“I don’t want to hear it.”
“Boys don’t cry.”
“We don’t cry in this family.”
“We don’t talk about those things.”
For so many of us, we have learned the habit of suppressing emotions that make other people feel “uncomfortable.” It’s likely mapped back to the way you were raised. You might repress emotions if your parents or caregivers rarely showed emotion, punished you for expressing yours, or ignored / denied your experiences or emotions.
You may also have learned to tiptoe around the people you love to avoid confrontation, keeping your feelings silent in exchange for a peaceful status quo.
We as a culture reward positive, upbeat attitudes. We criticize when we see someone being negative or overly critical. We are, I hate to say it, not accepting of our human rights to feel and express the full spectrum of emotions that our complicated and complex minds and bodies experience.
So we bottle up the “bad” emotions.
It’s when negative emotions are not expressed, or allowed a proper release, that they begin to harm the body.
Unexpressed Emotions Weaken the Body
According to Dr. Candace B. Pert, author of Molecules of Emotion, our emotional memories are stored in our glands, organs, tissues, and cells. Your body is your subconscious mind. Our physical body can be changed by the emotions we experience.
One study conducted by psychologists from Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Rochester found that suppressing emotions may increase the risk of dying from heart disease and certain forms of cancer.
Research has also linked emotional repression to decreased immune system function. If your immune system doesn’t work properly, you might get sick more frequently and recover slowly.
Repressed emotions can also lead to mental health conditions like stress, depression, and anxiety. These issues often cause physical symptoms, including:
- Muscle tension and pain
- Nausea and digestive problems
- Appetite changes
- Fatigue and sleep problems
And don’t get me started on unresolved anger. I’m talking to a lot of men out there.
Not being able to productively (safely and non-violently) express your anger can lead to:
- High blood pressure
- Cardiovascular Disease
- Digestive issues
Let me repeat myself and bring the point home: negative emotions like sadness, anger, frustration, or disappointment are not bad.
However, they can be difficult to express (or feel comfortable expressing) if you have never learned the tools and resources to safely and effectively communicate them to the people you love.
I can help.
Let’s work together to create a safe space for you to start to understand and manage your feelings, learn ways to start feeling comfortable to share your feelings, and exercises / resources that will help you productively manage your emotions.