Brandon, the blogger of The Daily Bipolar, inspired me to write this topic. In his post Emotional Repressiveness and I’m Past Depair, he explored emotional responses, the lack of expression, and some of his reasoning how this may have come about.
None of us are immune. We are all guilty of repressing an emotion at one time or another. But the question is why? With all of this talk of emotional outlets and coping strategies, why do we still continue to engage in this behavior?
I certainly am guilty of it. I am still sad about the loss of Zen. I had a depressive episode in the next week that involved two instances of self injurious behavior. I’m unhappy in my marriage. I am very angry about a lot of things that I’d rather not reference at the moment. And the only people who know are the ones who read it here.
These words are not clearly on my face. A student noticed my low energy level and asked if I was tired. My husband noticed the bandages. And for everything else, there is no voice. Just a bottle, rattling on a shelf in my mind, heart, and soul.
Why? Why didn’t I just say something? Because if I spoke those words aloud, even in an empty room, it would make everything real. I’d have look into the twisted, ugly face of depression. I’d have to really see the actual damage I did, that I inflicted upon myself. Opening the closet to don my armor in order to walk across the battlefield of love and marriage is a possibility I couldn’t face.
Sometimes, we all fall prey to our own cowardice.
There are other reasons for repression, too. Society sees some emotions as weakness and will certainly prey on it. I’m at the poker table of life and I show a hint of doubt, insecurity, anxiety. The other players will take me for everything I have. Crying in public is grounds for constant ridicule. Expressions of anger will either provoke fear or more anger resulting in vendettas. Others will stop at nothing for their vindication.
I fear those repercussions. I have enough turbulence without inciting more. Certainly, I don’t care what people think. But, I care what they do. A person’s actions can cause immense damage. Just a singular word may be the push of a tiny button that sets off the nuclear holocaust.
Grow a thicker hide.
I’ve heard those words my whole life. But what does it really mean? People carelessly use that phrase in the sense that we shouldn’t let people or situations get the better of us. But, in reality, it means to grow an outer shell. It promotes stoicism and repression. And worse, it encourages us to isolate ourselves because expression is inappropriate.
This is especially the case when people are aware and informed of our mental health concerns. There are two extremes in this scenario. First, I express an emotion and it’s considered “symptomatic”. In one extreme, people become alarmists and respond with incessant worry or “suicide watch”. Then, in another extreme, I express an emotion and it is rationalized away under the banner of my “illness”. Neither responses are desirable and possibly more damaging.
I increasingly find myself shelving emotional responses when they arise. Sure, I might fly this under the banner of “control” and / or “disclosure”. And sometimes that can be considered the whole truth. I need time to “process”, so I can determine the causation and proceed with an appropriate behavioral response. That’s what building cognitive-behavioral therapy is all about, right? Mostly, it’s only a half-truth and another reason finds an application.
Repression of emotions arises from many years of modeling, punishment for expression, and positive reinforcement of suppression. Eventually, it becomes a knee-jerk reaction for many of us.
How do we overcome?
© Tallulah “Lulu” Stark and A Canvas Of The Minds 2011. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Tallulah “Lulu” Stark and A Canvas Of The Minds with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.