How to free up repressed feelings and enjoy better relationships

Freeing up repressed feelings can transform your relationships in all areas of your life. The primary categories of feelings are fear, anger, sadness and guilt and if repressed, the likelihood is that other people will easily press your buttons, leading to unhappiness and discord. As well as helping to contribute to conflict with other individuals, repressed feelings can also create fatigue, depression and lethargy.  

Most conflict between individuals involves some form of projection. According to Freud, projection occurs when we defend ourselves against our own unconscious impulses or qualities (which can be positive and negative) by denying their existence in ourselves but attributing them to others.

Often the initial sign of a projection is a “pointy figure”, which can be accompanied by a shaming and/or blaming comment that begins with “you”. The person doing the projection will invariably want someone to stop saying or doing something.

Freeing repressed feelings and transforming relationships

Projecting onto others

Projections usually involve judgements about how other people look, what they believe or what they are doing. Projections about other people can help us to avoid owning parts of ourselves which we (or others) dislike.

Here is a practical example of someone projecting:

Let us suppose that bossy individuals get on your nerves because you think that they take over or dominate people. In this instance, you have a judgement about bossy people as the bossy person is merely behaving as they ordinarily do in the world.

Your reaction to their bossiness is all about you. Either you long to be bossy yourself (envy), you are too bossy yourself (a projection) or you possibly have unprocessed trauma from exposure to bossy people (resentment, when anger is unprocessed).

When you find yourself saying to someone “you make me angry” you are projecting. No one makes us feel anything. Instead of blaming our emotional reaction on another person we could ask ourselves in that moment - “why am I having this reaction to what person x is saying or doing?” We feel the way we feel because of our inner experiences and the manner in which we interact with the world. This is a central component of an effective anger management strategy.

You know you are projecting when you have a disproportionate reaction to a small event, you believe people are saying or doing things deliberately to hurt you or when you want someone to stop saying or doing something because it brings up uncomfortable feelings. It may be that fear is predominating which makes the situation appear bigger than it actually is.

An aggressive form of projecting can be seen in everyday life with the actions of a bully. In this case, they may project their own feelings of vulnerability onto the victim. The true origin of such behaviour is ultimately almost always found in the bully's own sense of personal insecurity or their own feelings of personal vulnerability.

How to stop projecting and start identifying repressed feelings

Therapy, with a trained professional who has no vested interest in your life story, can help you to identify repressed feelings. Through regular sessions, you can explore your ‘shadow material’ (all the parts of you, good and bad) and trust the process as an opportunity to integrate all parts of your being.

When you begin to identify repressed feelings you can grasp the opportunity to own your own projections, feel a greater sense of freedom and feel more capable. You can become assertive and more confident in all your relationships whilst also becoming more compassionate and empathic.

The universe will stop sending people to annoy or provoke you when you reclaim your shadow material. It is your unclaimed projections and shadow parts that will always attract difficult people into your life, until, that is, they are acknowledged and integrated. This is when you find greater peace and serenity as you cease to be triggered so easily, whether in the office, bedroom, sports field, boardroom or family unit.

It might be tempting to reach for forgiveness without doing the work required to release repressed feelings. There are rarely any shortcuts in the process. Forgiveness can, of course, occur as a result of an emotional process but the repressed feelings must first be identified and dealt with.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Counselling Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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London SE1 & SE26
Written by Noel Bell, MA, PG Dip Psych, UKCP
London SE1 & SE26

Noel Bell is a UKCP accredited clinical psychotherapist in London who has spent over 20 years exploring and studying personal growth, recovery from addictions and inner transformation. Noel is an integrative therapist and draws upon the most effective tools and techniques from the psychodynamic, CBT, humanist, existential and transpersonal schools.

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