Why we suck at repressing emotions & how it always boomerangs
Yesterday I took the bus and as soon as I went in and the bus driver closed the doors I noticed he was getting way too close to the cyclist just in front of him. I remember thinking: wow, he is getting too close, he should leave some distance. The cyclist probably thought the same and in the next red light started to express his annoyance against the bus driver. After that, the driver continued doing the same, almost like a crazy quest where he had to have all the space in the bus lane and the cyclist should simply dissapear.
Then, another passenger got into the bus. He positioned himself by the bus driver talking to him like they were old friends. This is Dublin, so it is more than possible that they are indeed friends, or neighbours or even relatives. The bus driver told him about the episode with the cyclist and the passenger argued that the cyclist did not have a front light and that all cyclists are dangerous . The bus driver felt re-vindicated and they both started a common vent about all cyclists out there. In that moment, according to them, there should not be cyclist allowed out there.
I don’t know what the problem with this bus driver was, but I KNOW it was not that cyclist. When you repress emotions they come out re-directed towards what we consider an easier-to -deal-with-target. In this case a complete stranger cycling with his bike in front of a bus. Emotions are meant to be felt and expressed but we repress them way too often and learn to not deal with these emotions in a healthy way. This is how it all gets crazy. But our negative emotions do get out, just in crazy and unexpected ways. towards ourselves or towards others.
When our emotions turn inwards:
IT MUST BE MY FAULT
Not expressing the emotion you are feeling and blaming everything on you .Many people don’t want to make a fuzz of things so they prefer to think they have more control over things that they actually have. This is very self-destructive as sometimes,people are rude (for example) and it is not your fault. We don’t have control over what others do.
YOU GET SICK
This is another version of turning the emotions inward. You literally get sick. Your repressed energy becomes physically lodged in your body, weakening your immune system and contributing to a cold, headache, or other illness.
When our emotions turn outwards:
Serious venting to everyone in your life with no lack of details but never even mentioning the problem to the person you have the problem with.
EYE FOR EYE RETALIATION
People acting like everything is fine but giving underhanded eye for an eye treatment in retaliation. There is the intention to keep things the same, but underneath people are and get hurt.
Indirect hurtful comments: The underhanded digs, sarcastic insults or comments to hurt someone.
PROJECTION OR MISPLACEMENT
This would be the case of the bus driver being irrationally mad at this cyclist who did nothing, really. People find excuses and situations to blow out of proportion to be able to feel what they are feeling, just to the wrong person or in the wrong situation.
SOCIAL MEDIA RETALIATION
People using social media to do all the above mentioned and some more to express feeling that should be expressed in healthier ways.
WE DON’T FEAR THE FUTURE, WE FEAR THE PAST RECURRING
From the time when we were children to the time we became adults, we all have dealt with our fair share of difficult situations. Sometimes we were not considered enough, other times we were ignored or hurt and some other times we didn’t get that toy. There are many scenarios we could all have been though but that is not really the problem, as difficult situations are just part of life. The problem is when you don’t express these emotions in a healthy way and they bottle up becoming something else. We end up developing defences based on these events that hurt us. If wee don’t grow up and move on past these defences or painful events they stay repressed within us ready to come out in unexpected and crazy ways if we feel something similar to the past occurring.
THE HEALTHY EXPRESSIVE MINDSET
It is not the same to repress a few recent annoyances than years of repressed feelings. I have seen this especially in some families where things are left unsaid and they literally contaminate the whole family dynamic.
1. – UNDERSTAND YOUR PAST WITH A THERAPIST
Once you discover and start to better understand things about yourself you will release these not so healthy behaviours or patterns and begin using more healthy ways to communicate your emotions. But without understanding the way you were facing your past troubles one can’t face new ones in a different way.
2. – COMMUNICATE IN ‘I ‘ STATEMENTS
This means no blame, no shouting or disrespecting the other person. You may still feel anger, and you should express it, but in a different way, communicating in three steps:
- WHAT YOU FEEL
- WHAT YOU WANT OUT OF IT/ SET A BOUNDARY
For example: “I feel disrespected when you scream at me, and I will not talk to you when you do that. I want you to talk to me without screaming .”
The other person may or may not respect your wishes, but it is a healthier way to communicate with each other. By using “I statements” you are dealing with your emotions now by feeling them and expressing them in a healthy way, versus throwing tantrums, or in any of the other ways mentioned before.
3. – LEARN TO EXPRESS YOUR EMOTIONS IN THE MOMENT
I know this is easier said than done, but it is worth to work on it because holding negative emotions in does more harm than good. As the First Law of Thermodynamics states: “Energy cannot be created or destroyed, it can only change form”.And if you are not careful, it will come out in any or some other crazy form that will further harm you or other people in your life.
Emotions might still might come back even when we work though them, but the same attitude of acceptance and expression should apply anyhow. We do have the right to feel and express our feelings and we really should do so if we are interested in being healthy as mind and body are very interconnected.
Stay confident and strong, as you will keep learning how to deal with difficult emotions. It is not a pill that you take and cures everything it is more like a process for life. Have the learner for life mindset and give yourself a break when you screw up, as we all do.
As you are able to handle your negative emotions in a more healthy way, you will feel less anxious, more stable, and better able to deal with any challenges that come your way.
Have you experienced this? Do you find better ways to cope with repressed emotions? Let me know in the comments section below:)