This is entirely human behavior. Most of us avoid painful emotions and suppress and hide them from the world. Suppressing our emotions is a common coping mechanism for dealing with difficult issues in everyday life. However, avoiding confrontation or pain (as long as we are talking about negative experiences) can harm our mental and physical health.
- Emotional suppression is the act of consciously or unconsciously blocking, suppressing or ignoring one’s emotions;
- Suppressing emotions can be a coping mechanism for dealing with difficult situations, or it can be a learned behavior based on past experiences;
- Regularly hiding one’s feelings can have negative consequences for mental as well as physical health;
- Crying is a normal and healthy way of expressing emotions, which serves to release accumulated emotions, reduce stress and improve well-being;
- Expressing one’s feelings improves emotional coping skills. It can also lead to improved communication with others and thus improve relationships with those around you.
Suppressing emotions. Why do we do it?
Emotional suppression can begin in early childhood due to various factors. The style with which our parents raised us may be behind it, but also family environments and life experiences. Here are some causes and examples of emotional suppression:
- Children who grow up in environments where expressing emotions is frowned upon (the belief that “big boys don’t cry”) may learn that feelings are something shameful and should not be openly expressed.
- Children can learn to suppress their feelings if they are exposed to role models who suppress their emotions.
- Children who have experienced traumatic events may suppress their emotions. This is a way to avoid re-experiencing traumatic memories.
Commonly suppressed emotions
Expressing one’s feelings can put a person in a confrontational situation or make them feel vulnerable. People find it easier to shut down and avoid dealing with conflict than to face the problem head-on. People most often suppress the following emotions:
- Anger. One of the most commonly suppressed emotions, as expressing anger is often seen as socially unacceptable, and people may suppress it as a way to avoid conflict or potential negative consequences;
- Sadness and grief. People may suppress these emotions because they find them difficult to deal with;
- Fear. It is often suppressed because of unwillingness to confront our fears;
- Guilt. People may feel guilty for something they did or didn’t do and don’t want to admit it.
Recognizing suppressed feelings
People who suppress their feelings often have difficulty naming what they feel or making sense of it. Not being able to talk about what you’re feeling makes communication more difficult, but it also makes it harder to know which parts of your life are not fulfilling. Here are some signs that may indicate that we are more or less consciously suppressing our own emotions:
- People tell us that we are emotionally detached from reality;
- We experience high nervousness and anxiety;
- We avoid people when they say they are expressing their pain or sadness;
- We find it difficult to say “NO” or set boundaries, which can be an indicator of repressed anger and resentment;
- We become volatile and have emotional outbursts, such as crying or anger, whose intensity is disproportionate to the situation at hand;
- Physical symptoms such as tension headaches, muscle aches, fatigue and sleep disturbances appear;
- We have difficulty maintaining intimate relationships;
- We engage in self-destructive behaviors such as substance abuse, eating disorders, self-harm or other harmful coping mechanisms;
- We don’t like to be alone with our thoughts.
Crying? A normal and necessary phenomenon
Suppressing emotions is not always bad. In certain situations, it can be a healthy coping mechanism. Suppressing emotions can help one stay calm and think clearly when one is in a dangerous or potentially harmful situation. In some cultures, expressing certain emotions may be considered taboo, so suppressing them may be necessary to maintain social harmony.
Crying is a normal and healthy way to show how we feel, and can be good for mental and physical health. Crying brings us closer to people, allowing us to feel more empathy and receive more support from those around us. In addition, crying can help release accumulated emotions, reduce feelings of stress and anxiety, and improve overall mood.
Crying releases the stress hormone (cortisol) and the mood-regulating hormone (oxytocin). It also helps reduce feelings of sadness, anger and frustration.
Some people find it very difficult to cry, but that doesn’t mean they are incapable of feeling emotions. In addition, crying is not the only way to express emotions; other methods, such as talking, writing, art or exercising at the gym, can also be very effective.
What keeps us from crying?
There may be several reasons why someone may be afraid to cry:
- Socialization. Some people may have been taught during adolescence that crying is a sign of weakness or is unacceptable to their gender.
- Past trauma. Someone who has experienced traumatic events may associate crying with that trauma and may avoid crying to prevent reliving those memories.
- Fear of vulnerability. Crying can make someone feel vulnerable and exposed, and they may fear being judged or rejected by others.
- Fear of losing control. Crying can be an intense emotional experience, and some people may fear losing control when they cry.
Suppression of emotions and healthy ways to express emotions
- Conversation. Let’s share our feelings with someone we trust and who will listen to us without judgment;
- Let’s write about our emotions. Keeping a blog or diary is a great way to express your emotions and understand them better;
- Let’s engage in creative activities outside the home. Art, dance, music and writing are great ways to express emotions in a non-verbal way;
- Let’s exercise! Physical activity is a great way to release accumulated emotions and can help improve mood;
- Let’s practice mindfulness. Deep breathing, meditation and yoga can help you stay present in the moment and deal with your emotions more effectively;
- Seek professional help. Consider talking to a therapist or counselor to help understand and process emotions;
- Let’s practice self-compassion. When we feel emotions, let’s treat ourselves with kindness and understanding;;
- Let’s accept our emotions with kindness. Let us regularly ask ourselves: “What are you feeling right now?” Let us allow ourselves to fully experience and feel emotions without judgment.
Expressing your emotions can lead to personal growth and self-awareness. By acknowledging and expressing emotions, one can better understand oneself and one’s needs. Expressing emotions can be verbal or non-verbal, through art, music, writing or physical activity.
It can be worked through alone or together with other people. Everyone has to find their own way, which works best. Healthy disclosure of one’s emotions to the world, however, can take time and practice.