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Emotional repression is an attempt to suppress feelings in order to make uncomfortable or overwhelming thoughts and feelings more manageable.

Trauma counselling near me

What we’re really saying though is that someone else wasn’t okay with us being angry or upset growing up and so we’ve pushed it down in order to be ‘acceptable’. 

What we repress in ourselves we judge in others, so someone who can’t cry or be upset or angry (unless pushed beyond what they can tolerate, into having an emotional ‘outburst’ or overreaction) might view vulnerability as a weakness and a sign that they can’t cope. Similarly someone who represses their own anger might be fearful of anger in others and avoid any risk of confrontation, and may become a ‘people pleaser’ or find it hard to express themselves effectively or assert themselves. These are our ‘shadows’ in psychotherapy speak; the parts of us we don’t want to admit we have; or in Shamanic terms the disowned and split off parts of our soul.

Trauma counselling near me

In my experience there are two main strategies we use to avoid feeling our emotions. The first is to dissociate from them; to effectively come up out of our bodies to varying degrees to avoid being present. The main clue that you’ve done this is that you suddenly feel a bit spaced out and peculiar or numb. This is an automatic trauma response to overwhelm that we don’t have a choice in, and that I write about here; 'dissociation'.

The second is to be subconsciously or unconsciously aware of a feeling starting to come up and for various reasons we push it back down again, which is what I’m talking about here. We’re not always aware that we’re pushing a feeling down however; sometimes there’s so little space between it emerging and being repressed that we’re not even aware we’ve had it. The main emotions we repress are anger and emotional upset, and we might find ourselves saying things such as ‘I’m not an angry person’ or ‘emotions are messy/immature/I don’t let things get to me’ to make it okay for ourselves.

Trauma counselling near me

While repression of emotions might work for us in some ways and in some situations, ultimately it leads to either people walking all over us because we can’t have boundaries, or a feeling of detachment from our emotions and difficulties with emotional intimacy. It can feel like we’re ‘going through the motions’ without any depth or reward to our lives. People might accuse you of being cold or passive aggressive or difficult to work with (if you ‘overreact’), or at the other extreme seen as lacking assertiveness and too eager to please, for which people don’t respect you the way you’d like.

Ultimately though if we continue to repress our emotions and basic human needs it can lead to a breakdown or ‘spiritual emergency’. This is our psyche or soul stopping us in our tracks because we’re going the wrong way and need to do life differently rather than denying our own feelings.

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