Some people are excellent at having their emotions buried down in the recesses of their being, protecting themselves from being hurt by other people (I used to be really really good at this!!). Some of those who do suppress their emotions are often considered as being a bit standoffish, sending out a message to others, ‘don’t come too close’. Others may think that they have permanent “RBF”.
But what exactly are these emotions that seem to control us and drive us to do this and that – that shape our world? There is a book called ‘Discovering Psychology,’ which says that our emotions are psychological and complex; they involve three parts – the subjective experience, the physiological response, and the expressive response.
Researchers, in their efforts to figure out exactly what the emotional state is, have tried to classify the different types of emotions. Around 1972, the psychologist Paul Eckman was the one to suggest that there are 6 basic emotions existing throughout all the different human cultures. There is disgust, anger, fear, surprise, sadness, and happiness. Then in 1999, he included even more emotions such as excitement, embarrassment, shame, contempt, satisfaction, pride, and amusement.
The 3 important elements of emotions
- Subjective Experience
Experts believe that there are a couple of emotions that everybody across the world experiences no matter what their background or culture is. Even though we might have broad labels for being angry, or happy or sad, each of us has our own unique perspective and experience of what they signify.
Take for example happiness – is happiness experienced throughout the world as being exactly the same for everyone? Your own idea of happiness can be anything from just being ordinarily happy to be absolutely ecstatic. We don’t experience just single or pure forms of an emotion either. One can experience mixed emotions for different occasions and events. I
f for instance, you are starting a new job, you might feel relieved or excited or nervous. Or if you are getting married you might feel anxious, joyful, or nervous. You can experience all these emotions at the same time or one after the other.
- Physiological Response
Have you ever felt your stomach go all queasy just from sheer anxiety? Or your heart beats rapidly when fearful? These are emotions that cause powerful physiological reactions. We feel these emotions and then experience the physiological reactions as well.
These can be for example the racing heartbeat, sweating palms, fast breathing; controlled by the sympathetic nervous system, which is a branch of the autonomic nervous system. It is the autonomic nervous system which controls your involuntary body responses, like blood flow or digestion.
The sympathetic nervous system controls the body’s need to fight or to flee; reactions to fear. When you are in a threatening situation, your body prepares itself to flee from the danger or to face it head-on.
- Behavioral Response
This component is the actual expressing of emotion. Most of us spend time interpreting the emotional expressions of people we are in contact with and our ability to understand these expressions accurately is linked to our emotional intelligence, according to the psychologists.
These expressions play a major role in our body language. Researchers say that heaps of these expressions apply to people all over the world, like smiling to show pleasure or frowning when confused or irritated or sad. Culture also is a factor in how we express and figure out emotions. Today, we talk about moods and emotions in the same breath, but not so, say psychologists.
They say there are distinctions between the two; that an emotion is generally short-lived and intense, caused by something that is identifiable. You might get into a heated argument with somebody but it does not last for a long time, or should not! But a mood is something that is not as intense as the emotions, but which lasts longer.
What caused the mood is not that easy to identify. Like you might wake up and be in a gloomy type of mood that might last a couple of days, but you are not sure what caused it, you cannot really identify it.
What causes someone to suppress their emotions?
Unexpressed emotions can manifest in a couple of ways. You might just feel a measure of discomfort, you might think something is wrong but you don’t know what it could be. You don’t even know what caused you to feel discomfort.
You could even be dissatisfied with yourself or with how your life is going. It could be anger or disappointment that appears to have no cause.
If you stop and really ask yourself a few questions, you probably will figure out exactly what the answer is because there is always a cause behind our feelings – it’s just that we hide it from others and even ourselves.
Suppressed emotions really need to come out because if they don’t, they can literally poison you. Like a wound needs attention to release the poisons to heal, so your suppressed emotions need to be dealt with before they fester and deteriorate, simmering under the surface, waiting to explode.
Regret from the past and denial about the past are two causes of suppressed emotions, but the sooner you work through the feelings, the healthier your mind will turn out. Fear of not being accepted, believing there is no need to be accepted, and loss of self-esteem and lost hope are others.
