“What you resist, persists.”
When was the last time something happened that was too painful to deal with? Do you remember how you tried to get it out of your head? Were you afraid you’d feel overwhelmed if you thought about it? Did you distract yourself or avoid what was triggering it?
This is called emotional suppression.
Emotional suppression is the deliberate or conscious avoidance or pushing away of thoughts or feelings to cope with trauma.
It’s an emotional regulation strategy. Something that we do to make uncomfortable thoughts and feelings more manageable.
Emotions are always present, and can sometimes be painful, but suppressing them doesn’t work. In fact, it can typically make things worse. When you try to avoid thinking of something, you actually think of it more. (called the rebound effect of thought suppression)
Your emotions affect your beliefs, standards, and habits. They influence the goals you set for yourself and whether or not you achieve them.
Common signs of emotional suppression:
- Pushing away or avoiding your emotions
- Distracting yourself instead of dealing with an issue
- Not addressing an issue because you don’t want to feel negative emotions
- Pretending everything is fine
- Hiding behind circumstances or creating new ones
- Avoiding places, people, or objects that may trigger negative emotions
- Physically harming yourself
- Abusing substances or developing an eating disorder
Negative effects of emotional suppression:
- High blood pressure
- Increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, sickness, and depression
- Increased stress levels and anxiety
- Poor memory, communication, and relationships
Your emotions don’t have to hold power over you.
You can release them, dissolve your pain, and move on.
You can move from surviving to thriving, and live life on your own terms.
4 Big Steps to Stop Suppressing Your Emotions
1) Acknowledge the trauma you’ve reacted to.
- Try to forget about the symptoms and think about what has happened to make you react this way.
- When we experience trauma, we react to protect ourselves. These negative emotions are necessary for survival, but you can also get stuck in this survival mode.
- Emotional suppression could stem from childhood or developmental trauma or abuse in which you felt vulnerable, isolated, ignored, or powerless.
- You could have lost someone important to you, had a bad break up, or been taken advantage of.
- You could be carrying a label given to you by someone.
- There could be underlying feelings of worthlessness or low self-esteem.
- You could feel alone.
- Accept whatever comes to mind calmly and free of judgement.
- Don’t dwell on it or beat yourself up.
- You’re not what happened to you.
- Go easy and reconnect with yourself.
2) Ask yourself why suppressing is acceptable to you.
- Examine with a clear and honest mind, the true reasons you’ve adopted this mindset.
- Do you like the way you feel when internalizing your emotions?
- What are you getting out of it?
- Do you feel a measure of safety, protection, strength, or control?
- Are you trying to keep up a facade?
- Are you worried how others will react to the real you?
- Are you addicted to feeling like this?
- Are you willing to release these feelings?
- You have to want to change for anything to happen.
3) Realize that negative emotion is a part of life.
- There is nothing bad or shameful about negative emotions.
- Just because you have negative emotions does not mean that something has gone wrong.
- Negative emotions are part of what guide us. They are necessary for survival and just as valid as the positive.
- Negative emotions make us ask questions.
- You’ll always learn something valuable from your negative emotions.
- Life has highs and lows, you cannot deny them.
- You would never know what love or peace is without experiencing the contrast of life.
4) Accept your experience.
- We’re talking about self-acceptance, self-discovery, and freedom.
- Acknowledge what you’re feeling; don’t run from it.
- The more attention you put towards resisting your thoughts, the stronger they become. The more mental energy required to resist them, and the more you’ll end up focusing on them.
- When you accept uncomfortable emotions, you become more confident in your ability to overcome them.
- Own how you’re feeling and realize that your body wants to release this stress.
- How can you ever feel fully alive without embracing life?
Please comment with how you express your emotions.
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