Emotional Expression vs Emotional Repression: Everything You Need to Know


Have you ever played the game Jenga? Carefully trying to build a balanced tower with its own pieces until it all collapses. Although we know that it is destined to fall, we are disappointed when it finally does. Why is that? Now imagine that that tower is yourself, standing tall at the beginning because of all the stacked closed blocks called emotions.

You see how delicate but strong this is connection between emotions that can make us grow or destroy us if we are not careful enough to manage them well. This is what happens when we repress our emotions. It has the strength to break us in a way that makes it extremely difficult to even understand the cause of it.

As Daniel Goleman said,
“If your emotional skills are not in hand,
if you are not aware of yourself,
if you are not able to handle your distressing emotions,
If you can’t have empathy and have effective relationships,
So no matter how smart you are, you’re not going to get very far.”

emotional repression It happens when we are subconsciously trying to protect ourselves from a traumatic event and the emotions associated with it, or even from a disturbing memory. But how do we know if we are repressing our emotions? If you often feel ‘indifferent’ or ‘sleepy’, feel uncomfortable when people talk about their feelings or ask you to share theirs, feel stressed and restless for no known reason, and feel optimistic most of the time time and don’t allow yourself to focus too much on distressing emotions, there could be a chance that you have been unconsciously repressing your emotions over the years, and now the emotional expression makes you feel uncomfortable.

Now that you are not aware of your emotions, your past experiences, how can you manage them? Try playing Jenga with your eyes closed. dealing with emotions not being able to identify and express them is like building your life with half your mind closed. Sooner or later, that tower will fall, and we won’t even realize why that happened.

The first step to building this tower more consciously is to be aware of its basic components: your own emotions, how they work, how you deal with them, what role each emotion plays in your life, etc. That sounds like a lot, right? How can I do that?

Let’s look at some basics you can follow:

Give each block a name and try to be as specific as possible about that emotion. When we name our emotions specifically, it gives us more clarity about how we really feel and what could be the possible cause of it. ‘I feel sad’ vs. ‘I feel lonely and disappointed’, which gives you more clarity?

Recognize and accept that these emotions exist.even if they make you feel uncomfortable. These blocks have somewhere in that tower and denying their existence will not make them go away. What you do with it is something that comes later.

Share how you feel. For a person who has been suppressing her emotions all this time, asking them to share seems a bit over the top. But what if you do it within your own personal space? Try to write about how you feel, make it a safe space so that only identify and recognize their own emotional experiences.

Seek help from a mental health professional. While the ultimate goal is always to learn the ability to regulate your emotions on your own, sometimes it’s hard to work alone and you need professional support. When we work together, we also muster the strength to face the resistance by unearthing and addressing these disturbing memories and emotions, and there’s nothing wrong with seeking help to do so for your own long-term good.

go to therapy it’s like having a person sit on the other side of the Jenga tower, helping you get a perspective of what it looks like on the other side, and then knowingly but effectively making a move. Emotional expression occurs when you feel safe in a place, with someone even if it is yourself, and we need to learn to make that space safe for us.

(The author is Counseling Psychologist, BetterLYF Wellness)

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