Why do we suppress our emotions? It’s probably not what you think. Read on to learn how to stop suppressing your emotions.
We Are Emotional, Not Rational, Beings
Let’s start with the myth of rationality. For 4,000 years, we have been taught that what separates humans from other animals is rationality.
This has been taught to us by theologians, philosophers, and by our entire educational system. We were taught that to be rational is to be human. We were told that emotions are weak, they’re irrational, they’re bad, and even evil.
But all of that was wrong. It’s a complete myth. There is no science to support any of that. And in fact, there is a new insight from neuroscience that tells us that we are 98% emotional and only 2% rational. Despite the science, we live in a society that tells us to deny our emotions.
As a result, we try to suppress them. How To Have A Relationship Without Arguments or Fights-3 Amazing Steps To Take Now
To stop suppressing your emotions, accept that you are an emotional being and your emotions are what make you human.
We Suppress Our Emotions Because We Are Emotionally Invalidated
In addition to the cultural problem, we are also subjected to emotional invalidation. And this starts at the earliest age.
Think about this little girl.
Imagine that she is your daughter. What do you say to her when you see her upset like this? You might say something like, “It’s not that big a deal.”
“There’s no reason to cry.”
“But I do listen to you.”
“You’re just not being rational.”
“Don’t be sad.”
“You’re way too emotional”
“It can’t be that bad.”
“Get over it.”
“You’ll be okay.”
“Don’t be such a drama queen.”
Phrases like this and hundreds of others are told to little children by their parents without even understanding that they are destroying the child’s brain.
The second way to stop suppressing your emotions is to stop all emotional invalidation in your life.
Common Strategies For Suppressing Emotions
Since you were told, “Don’t feel emotions. It’s bad to feel emotions,” you never felt emotionally safe. When you felt emotions as a child and you’re told not to feel, you felt shame, you felt unworthy, and you felt unlovable. To cope with this pain, you may have adopted several common strategies.
One strategy that you might have adopted is denial. “I don’t feel anything. I’m a rock. I’m an island. I’m not angry. I’m not upset.” How to Honor Your Emotions With This 1 Powerful Tool
Another strategy is to make yourself emotionally unavailable. If I don’t have to open up my emotions to you, then I don’t have to deal with the pain, and the fear, and the scariness that I might be hurt by emotional experience.
A third strategy is to be emotionally defensive. Whenever emotions arise within you or someone around you is emotional, you feel anxiety. You might run from those emotions like a scolded cat. Or, you might adopt strategy of keeping a stiff upper lip and don’t let ’em see you sweat.
And the idea is that you don’t show emotions, even though they’re whirling around inside of you like boiling water. Or you might try to show yourself as being tough and strong, that you’re beyond emotional experience.
You might even try to be macho and just take your masculinity, or machisma, femininity, and demonstrate that you can power through anything without feeling a thing. All of this are behaviors in service of denying your emotions.
And the result? Heart disease, autoimmune disorders, diabetes, irritated bowel syndrome, ulcers, and a host of other metabolically based diseases that will kill you because you are suppressing your emotions.
I hope I’ve convinced you by this point that suppressing your emotions is bad. The idea of the rugged individualist, of being the John Wayne out there is not only wrong, it’s very unhealthy. Keep reading to learn about the perfect hack to stop suppressing your emotions.
The Hack–Label Your Emotions Instead of Suppressing Them
Here is the hack based on brain science. Label your emotions as you experience them. If you’re not comfortable with your emotions because you’ve been in denial for so long, this might not be easy at first. Recognize that you have never structured emotions as useful data in your brain. You must structure emotional data so that you can use it.
Here’s how you do it. Structure your emotional data by understanding that emotions come in layers.Here is how I set it up:
The first layer includes anger, frustration, avoidance, rage, and hatred.
Underneath that, disrespect, feeling ignored, not being heard, being unsupported, being unappreciated.
Next, the fear emotions, fear, anxiety, worry, concerned, scared, frightened, or terrified.
Underneath that, shame, humiliation, embarrassment, and guilt.
Then, sadness, grief, distress, upset, being gloomy, and being unhappy.
And finally, at the bottom, abandonment, betrayal, feeling unloved, rejected, unlovable, and unworthy.
Whenever you have an emotional experience, you might write down these layers and say, “Okay, which of these layers is coming up for me right now?” And then find the words within the layer that describes best what you are experiencing emotionally.
So for example, you might say, “I’m angry,” “I’m annoyed.” “I feel disrespected.” “I’m anxious.” “I’m sad right now.” “I’m frustrated.” Brain scanning studies show that labeling emotions inhibit the emotional centers of your brain and your ventrolateral prefrontal cortex to come back online.
If you don’t label your emotions, and you try to suppress them, the emotions are still there. You can’t think clearly, and you can’t process. Labeling your emotions activates your thinking part of your brain, to assess your emotional experience and process your emotions in a healthy way. Stop suppressing your emotions and start labeling them.
That is the only way to avoid all of the unhealthy things that come from suppressing or denying your emotions.