Emotional suppression can harm your physical and mental health, but unfortunately, it’s not at all uncommon. Many people suppress their emotions when they’ve been punished for showing emotions in some way or another. The word “punishment” may seem harsh, but many of us had an experience or multiple experiences – early on in life that taught us to hold our feelings inside. Often, it’s not direct or purposeful punishment; even from the most well-meaning people, you may have still gotten the message that emotional expression wasn’t okay in some capacity.
Here are some of the subtle ways you may have gotten this message:
- Feelings weren’t expressed within your family unit.
- You were called “dramatic” as a child by your peers or others in your life upon expressing emotions.
- Your parents or other people in your life invalidated your emotions and experiences.
Often, when this occurs in families, it’s passed down from generation to generation. If your parents are the ones who gave you the message, whether subtle or overt, that expressing your feelings would be frowned upon, it’s likely that they got the same message themselves. The good news is that, with awareness, you can break this cycle.
What Happens When You Hold Your Emotions Inside?
When emotional suppression feels normal to you, it can be hard to notice the detrimental impact that it’s having on your life, but the truth is that it often comes with serious consequences. Here are some of the things that may occur as a result of suppressing your emotions:
- A decrease in immune system functioning.
- Higher stress levels.
- An increased risk for mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression.
- Aggression or trouble with anger management.
- Body aches and muscle tension.
- Trouble in interpersonal relationships.
Emotional suppression is even linked to higher blood pressure and early mortality. So, the question is, how do you work through and move forward from emotional suppression?
How To Move Forward From Emotional Suppression
It’s possible to work through emotional suppression. Here are some steps you can take:
- Practice acknowledgment. One of the first and most steps to breaking free from emotional repression is working to actively acknowledge and get in touch with your feelings. Check in with yourself and ask, “how am I feeling right now?” When something bothers you, notice it without judgment.
- Express your feelings. Two examples of ways you can go about doing this are talking to a friend or engaging in an activity like journaling. It can feel good to get it all out on a page, especially if you aren’t ready to open up to someone in your personal life.
- Validate yourself. It’s common for those who struggle with suppressing their feelings to have trouble feeling as though they’re worthy of the emotions they experience; you might’ve heard “other people have it worse” or similar sentiments from others, or you might say these things to yourself. The struggles we go through as human beings aren’t a competition, however, and any pain is valid pain.
- Inner child work. If emotional suppression stems from childhood for you as it does for many people, inner child work can be incredibly beneficial. It can help you show yourself compassion and give your childhood self the compassion they needed.
- Therapy. Therapy is an excellent place to vent and work through concerns because, unlike a friend or family member, a therapist is an entirely objective third-party who will keep what you tell them confidential.
Find A Therapist
Whether you want to work on emotional processing and other concerns related to punishment for feeling your feelings, improve your interpersonal relationships, find a safe space to vent, get support for a mental health condition, or something else, mental health therapy can help. There are a number of different ways to find a therapist. You can ask your primary care physician for a referral, search the web, use a therapist directory, contact your insurance company to see who they cover, or sign up for a reputable online therapy website like BetterHelp. Regardless of how you find a therapist, you deserve to find the support you need, so don’t hesitate to take the first step and get started today.