6 Common Signs You Are Suppressing Your Emotions

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "101 Essays That Will Change the Way You Think" by Brianna Wiest. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

Like this article? Sign up for a free trial here .

Do you often suppress your feelings to avoid confrontation or disagreement? What are the psychological consequences of suppressing your feelings?

Suppressing your feelings is a negative mental habit that can have a serious effect on your psychological well-being. Suppressed feelings continue to live on inside you, get stronger the more you try to deny them, and morph into irrational thought patterns and emotional reactions that stifle your capacity to feel positive emotions.

Learn about the consequences of suppressing your feelings and some ways to release them.

You Suppress Your Feelings

Your conditioning inadvertently taught you to believe that some feelings are unacceptable or bad. As a result, you feel ashamed each time these feelings come up, pretend that you don’t feel them, and try to avoid people and situations that might trigger them. You also judge other people who express these feelings as “bad” or “wrong.” 

You may be used to get punished for having tantrums as a child. Your tantrums were your way of expressing disagreement with something that you were expected to do. Therefore, you unconsciously associated expressing disagreement with punishment and labeled disagreement as “bad” or “wrong” in your mind. 

Though unconscious, this mental association now shapes the way you think about and react to various situations and contributes to many of your unwanted feelings. This is because it leads to a number of unhealthy behaviors and thought patterns, such as:

You pretend to agree with others: Because you want to get along with others and receive positive feedback, you avoid disagreeing with them—either by pretending to take their side or staying quiet. However, the more you avoid expressing your true opinions, the more insecure you feel in your relationships—you never know if people like you for who you are or because you’re validating their opinions.

You agree to things that you don’t want to do: Even though this approach garners positive feedback, doing things you don’t want to do often makes you feel angry and resentful. However, because you’re unable to acknowledge how your own thought patterns created these unwanted situations, you mistakenly assume that other people are making you do things that you don’t want to do. This leads you to conclude that other people are to blame for your negative feelings. As a result, you don’t feel accountable for your role in these unwanted situations and you believe that you’re powerless to change them.

You judge people who do express their disagreement: Because you believe that expressing disagreement is “bad” or “wrong,” you automatically dislike or feel uncomfortable around people who do express their disagreement. Instead of questioning why you feel this way, you assume that your opinion is valid and that they should change the way they act to make you feel better.

Suppressing Your Feelings Creates Emotional Discomfort

Suppressing your feelings can have consequences beyond making you agree to things you’d rather not do or judging those who do express such feelings. Tony Robbins, (Awaken the Giant Within) offers additional insights into how suppressing your emotions exacerbates emotional discomfort and feelings of unhappiness. He claims that suppressing your emotions disempowers you because it leads you to engage in two irrational behaviors:

1) You avoid situations that risk triggering your suppressed feelings: The problem with this is that you miss out on experiencing the positive emotions these situations might elicit. 

For example, you’ve suppressed your need for affection, so you avoid relationships or pretend not to need affection in a relationship. As a result, you miss out on positive experiences that spring from meaningful relationships, such as love and intimacy. This makes you feel lonely and increases your unfulfilled desire for affection—and your shame for wanting it.

2) You disassociate from your emotions by pretending not to feel them: The problem with this is that these emotions become increasingly intense and eventually lead to irrational outbursts. 

For example, even though you pretend not to need affection, you feel hurt every time your partner fails to give it to you. These negative feelings escalate until you’re ready to explode from frustration. However, instead of honestly expressing your hurt to release this frustration, you avoid addressing your suppressed need for affection and find a different reason to start a fight. As a result, you create conflict in your relationship and fail to resolve the real cause of your distress. This makes you feel misunderstood and increases your desire for affection—and your fear that you won’t get it.

According to Robbins, the reason you’re suppressing your emotions is that you find them unpleasant. But avoiding or dissociating from your emotions exacerbates the discomfort you feel. He suggests that you can process your suppressed feelings and relieve your discomfort by identifying your emotions, acknowledging and accepting them (instead of labeling them as bad or wrong), and considering what you can learn from them.

Use Affirmations to Process Your Suppressed Feelings

Like Wiest, many self-help practitioners claim that your negative judgments about others reflect what you dislike about yourself. However, Louise Hay (You Can Heal Your Life) takes this idea one step further. She claims that you subconsciously transmit your suppressed thoughts and feelings and influence other people to reflect these feelings back to you. Hay bases this on her interpretation of the law of attraction—the idea that the universe orchestrates your reality to mirror your subconscious thoughts and beliefs.

For example, even though you crave affection, you act aloof—because your conditioning taught you that acting needy is “bad.” However, while you might project a cool image of yourself, you’re subconsciously emitting emotional signals that reveal your true feelings—your desire for affection and your shame for feeling this desire. These emotional signals then attract experiences that trigger the emotions you’re trying to avoid—because people intuitively pick up on your feelings of neediness and feel compelled to reflect them back to you.

According to Hay, practicing self-acceptance and self-love affirmations helps you process and express your suppressed feelings. For example, to process your suppressed feelings regarding your need for affection, affirm, “I love and accept my need for affection” multiple times a day.

Once you’re able to accept and express your feelings, you’ll no longer judge them as negative. Further, Hay claims that accepting your feelings will change the emotional signals that you send out—meaning that other people will no longer feel influenced to display the behaviors you previously disliked.
How to Process Suppressed Feelings

———End of Preview———

Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Brianna Wiest's "101 Essays That Will Change the Way You Think" at Shortform .

Here's what you'll find in our full 101 Essays That Will Change the Way You Think summary :

  • Why the only way to make yourself feel better is to change the way you think
  • How social conditioning influences the way you unconsciously think
  • How to manage your thoughts and feelings about yourself and your experiences

Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.