Repressing emotions

We have all heard phrases like he wears his heart on his sleeve but the reality is that we spend a great deal of time suppressing our feelings. In many ways our feelings are what define us as human beings, they are good indicators of the impact that events are having on us. Of course saying and showing our emotions and feelings all the time can be inconvenient, we may wish to hide our real feelings of upset if we are in the office, or our feelings of anger if we are in the middle of an argument with our spouse. Suppression can be a very effective way of managing our emotions in the short and medium term. 

The problem is that it can become our method of choice and we deal with all emotion in that way, so that we don’t feel but bury, hide and suppress emotion. Ultimately this may cause problems. The suppressed emotion ‘leaks’ out, you might think of the emotion as a beach ball. You can hide the beach ball by pushing it under water in the pool and that works for a time. Everything is calm on the surface. However, it is tiring holding the ball under the water and eventually you let go and it rushes out usually leaping into the air. It is the same with repressed emotion you manage for a while but it comes out and usually when you least expect it and in a rush, in an uncontrolled way. Perhaps you snap at someone because of a simple mistake. In reality you need to talk about your feelings about the loss of your job, but it’s easier to be angry about the spilt milk on the kitchen floor.

It is possible though to tune in and release those suppressed emotions. Release some of the tension and get back to a more stable, even existence. The first step in the process is to take some time to tune in to yourself identify what the tension is in you. There are a number of methods for doing this some find that mindfulness or meditation allow them to tune into the shape and nature of the unknown feeling in their body. For others it is a matter of giving themselves space perhaps walking or exercising. The common factor seems to be in time and space to really listen to yourself and name the feeling.

The next step it to express the feeling and again this is a matter of choice, for some it will be talking it out with a friend with their therapist, for others it may be writing or painting. You may get sad, angry, feel low, and feel high the import part is to express the feeling so cry if you’re sad, yell if you are angry.

One of the reasons it can be helpful to undertake this process with a counsellor is that they can help you to see what set up the conditions for you suppressing your feelings in the first place. Was it a single event or something from your past, do you have a tendency to people please? Perhaps there are changes you will want to make as a result of what you find.

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Glasgow, G46

Written by Graeme Orr

Glasgow, G46

I am an Accredited Member of BACP offering counselling for both individuals and couples on the Southside of Glasgow. You may be struggling to cope with difficult thoughts or feelings. It can feel a very lonely place, with nowhere to turn. Problems happen to us all and at any time in our lives. If y...

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