Your body wants wholeness: it wants to heal
When you make a decision to heal yourself, the body will try its best to become whole and healthy. It will want to expel the poison that is building up inside it; for your sake and the people around you.
That doesn’t mean ‘dumping’ on others. But it does make sense to release all that pent-up emotion yourself. Here’s how:
- You need to acknowledge that something happened to create the emotion. By acknowledging it, you can see it in a more logical way and then release the emotion in a healthy manner.
- Then let it all out. Maybe change your location and go to a place, free of distractions, allowing your emotions to become totally present and open to yourself. Some people will sit on a floor and scream or bang their fists against something (ouch, be careful!). But in any way, just allow all the pent-up energy like a volcano to be released. Let all the pent up emotions rise to the surface, and out.
- Then, be thankful for the release of your emotions because releasing it illuminates your path, providing maybe the catalyst for change, or seeing the light. Once you release them, they can’t control you anymore; you can put the lid back on the pot because it is no longer boiling.
You need to tell yourself that it is all OK and fine and safe to be a human being with feelings. Maybe when you were growing up, your parents told you not to show your feelings too much, don’t show that you are afraid, don’t cry over spilled milk. So you did just that, growing up and learning to suppress your emotions.
Being negative all the time diminishes your powers. Are you aware just how negative suppressed emotional feelings can affect your health, affecting your social life, your work, your confidence, making it impossible for you to function at your best?
Make no mistake, we all have days when we are upset, embarrassed, confused, hurt, sad, or unhappy; it comes to all of us, but the big problem occurs when we let all that negative stuff affect us in the present and into the future.
Unfortunately, it is not up to anyone anymore to fix it up but you. Now that you are an adult, you can’t blame others for your condition, because you have the power to change it, it is up to YOU.
Show who you really are
When you are mindful of the things happening in your body and mind, you can immediately focus on changing your physiology. Focus on being relaxed; help to start reducing your anxiety and fear. Anger in your life happens when somebody does something that you don’t like, he or she upset you, and they step over your boundary or don’t conform to what your beliefs are.
Anger is also a sign that you are trying to cover up your own internal securities Anger causes you to take action or feel justified, it motivates you to take action and to stand up for yourself. But in saying that, when there is too much anger, it becomes bad for your health.
Sometimes you just have to accept that you can’t change things or get people to think like you do. A much better and healthier way to calm that anger would be to be assertive yet calm, learning to let go.
Sadness will probably indicate you have lost something or someone that means something to you. It might be harsh to admit, but you have to sometimes let go, accept that thing or person is gone and move on. You need to get into good habits; good positive stuff that brings pleasure into your life and that makes you feel good.
Say for instance it is a relationship that is over.
You can try to win the person back or move on, finding better or other things that bring joy into your life, bringing about the outcome you want. Low moods can also be caused by your diet, a deficiency or vitamin deficiency. It is important that your diet is full of top nutrients. You need to be checked out by your doctor – he will let you know.
Disappointment is when you put in some effort and don’t get the rewards you were expecting. It’s fine to feel disappointment; we all do, we all want success. But don’t stay down and disappointed forever; don’t let it fester – move on.
Frustration is another emotion that arises when we don’t get the results we want or expect. Often when you are frustrated, it might be an indication that you are trying too hard and when you don’t achieve it, you sulk or get kind of worked up, flustered, and tense. Rather use the frustration to motivate you to calm down, take a relaxing break, figure out where you might have gone wrong and do what you can again, to see where you can learn and achieve better.
Guilt is another one. It’s when you know you have done something bad or wrong; even illegal and you know you shouldn’t have. Then it’s time to apologize for what you did, learning from this and making sure you don’t repeat it. Always try and make right where you did wrong – don’t act cowardly and ‘hide’ away.
Don’t get drastic or abusive
Some people will take drastic steps, doing stuff that causes damage to their health. Many people don’t even know how to manage or understand their emotions because nobody has taught them about the powers of mind and emotion. We might try all the coping tactics in the book, and in the end, mask the problem, giving us minimal or temporary relief. Problem is, you can’t run from your emotions or bury them. Trying to suppress them will eventually just become part of who you are. Strong, negative emotions that don’t find release or expression can certainly create an unhealthy mind, an explosive one, and certainly an unhealthy body.
