We all hide our feelings. I’m sure the biggest place we hide who we are is at work where everything is supposed to be positive. The toxic positivity of our work culture puts us in a tight bind because it makes it hard for us to express our true self in fear of being called a wet blanket. It could occur outside of work. Maybe during your visits with family this past holiday you didn’t want to talk about a certain subject to avoid conflict or embarrassment. This is what we call emotional suppression. It won’t cause problems we’re able to effectively work them out, but if it could also become a pattern if we expect everything to always be positive.
Why Are We Afraid to Show Our Feelings?
One of the main reasons why we don’t authentically express our feelings is because emotions are a form of weakness in our culture. Male probably get the brunt of this with whole, “boys don’t cry” thing. Strong emotions put us in a vulnerable place, and we typically try to avoid vulnerability at all costs. One common criticism of being emotional is having others judging that you cannot handle emotions at all. Fear of judgement causes us to hide any type of negative emotion even if it were to be beneficial. There might also be the fear that your emotions will be used against you.
Just like my last posts, and many posts before, I emphasize that we are social creatures. There is a fear that showing negative emotions can hurt relationships. We can easily see that in our romantic relationships. At least when they get started. If your date does or says something that annoys you, there could be tendency to hide your annoyance. What happens if you call them out? Could they meet your negative emotion with another emotion, thus causing conflict? Typically the answer to this question is yes, but fear in this scenario means that we don’t trust ourselves to handle conflict productivity. We may not also trust the other person to handle our emotions in a productive way either.
The last reason why we don’t show emotions hits close to home. It felt like I wasn’t allowed to show emotion growing up. I had sisters that would annoy and bother me. I was told that I shouldn’t let it bother me whenever I would express my dissatisfaction with how my sisters were treating me. In other words, I wasn’t allowed to have any negative reaction. I think people see me as cool and collected, but when I feel a bit of injustice, I am afraid to say anything. Until, of course, the negative emotion starts to boil up.
How Does Emotional Suppression Affect Us?
Like it or not, emotion is crucial to communication. It’s the biggest reason why those weird texts don’t come across as jokes until you put a smiley face emoji. Navigating conflict through communication can be tough when you are not allowed to show emotion. Pent up frustrations lead to then avoiding the person who triggers these emotions in you, thus losing that relationship. Believe me, I know.
Just because you avoid emotions in a public setting doesn’t mean the emotions will go away. Suppression actually intensifies them. Everyone who has dealt with anger knows this to be true. We are not allowed to be angry, so we hide it. This actually means we don’t address the anger, so it boils until you hear it like your morning tea. It’s more likely the case that you don’t even blow up at the person responsible for the anger.
Let’s be real. We can’t even hide our emotions well. People who truly care about you know when something is wrong. If you were to tell someone you love that everything is okay, when it is clearly not, you may hurt them from a lack of trust in sharing your emotions.
What Should You Do Instead?
The first thing to do is accept your feelings as they are. You don’t have to express the emotion immediately, but you must acknowledge how you feel about any situation. If you are angry, it’s probably not best to blow up in someone’s face. It would be a good idea to reflect on why you feel anger. Sitting with the emotion allows you to better understand it.
Once you’ve sat with your feeling, it’s best to then share them honestly. There are ways to share negative feelings without being rude. The best way is to use “I” statements so it doesn’t feel like you are reflecting your emotions onto other people.
There’s nothing wrong with holding your cards on occasion. Not everyone should have the privilege of seeing how you feel. Sometimes it’s the best option we have. It truly depends on the intention you have on hiding your emotions. If you are hiding your true self because you are afraid of how someone else will react, you are going down a very unhealthy path. Not only are you not being true to others, you’re not being true to yourself.