“Hey, how are you?” – “Oh, hey. I’m fine. Yeah, doing great. Definitely. Living my best life. Yourself?” Sounds familiar? Oh, the mastery of pseudo-contentment. We are, indeed, brilliant beings, masters of involuntary impromptu performance and authentically ungenuine smiles. The reasonable question would be, why? Why are we doing this? Why do we lie? The answer is straightforward: social conditioning. Do you have a temper? You’re fired. Do you struggle with depression? People you love leave. Are you lonely? Don’t tell anyone. -Yes, we live in a grotesque, dystopian world where burying your emotions is not frowned upon but welcomed with thunderous applause and colossal bouquets. “Strive for perfection, do not settle for less.” Society has taught us well. FOMO. Stop your tears. Smile. Smile more. Wider. That is everything you need to know about the dangers of repressed emotions. Are we ready? Deep dive.
Defining repressed emotions
So, what are repressed emotions, exactly? How do we define the term? Firstly, it’s essential to distinguish repression from suppression, two quite differing natures. Suppressed emotions live in our conscious space, and if one chooses to avoid or ignore one’s negative emotional spectrum, they do so intentionally. In contrast, repressed emotions exist in our unconscious, the “free world” space of our mental universe. In other words, repressed emotions are that vague, looming, overhanging feeling we can’t seem to shake but cannot pinpoint and successfully articulate, making it that much harder for us to do the self-nurturing work when hardship takes over.
Understanding repressed emotions
We all have friends, coworkers, and family members who never shy away from expressing their emotions; we can say their emotional apparatus lives by the principle of “live for the moment.” Then, we have individuals whose modus vivendi is “Give nothing. Hide everything.” It’s important to know that hiding your feelings doesn’t necessarily fall on the “repressed emotions” spectrum. Emotional repression is an unconscious act of diverting uncomfortable, overwhelming feelings, memories, and thoughts toward the deepest parts of the unconscious to never see the light of day again. That is often the case with childhood trauma, such as emotional abuse and other forms of parental negligence.
Dangers of repressed emotions
People are known to take pride in silly things, selective memory being one of them. We cognize and then make the utmost effort to forget, erase, and disengage, only to reexperience the previously cognized truths. That’s just how the human mind works; what we fail to retain as vital information can be detrimental to our general well-being. With this in mind, our mental and physical health are directly and profoundly dependent on the status of our emotional apparatus. – the things we forget, hey. Mr. Freud discovered the undeniable connection between physical symptoms and repressed emotions nearly a century ago. In a word, emotions are, indeed, physiological phenomena. Avoiding or mismanaging our emotions can lead to adverse physical and psychological consequences.
So, what do we need to know about the dangers of repressed emotions? How exactly can a bottled-up feeling cause physical harm? What kind of harm? No matter how intangible or invisible, emotional stress links to numerous physical problems, such as cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disorders, headaches, insomnia, and intestinal problems. Repression of emotion has also been linked to:
- fluctuating appetite
- muscle tension and pain
- nausea and other gastrointestinal issues
- chronic stress
That is the problem we’re facing: holding on to (unconsciously) unprocessed emotions (that we have no access to) and keeping them locked for too long can have detrimental consequences on our mental and physical health. Several studies have shown that individuals who repress their emotions (albeit unconsciously) also effectively suppress their immune system, making them more susceptible to various illnesses, from seasonal flu to cancer.
Importance of expression
We now know that individuals who disguise and deny their feelings or externally articulate their emotions categorically suffer the most. Furthermore, patients with cancer who unyieldingly continue to mask their feelings are more likely to succumb to their illness than their expressive counterparts. Additionally, empirical evidence suggests a considerable reduction in discomfort and pain from arthritis following the articulation of negative emotions. The amount of relief the patients experienced directly correlated with their ability to express their feelings and emotions authentically. More expression = more relief.
Do I have repressed emotions?
Recognizing emotional repression isn’t exactly straightforward. There are no tests available, only introspection. However, a few tell-tale signs can help identify our emotional status. Individuals who repress emotions struggle with substance abuse, primarily due to unprocessed trauma or other tucked-away negative experiences from childhood. The healthiest way to sobriety is, without a doubt, processing those emotions. Luckily, as a form of substance abuse treatment, group therapy is designed to nurture one’s self-awareness and provide a safe space where individuals can benefit from peer support. Other signs include:
- feeling blank or numb
- forgetting things
- perpetual low energy levels
- feeling stressed and nervous without understanding why
- experiencing uneasiness when others share their feelings
- feeling irritated and distraught when others ask about your feelings
- mostly feeling calm and joyful because you don’t allow your thoughts to focus on unsettling or important questions
Releasing repressed emotions
Addressing the unconscious sounds nearly impossible. But it isn’t. Sharing the perplexing burden with a certified professional is key to releasing heart-corroding emotions. A therapist can help us explore the unconscious and pinpoint the invisible culprit, the very epicenter of our dark night of the soul. By working on identifying and truly understanding our feelings, be it depression or anxiety, we will find that being in touch with what we feared is becoming irreversibly comfortable.
The only safe (and healthy) way to bypass all the looming dangers of repressed emotions is to stay in touch with yourself. Be a friend. Ask yourself: “How are you?”. Really listen. Embrace all answers except – “I’m fine. Yeah, doing great, really. Definitely. Living my best life.” We don’t want to make the same mistake twice.
Meta description: What’s lurking from the depths of the unconscious? That is what you need to know about the dangers of repressed emotions.
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Bio: Veer Greer is a full-time blogger and a full-time animal lover. Ever thirsty for knowledge, he holds psychology and astrophysics on a handmade pedestal.