Suppressing Emotions: The Cost to Body and Mind

Suppressed emotions can have a significant impact on both the mind and the body. When we suppress our emotions, we are effectively bottling them up inside us, preventing them from being expressed in a healthy and natural way. This can lead to a range of negative consequences such as:

  1. Mental health issues – Suppressed emotions can contribute to the development of mental health problems such as anxiety, depression, and stress.
  2. Physical health problems – Emotional suppression has been linked to several physical health problems, such as headaches, chronic pain, and digestive issues.
  3. Decreased immune system function – Research has shown that suppressed emotions can weaken the immune system, making us more susceptible to illness and disease.
  4. Damaged relationships – Suppressed emotions can also affect our relationships with others, causing us to become distant, defensive, or even hostile towards those around us.

We are Born Able to Express Ourselves

We are born to acknowledge and healthily express emotions, and eventually to manage our behaviours resulting from that which we feel and think. When we are distressed, this is a sign for others to notice and positively see us.

So, what goes wrong between childhood and the most important developmental period of our entire lives, and the repressed adult we may become?

Anton Checkov quote about the difficulty of mastering emotions

Childhood Emotional Neglect (CEN)

I have written extensively about the suboptimal caregiver modelling and conditioning that leaves us as adults habitually repressed, suppressed, and depressed and / or anxious, addicted, angry, with low self-esteem, and challenged adult relationships. Childhood Emotional Neglect leaves a lifelong legacy that if, left untreated, will continue generationally for decades to come.

Expressiveness

When we as children as taught that to express oneself is demonstrably and consistently of value; that we matter, our thoughts and feelings matter, and that we are believed, then we continue to feel comfortable meeting our needs and expressing assertively and yet respectfully, as adults.

But what about the remnants of trauma?

Trauma and severe emotional neglect in our past can of course also heavily contribute to a negative relationship with that which we think, feel, and believe about ourselves, our internal and external world, and our ability to regulate emotional states.

These traumatic states are more likely to benefit from a therapeutic alliance with a trauma informed therapist such as this author. Talking therapy or counselling is fairly ineffective in traumatised individuals because the trauma is held in parts of the brain that cannot be well reached by talking alone.

Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR), or The Rewind Technique, can be very powerful agents for the release of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), or the effect of childhood trauma which may result in Complex – PTSD.

To express what we think, and feel, is to regulate or co-regulate our emotional weather system.

In all the examples above, and any others that may have occurred, the ability to re-navigate our understanding and narrative of the emotional messages we receive, ergo, what we then think and believe about these, determines our subsequent behaviours, leading often to numbing activities such as busy-ness, excessive alcohol consumption, drug use and other addictive compulsions.

Anger, anxiety, sadness, and depression are just some of the traits that can be associated with repression and suppression along with poor self-esteem, low productivity, and challenged relationships.

Two images of people talking and listening to each other.

A Healthier Solution

  • Notice and acknowledge with conscious awareness, then label what is being felt in the moment. (Name it to tame it)
  • Attribute: Notice with curiosity why you feel this way and what may have occurred to become ‘triggered’.
  • Rest your hand gently on the area of the body affected in a soothing manner.
  • Express what you noticed if appropriate, to the person involved, of share with a trusted other, perhaps journal without constraint, what was felt.
  • Regulate: The last point above provides the opportunity for the emotion/s to be accepted, honoured, and released, which means we hold onto toxicity for a shorter duration, we learn we are not our emotions, and we can reduce the ‘incidental emotions’ that may otherwise be carried into our next experience, and this results in less regret.

In Conclusion

It’s important to recognise that while suppressing emotions may seem like an effective solution in the short term, it will likely only make things worse in the long run. Instead, it’s crucial to find healthy ways of dealing with our emotions, such as through therapy, journaling, or talking to a trusted friend or family member. This can help us process and release our emotions in a healthy and constructive way, leading to greater overall wellbeing.

About the author
Managing Director / Counsellor at Anglia Counselling Ltd | 07747042899 | [email protected] | Business Website

Bob Brotchie is a counsellor, mindset consultant and creator of "Conscious Living by Design"™. He writes for Anglia Counselling, is featured on various other websites and introduces us to many guest writers all covering topics related to mental health and wellbeing.

Bob provides bespoke counselling services to individuals and couples in the privacy and comfort of a truly welcoming environment at his Anglia Counselling company office, located near Newmarket in Suffolk, England. Bob also provides professional online counselling, for local, national, and international clients. The therapeutic models offered are bespoke to the client’s needs, especially those in receipt of 'childhood emotional neglect' (CEN), whilst integrating a mindful approach to psychotherapy and cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) principles. For clients experiencing trauma and/or phobia, Bob offers EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing).