Emotional Health

Emotional suppression or self-oppression?

Written by Mora Jones / Art by Izzy Chavez Gutierrez

Our emotions are inseparable from us; they are inseparable from being, inseparable from life and inseparable from humanity. Our emotions are an innate part of human nature. They are so intrinsic to living our most honest lives.

We have a penchant for the prevention of pain. Anger, guilt, shame, grief, fear, envy: these are our undesirable states of feeling that we dread to face. We attempt to escape their perils by overpowering them and pushing them to a point where we are no longer conscious of them. Instead of dredging through our doubts, disgraces and our darkest desires, we deny them. We repress our emotions by burying them in the graveyard of our confined, unconscious mind, in an effort to make them more bearable and more manageable. 

At first glance, the prevention of pain due to emotional suppression may be tempting; however, such self-preservation isn’t always as it seems. It is a common misconception that we can control our emotions through suppression; this leads them to control us. We suppress our undesirable emotions in an attempt to make them more manageable, but it often has the reverse effect. Once we are actively experiencing an emotion, it is tough to repress it. Our bodies become a battlefield. A war erupts within us; there is an internal struggle between trying to hide our true nature and the façade we want everyone else to see. By pushing them into the back of our minds, they metamorphose and reappear subconsciously and we are so blissfully unaware. They return against our own volition, like ghosts of our past coming back to haunt us. Emotional suppression doesn’t remain within us; internalisation turns to externalisation. In attempting to shut our undesirable feelings off, we end up shutting other people off through the belief that we need more time to be alone in order to suppress our emotions so that they do not shake our sense of self. Sooner or later, emotional suppression begins to deteriorate and destabilise our relationships, and seclusion shifts to self-ostracism.

We all need time to ourselves; we all need some sense of solitude, seclusion and serenity every once in a while. We need time to reflect and time to reboot. However, there is a very fine line between solitude and self-isolation, and the threshold can be blurred. We often over-romanticise the idea of isolation, thinking that it is purely beneficial for us. We get caught up in seclusion, we get addicted to it, and we cross over into the realm of self-isolation without even realising. We create a rift between ourselves and everyone around us; it can become a self-perpetuating cycle of internal suffering.

Instead of wading through our worries and wounds, we repress, we suppress, and eventually we regress. So, I ask you this, is emotional suppression in its true light a form of self-oppression?

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