Develop a positive mindset
If you long to be free from your past negativity, you have to take full responsibility, positively. If you are not willing, you just remain a victim of the past and your current situation.
No one can undo the past but you can change your negative responses because of your past by accepting the past and surrendering up all the suffering you went through, moving to new horizons, new beginnings.
A good way to get out of the negative mindset is to become mindful, aware, of the thoughts and things that make you feel negative and bad.
People, counselors, well-meaning friends; all can advise but in the end, it’s up to you, and a good place to start is to get into the habit of thinking better and good thoughts.
When you feel unhappy, change the inside dialogue in your mind, choose something better to think on and then build on it, because there are no restrictions or limitation s when it comes to your internal world.
The reason why people fail in life is that they live in a constant state of disappointment and frustration, falling apart when it doesn’t pan out like they hoped.
When you expect without a doubt and with strong certainty and faith that what you desire and yearn for is coming your way, even though it is not coming yet or has not happened, at some point you will get what you want.
Adding positive emotions to what you say or what you think starts to attract those things you long for, quicker.
Don’t get hooked on your feelings
Negative emotions aren’t just feelings, they are physical states too. It means you need to reduce the stress levels in your life. Getting involved in plenty of pleasurable activities, relaxing techniques and exercises are great ways to do this. What about your posture?
Did you now that your posture also plays a role in how you feel and how you perform?
What is ideal is to sit and stand upright, balanced and poised, but comfortable. Yes, our postures can profoundly impact on our mindset, our feelings, and our confidence. When you have tense thoughts, your body also goes into the tense mode.
The mind responds to what is happening in your body and your body responds to what your mind is thinking. Trick the mind into accepting that you are safe, so that you can create a nice, natural, calm state again. A
ll you have to do is to take slow, deep breaths, relax your shoulders, hum a tune to yourself, and put a smile on your face. These actions put your body into the ‘all is well’ mode. Your mind will see it like that because if you weren’t safe, you wouldn’t be smiling, relaxed and cheerful, right?
Emotions you feel can turn into physical symptoms in your body. These can be:
- Tensed up muscles
- Tightness in the check (which you need to report to your doctor)
- Stomach upsets
- Digestion problems
- Racing heart
- Shallow breathing
- Being tearful
It is the emotionally suppressed people that create much strife in the world. Just think of all the effects that emotional suppression has had on the world, what havoc unacknowledged feelings have created.
Are you emotionally suppressed?
Do you –
- have difficulty crying freely and easily?
- have difficulty laughing out heartily?
- have difficulty identifying your emotions?
- have difficulty expressing how you feel?
- have difficulty opening up to people on the emotional level?
- have heaps of secrets, not sharing your opinions, your thoughts or feelings with other people?
- have unexplainable moodiness, glumness or melancholy?
- have the inability to express any strong emotions like sadness or anger?
- bottle all your emotions up inside
If you think you have a couple of these traits, there are good chances that you’ve lost touch with your emotions by burying them away.
People who suffer from BPD, or borderline personality disorder, will say they spent a lot of time and energy in suppressing their emotions. What about other psychological conditions like PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) or OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder)?
One wonders whether people suffer from these as a result of suppressing their emotions. Medical conditions of emotional suppression are high blood pressure, increased risks of heart disease, diabetes, sickness, and depression.
Some emotional regulation strategies help some people to cope. They turn to mindfulness or meditation to handle the intense feelings, which they say helps them to cope and relax better. Others will turn to drugs or alcohol to rid them of painful emotions.
This can work in the short-term but what of the long-term with all the negative consequences? Researchers say that when you push away feelings and thoughts, and you continue in this mode for decades, you might well be making a lot of trouble for yourself, creating a vicious circle.
You have a hurtful emotion, you push it away, and it leads to even more hurtful emotions, which you try to push away again, and so on and so on. It might be OK to suppress your emotions in your professional life and in public settings, but it might not work at all for those who are closest to you.
Don’t break down because of your past – it’s time to stand up straight and break free!