HOW TO AVOID EMOTIONAL SUPPRESSION
September, 28, 2022
We believe there is no such thing as positive and negative emotions. Instead of an emotion being perceived as negative, we try to look at it with a lens that simply sees it as difficult. Our positive and difficult emotions have a place in our lives and mold us into who we were meant to become. Unfortunately, some people label emotional difficulties as negative. Some people feel that these emotions should be avoided at all costs, these emotions are shameful or embarrassing, or even that these emotions are not normal. This is often referred to as emotional suppression, which is a practice we wholeheartedly discourage.
Gratitude is a tool. We can use the tool to navigate our emotions, and rather than avoid our difficult emotions, we can learn to acknowledge and understand them so that we can become stronger and more resilient as we work through them. Developing emotional intelligence is a wonderful way to grow as well as combat emotional suppression. We want to encourage you on how to do this, and help you navigate your most difficult emotions. It is never an easy task, but we have full faith you are capable of this.
Some people are taught to suppress emotions. Emotional suppression means that when you have anger, grief, overwhelming or anxiety-inducing thoughts, you ignore the emotions that come with them. Some professions encourage the suppressing of emotions, like in the military, in the medical field, or in a courtroom. People in these fields are conditioned and trained to ignore emotions in order to remain level-headed in a stressful situation and ensure their decision-making ability is not impacted.
Unfortunately, emotional suppression is surfacing more and more in today’s society. We are taught to bottle it up, not show weakness, hide vulnerability, and suck it up. There is a time and place for this kind of emotional reaction, but in our everyday lives, suppressing our feelings can have some negative consequences.
Negative impacts of emotional suppression
Studies show that the more we avoid or suppress our emotions, the more they build up, becoming stronger and more harmful to our mental health. Emotional suppression is directly linked to anxiety and mood disorders.
Suppressing our emotions may feel like the easy solution in the moment, but it does come at a high cost to our well-being. Worst of all, emotional suppression leads to an increase in stress. As we know, stress is one of the most harmful things to our health. Our bodies respond to stress with a wide range of cons, such as a weakened immune system, trouble sleeping, poor health, rapid aging, acne, headaches, and the list goes on. Stress is so damaging to our minds and bodies and emotional suppression is a fast track to elevated stress.
Even if we feel like we are not being hurt by our emotional suppression, it is more than likely it is hurting someone else around us. The emotions we suppress will eventually rise to our surface and even hurt people around us, not just ourselves. Think about how when you are annoyed with a partner, you bottle it up to seem more easy going or to keep the peace. Your partner repeats the mistake or habit that annoyed you, and you completely lose your cool and overreact. The emotion was inside you all along, compounding on itself. Instead of addressing it right away, you suppressed it and it grew inside of you. This can happen with anger, depression, anxiety, stress, and any other emotion that is deemed difficult. Even if you think the emotion suppressing isn’t hurting you- which is most likely is- the suppression is bound to end up hurting someone you love.
Staying mentally healthy
We can think of our mental health as we would our physical health. This means that we have to take action to keep our minds healthy and strong like we would with our bodies. While there are many different ways we can stay mentally healthy, a key piece of our mental health is keeping our stress down and taking control of our anxiety.
Creating a routine that serves your mental health is a key way to ensure you can keep your stress, depression, or anxiety at bay. Eating well, 8 hours of sleep, connecting with friends, exercising, and enjoying time in the sun are all ways you can improve your mental health on a daily basis. These steps are all also steps that can be incorporated into an everyday routine.
The importance of staying healthy mentally means that we will be better equipped to navigate difficult times, more able to face uncomfortable situations, and handle our stress and anxiety with better emotional intelligence. When we are mentally healthy, we are also more likely to have better relationships and self-worth.
How gratitude combats emotional suppression
In order to take control of your emotions and face them head-on, you can approach them with action. Writing and talking about our emotions ensure we can better process them and develop stronger emotional intelligence, which is where gratitude comes into play.
While we may not be grateful for the emotions we feel are negative, we can find a ‘personal win’ within the negative. For example, when we are feeling symptoms of depression, we can be thankful we had the strength to get through the day, get dressed, or simply get out of bed that day. Searching for the small victories helps us remember that there are always reasons to be grateful.
We can also use gratitude to generate more positive emotions, like optimism, joy, happiness, and contentment. When we practice gratitude, we are able to cultivate these positive emotions in our lives and feel their presence in challenging times.
Reversing our instinct to emotionally suppress our difficult feelings will take time and a great deal of practice. Many of us have been suppressing for years in order to avoid grief, anger, depression and stress. They are uncomfortable. It can feel easy to avoid them, and vulnerability can oftentimes feel extremely intimidating. However, when we face our emotions, our mental health is more stable and we live more calm, self-aware lives.
Gratitude is a tool to navigate our emotions, and rather than avoid our difficult emotions, we can learn to acknowledge and understand our emotions so that we can become stronger and more resilient as we work through whatever life hands us.
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