What is emotional repression?
We all repress emotions at one point or another. This may be when you’re feeling very upset at work, but you hold in your tears until you get home, or swallowing back anger because you know it would be best to keep calm in a situation, for example when facing confrontation.
Repressing emotions like this is usually conscious. You know you feel a certain way, but you actively choose to push those feelings down, usually until you have some space to feel and subsequently work through them alone, or in a more appropriate setting.
However, there is a side of emotional repression which is unconscious and some people may not even know they’re doing it. Commonly repressed emotions are anger, sadness, guilt, shame, and grief – typically ‘bad’ emotions. We can be fearful of these emotions because of how we think we will behave in letting them out, what others will think, or how much we will judge ourselves for letting ourselves feeling them. It’s these fears and judgments about our own emotions that interfere with us being able to release them.
If you believe you’re unconsciously repressing emotions, or think there’s someone in your life who is, we’ve put together a few signs of emotional repression to look out for.
#1 They Don’t Cry or Get Angry
A sure-fire way of knowing that someone is probably repressing emotions is that when faced with a situation that would usually evoke strong emotions in someone, they don’t appear to have any feelings at all about it! Even in private or with close friends, the feelings that should be there just…aren’t. Not crying is much more common in men. Whilst much has rightly been made of male suicide awareness and normalising emotions in men, some who have grown up with a certain way of thinking may still repress their emotions.
#2 Overreacting To A Situation
On the other side of the coin, it could be that someone doesn’t react to something that should evoke emotion, but will completely overreact to something trivial. For example, someone may ask you to close a door more quietly and you will get angry and start a fight, although this could be avoided. This may be a sign of repressed emotions spilling over into unrelated situations.
#3 Uncomfortable Around Emotion
Some people cannot stand other people’s outbursts of emotion and in fact get quite uncomfortable by it. This may make it difficult to know how to respond to someone when they’re upset and it may be that a person with repressed emotions is unable to respond appropriately and may avoid the situation entirely.
#4 Feeling Constantly Laid-back and Chill
Some people are just naturally laid-back and easy-going. I wish that was a trait I had! It’s these types of people who seem to go through life easily, never letting anything get them down. However, if someone is constantly happy and chilled, and never lets anything affect them, it can be a sign of emotional repression. Life can be tough sometimes, so it’s important to acknowledge that and feel the things it makes us feel.
#5 Always Doing Something
Do you know someone who is constantly on the go and never has time to sit down? If someone is constantly doing an activity – at work, meeting friends, texting, watching Netflix for hours, exercising – it could be a sign that they’re avoiding having to sit alone with their own thoughts. If you haven’t got time, you can’t think – right? Slowing down can be scary for people who are repressing emotions because they are unsure of how they are going to react and deal with the emotions they know they have bubbling up inside. It will be difficult, and none of us really like dealing with ‘bad’ emotions, but the sooner they are dealt with, the better.
Remember, sometimes it feels like everything bad happens at once, but that doesn’t mean you should repress the bad feelings that follow. Let them out – expressing your true emotions and the feeling that go with it so important to your physical health, mental health, and general wellbeing!