them yourself.

Being an emotionally complex individual is often associated with super empathy.

And whilst this makes for a far more compassionate and and more understanding individual, it can also be incredibly draining at times.

4) Nuanced emotions (that never just fit one category)

habits that are secretly sabotaging your sleep quality 6 signs you’re a emotionally complex individual, according to psychology

Back to the preschool activity of holding up sad/angry/confused expressions.

Psychologists have identified six basic emotions – happiness, sadness, fear, disgust, anger, and surprise.

But emotionally complex individuals tend not to experience emotions that fit so easily within just one of these categories.

For example, a big promotion might mean happiness mixed with equal parts of fear of the increased workload and responsibility.

Or listening to a friend confess having cheated or lied might mean disgust at their actions with accompanying sadness owing to the attachment you hold to the friendship.

Emotions are never black and white for the emotionally complex.

And whilst this makes things far more nuanced and interesting, it also requires a great deal more introspection and self-awareness to regulate and monitor your own feelings.

5) Introspective and lost in thought

Experiencing such emotional highs and lows plus having to sift through a wide variety of emotions to understand what you’re feeling can often mean you get a little lost up there (in your own head).

You might be chatting back and forth with your inner dialogue, poking and prodding at your emotions and analyzing them together.

Emotionally complex individuals tend to be incredibly self-aware and introspective. Knowing that their emotions are nuanced and unique, they spend a great deal of time lost in their own heads.

They have a burning desire to understand not just what they’re feeling, but why they’re feeling it, too.

This can breed a great deal of overthinking and anxiety, mind you.

And whilst this degree of introspection can sometimes be draining, it’s also incredibly rewarding.

All that mulling and brooding allows for a better understanding of themselves as well as the world around.

6) Misunderstood by the world around

Emotional complexity is a blessing in many parts.

Equally, they can often find themselves misunderstood or rejected by those who lack such richness and nuance to their own emotions.

We tend to fear or rebuff the unknown, thus pushing away people whom we don’t understand.

Hence why emotional depth can often be a double-edged sword; it allows life to be experienced in a rich and fulfilling way, yet can make forming and maintaining relationships more difficult.

Feeling things so deeply can be difficult to communicate or share with those who don’t feel things as intensely, subsequently causing barriers and breakdowns.

Yet, if this sounds like something you’ve had experience with in your own life, remember that being understood by everyone around you isn’t as important as understanding yourself.

(Plus, there will be people out there who feel and see things as deeply as you, even if it takes some time to find them.)

Embracing your emotional complexity

Being an emotionally complex individual can sometimes feel like a burden, especially in a world that often prefers simplicity and straightforwardness.

But it’s important to remember that your emotional complexity is not a weakness, but a strength. 

How boring would a life limited to black and white emotions be?

Where you watched moving films and documentaries and felt not even a tinge of emotion?

Where you stared at an oil painting and felt only emptiness in your soul?

Where you kissed a lover goodbye and felt nothing but blackness in your heart?

So remember: your emotional complexity is a testament to your depth, your empathy, and your capacity for understanding and experiencing the full spectrum of human emotions.

It might be challenging at times, but sensitivity is a blessing (albeit sometimes in disguise).

So start practicing appreciation for the fact that your mind allows you to experience life in a way that is uniquely deep and rich, for this is a gift far greater than you know.




Picture of Liv Walde

Liv Walde

London-based writer with big thoughts, big dreams, and a passion for helping others.

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