Avoidance. Denial. Suppression. Repression.
Many people have learned to “stuff” their emotions so they won’t have to deal with them. It may be their defense mechanism to suppress feeling pain in the moment or to avoid arguments with others. How many times have you flown off the handle for no ‘good reason’ when someone said something to you? Something was triggered inside of you- most likely from your past, that you have not dealt with.
Emotions are normal, healthy, and give us a clue as to what is happening in our life so we can navigate through it.
When emotions are stuffed deep inside, they will always find a way to show up.
You are either suppressing your emotions or have repressed them.
Suppressing your emotions is a conscious and temporary avoidance that you push aside for the moment. For example: you come home after a long day at the office- the house is a mess, and dinner hasn’t been made, for the third time this week! You feel your blood starting to boil. Your anger is ready to explode like a volcano erupting hot lava. At that very moment, your spouse runs up to you excited that he got the promotion he has been waiting. So you suppress your anger and enjoy the moment of celebration. You decide to deal with addressing the house situation tomorrow.
Repression, on the other hand, is when emotions are stuffed so deeply in the subconscious, that you may be unaware of their origin. You may also be unaware of what may trigger a negative response.
Repressed emotions show up as:
- Self sabotage
- Blocks/feeling stuck
They can also show up through physical symptoms in the body or through addictions. An addiction, such as alcohol, drugs, shopping, or sex is a way to detach from the emotion.
Emotional repression often begins in childhood, usually before the age of 12, as a way to avoiding physically or emotional pain, such as:
As a young child, you may have developed a belief that it was ‘safer’ to stuff your emotions rather than show them. It could have been that if you showed your emotions you weren’t validated, you were hit, punished, shamed, told to ‘stop’ crying, etc. You believed that if you suppressed your feelings, that you would be protected and safe in some way. Now those suppressed feelings became repressed over time, deep in the subconscious vault.
Repressed emotions can result in:
- feeling anxious, worried, and stressed
- doing everything for others and not take care of your own needs
- avoiding talking about your emotions
- always putting on a happy face to avoid your inner emotional pain
- having difficulty building intimate relationships
- ‘exploding’ in response to small triggers, as the emotions have built up inside.
- lacking self love
6 Tips to Uncover Repressed Emotions:
1. Allow yourself to feel the emotion. Identify it. Where in your body do you notice it?
2. Was there a trigger to the emotion?
3. Do a body scan by starting with the top of your head and slowly move down your body to your feet. Notice any tension. Breathe into the tension to release it. Is it an emotion based tension?
4. Let go of any judgment. Just allow yourself to feel whatever comes up. You are safe now. Just acknowledge the feeling. Then give it permission to leave.
5. This exercise my clients love! Write a letter to the person who hurt you. Include:
-This is what you did to me
-This is how I felt about it at the time
-This is how is has affected my life today
-This is how I think and feel about you now
Then, read the letter out loud to yourself. After you have done that, destroy the letter to release it and let go.
You can rip it into tiny pieces
You can shred it
Or my favorite is burning it.
6. If you can’t recall a memory, identify the feeling you feel in your body. Where is it?
-How old were you?
-Where were you?
-Float back to the earliest time you remember feeling this feeling.
-Were you alone or were others with you?
-Was is day or night?
Journal on this until nothing else comes up, or until you have a memory. Then follow the letter writing above.
It’s natural to want to avoid negative feelings. Our minds always want to avoid pain and move towards pleasure. It may seem scary to uncover and confront the deep, intense emotions, especially when they are linked to unpleasant or unwanted experiences.
As you learn to identify, accept and get more comfortable with your emotions, they can truly help you navigate the challenges of life more successfully, improve your relationship with yourself and others, and most important, open the door to the vault of your subconscious so you can have emotional freedom from the inside out.