Emotions and the Body
Suppression and Expression
"Suppression" means keeping a lid on our emotions, pushing them back down, denying them, repressing them, and pretending they don't exist.
Any emotion that comes into awareness that is not let go of is automatically stored in a part of our mind called the subconscious. Many practitioners also now believe that these unexpressed and unreleased emotions (not the same thing, for example. you can express anger and still stay angry) can also be stored in the body (within the body's energy system) and cause a blockage. Such a blockage may then manifest as illness, pain or disease. We have seen this many times in therapy when clients have both a physical and emotional problem.
A big part of how we suppress our emotions is by escaping them. We take our attention off them long enough so we can push them back down. You have probably heard the expression "Time heals all wounds". It's debatable. For most of us, what that really means is, "Give me enough time, and I can suppress anything".
Granted, there are some times when suppression can be a better choice than expression - for instance, when you are at work, and your boss or a coworker says something that you don't agree with, but it is not the appropriate time to give them feedback. It is habitual suppression that is unhealthy and unproductive.
We escape our emotions by watching television, going to movies, reading books, drinking, using prescription and non-prescription drugs, exercising, and a whole host of other activities. We often do this just to help us take our attention off our emotional pain long enough so we can push it back down.
I'm sure you would agree that most of the items on the above list are not inappropriate in and of themselves. It's just that we tend to pursue these activities or use these substances to excess, and we lose control. We use them as a compensation for our inability to deal with our inner emotional conflicts. Excessive escape is so prevalent in our culture that it has spawned many thriving industries.
By the time we are labeled adults, we are so good at suppressing that most of the time it's totally second nature. We become as good or better at suppressing as we originally were at letting go. In fact, often we've suppressed so much of our emotional energy that we're all a little like walking time bombs. Often, we don't even know that we've suppressed our true emotional reactions until it's too late: our body shows signs of stress-related illnesses, our shoulders are stuck in our ears, our stomach is in knots, or we've exploded and said or done something that we now regret.
Suppression is one side of the pendulum swing of what we are usually doing with our emotions. The other side of the pendulum swing is expression. If we're angry, we yell; if we're sad, we cry. We put our emotion into action. We've let off a little steam from the inner emotional pressure cooker, but we haven't put out the fire. This often feels better than suppression, particularly if we've blocked our ability to express. We often feel better afterwards; nonetheless, expression also has its drawbacks.
Good therapy is generally based on helping us get in touch with and express our emotions. And healthy, lasting relationships certainly could'nt survive without us clearly expressing how we feel. But what about when we express ourselves inappropriately outside of a therapeutic situation? What about the feelings of the person to whom we have just expressed? Inappropriate expression can often lead to greater disagreement and conflict and a mutual escalation of emotion that can get out of control.
Neither suppression nor expression is a problem in and of itself. They are merely two different ends of the same spectrum of how we usually handle our emotions. A problem arises when we don't feel in control over which one is happening, and many times we find ourselves doing the opposite of what we intended. Very often we get stuck on one side of the spectrum or the other. These are the moments when we need to find the freedom to let go of the unwanted emotion just as we did when we were kids.
Both the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) and the Sedona Method are excellent and powerful ways of releasing undesirable emotions so that they don't pop up at the wrong times.
If you're experiencing unwanted emotions that are leaving you miserable much of the time, and really want to do something about that, then call us for a chat to discuss how we can help.