Suppressing Emotions

Everyone has been guilty of suppressing emotions at some point in their lives. In fact, one of the prime directives of the unconscious mind is to suppress memories with negative emotions. The purpose of this is to allow us to continue on with life and not feel overwhelmed or controlled by those emotions. The unconscious mind then re-represented those memories to us from time to time so that we can deal with the emotions and get closure. Essentially getting whatever learning’s there are for you to take and to movie on with life. Have you ever noticed how you were just going along your own business, then all of a sudden, you were thinking about something that happened some time ago? Something that you thought you had dealt with or was no longer a problem? Were there some emotions attached to that event that you have not yet let go of? This is a major topic covered in the NLP training.

Suppressing emotions

Exhibiting and suppressing emotions

Sometimes we want to inhibit what we might be feeling. Meaning we don’t want to show it. E.g. anxiety when doing a presentation. Other times we want to exhibit what we are feeling. Meaning we want to overtly show it. E.g. happiness at seeing somebody. There has been research done to show how this inhibiting and exhibiting affects the body.

There was a study by: Lanzetta, J.T., Cartwright-Smith, J. and Kleck, R.E. (1976) ‘Effects of Nonverbal dissimulation on Emotional Experience and Autonomic Arousal.’ They wanted to see that, if we inhibit or fake our facial expressions, would it change how we feel. They divided the participants of the study into two groups. Both were given a painful shock. One group had to inhibit their pain, whilst the 2nd group were asked to exaggerate their pain.

Interestingly, the group who inhibited the pain had lower skin conductance measures. The participants who had exaggerated their pain, measured higher skin conductance. Meaning that the way in which the participants experienced the shock, changed the way in which they felt the pain. This confirms there is a feedback loop that happens between our emotions and our body. When you exhibit your feelings, you can feel them more strongly. When you inhibit your feelings, you can feel them less strongly. There are many people who deliberately suppress their feelings so that they appear in control. Or simply because they just don’t want to feel the hurt or emotion that is present. They confirmed the study with anger, happiness, sadness, fear, humour and pain.

Mind body connection

Deepak Chopra also spoke of the mind body connection in his book “Quantum healing.” In it he mentions that neurotransmitters bathe every cell in the body and that our neurology is constantly eavesdropping on our thoughts. This happens as the neurotransmitters pass information between the neurons, throughout the body. Example, have you ever seen a snake or any other scary event? All of a sudden your body is tense, adrenaline rushing and you are ready to run or jump. This response happens in less than a second. Your neurotransmitters are partly to be thanked for passing the appropriate chemicals and response throughout your body.

So we can clearly see how our thoughts affect the body. The problem comes when people deliberately block feeling or expressing their emotions. As we saw before, in doing so, they might suppress the strength of those emotions, which seem to be a good idea. However as they are suppressing their negative emotions, those emotions negatively affect the rest of the body. An example of that is long term pain.

Dr. John Sarno worked with patients that had back pain. He performed back operations for almost 20 years. He then went back to his patients to find out how much the operation helped. Unfortunately, for the most part, the operations did not help get rid of the pain. Further studies found that long term pain, longer than 8 weeks, is a result of negative emotions that the client is not paying attention too. Meaning, by suppressing the emotions, the unconscious mind actually created physical pain somewhere else in the body. I have personally worked with a number of people who have created long term pain, like sciatica, due to not dealing with the emotions they were feeling. In learning how to deal with those negative emotions and memories, the pain disappeared in less than an hour. You can read more on John Sarno’s work in his book, “Healing back pain. The mind body connection.”


What does this all mean? One the one hand, whilst we do not want to wallow in negative emotions, it is important to acknowledge these emotions and deal with the accordingly. Notice the emotion, acknowledge it, deal with it and move on. This does not mean be a robot, but rather that to be free from the emotions, we must deal with them and not hang on to them.
It also means that when you have a positive mind set, that your body responds accordingly. Celebrate your successes and happiness. Positive thinking in its own right is not enough to make everything go your way. However it goes a long way to keep a healthy body and mind. Helping you to profit from and grow, even in times of challenge. One easy way to practice a positive mind set is to create an attitude of gratitude diary or an accomplishment diary.

Keeping a positive mind set not only impacts on your own mind and body, but also those around you. Coaching is a very good way to learning to deal with the negative emotions and also to create a more positive mind set.

I hope you found this article useful and interesting. Please like and share it below, so others may find benefit from it.

Carpe diem.