cognitive behavioural therapy; psychology; relationship counselling

Why Suppressing Emotion is bad for you

Why Suppressing Emotion is bad for you

There are many reasons why we suppress emotions. It is a coping strategy that many people use to avoid pain and unpleasant feelings in life. That negative energy has to go somewhere though and it is akin to filling your body with poison when you internalise negative emotions without dealing with them properly.

Ways in which we suppress emotions:

  • Escapism – drugs, alcohol, gambling, addictions
  • Distractions – working too hard/socialising to extremes
  • Avoid talking about the problem
  • Deny the problem exists
  • Blaming others
We all know someone who hates to be alone. They always need to be busy. Why? Often this is because they are suppressing something and don’t want to be left alone with their thoughts for too long. This is more often than not a sign to slow down and figure out what is going on internally. Our external world mirrors our internal world. If we are not happy and healthy on the inside (in terms of dealing with emotional stuff) then the way we deal with the outside world changes.
We become more aggressive, or we can become over emotional and feel that we want to cry all the time. This is your body telling you that something is out of sync.
I am amazed at how many people are unable to easily identify emotions within themselves. Something will happen to them but they will be unable to label the emotion…”how do I feel? ummmmm….” (long pause). Experiencing feelings is like being plugged in to the power socket – you feel alive but you are also affected by the surges in energy – you can get a shock every now and then which isn’t pleasant.
When you suppress your emotions, it’s the same as pulling the plug out of the socket – you won’t experience highs and lows but you won’t feel connected to life or to others.
Research has shown a link between suppressing emotions and poor memory and this is because those who suppress emotion are often less aware of the signals they are sending to others and also less aware of the social cues present in daily conversation.

Ways to stay in touch with your emotional self:

  • Think about the last time you felt really happy. When was that? What were you doing? Try to recreate that setup
  • Remember the last time you felt really sad. When was it? What was happening? This will give you insight into situations that trigger unhappy feelings
  • Take time to laugh and connect with others.
  • ‘Plug back in’ – tell others how you feel. Let them know when their behaviour hurts you or makes you happy. Talk in terms of emotions to connect more fully with your emotions and with others
  • Take ’emotional stock’ every so often. Ask yourself how happy you have felt over the last week. Write down all the emotions that you have felt in the past week: disappointment, sadness, frustration,boredom, anger, excitement. Practise identifying your feelings more often as well as what led to those feelings
  • Start a gratitude journal to make you  more aware of small things each day that make you feel happy. Examples: the sun shining, a stranger smiling, a loved one being thoughtful, someone laughing or single loudly in their car in the traffic, someone walking/playing with their dog….there are so many ideas if you tune into them.
  • Analyse current behaviour – if there is any excessive alcohol/drug abuse, excessive gambling/shopping, overeating, sleeping too much, – these could all be signs of suppression.
  • If you explode regularly and feel it is out of proportion to the actual event you may also be sitting on a simmering volcano of emotion.
  • Seek a mental health professional. This is a sure fire way to help you to lead a healthier emotional life.
Mandy X