Food for Thought about Emotional Suppression

This post was written by Jen Greer, an Endorsed Healthy Life Mind-Body Coach.  She can be reached for consults and coaching at

What comes to mind when you think about emotional suppression?

Being a mind body coach trained by our very own Abigail Steidley and a long-time master at emotional suppression*, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about, discussing and experiencing emotional suppression. But I didn’t realize until today that when I think about emotional suppression, I only think about suppressing the…shall we say, slightly less comfortable emotions…

Profile of a female with hands outstretched against the skyI’m guessing you know exactly what I mean by slightly less comfortable emotions, but just in case you need to be hit on the head (gently, of course, with a silk pillow or an oh so soft stuffed pig named Twinkletoes), here’s what I mean:

Slightly less comfortable emotions = anger, sadness, rage, frustration, shame, irritability, fear, boredom, anxiety, desperation, loneliness, fill in your favorite here ___________

While you may derive a sort of dark pleasure from referring to these emotions as crappy, yucky, sucky, or anything your creative self wants to dream up, they in fact, like all emotions, are energy in the body and are inherently neither positive nor negative. However, the story we tell about our emotions and the way that we express them will create experiences that may feel pleasurable, highly unpleasant, and anything in between.

Most of us come to mind body healing not purely for the joy of feeling emotions that we may have worked hard (albeit subconsciously) to suppress since Lincoln was in office, but rather to find relief from our pain. We embark on this journey with the hope that if we do this challenging, unappealing (at least at first), often unfamiliar work, we’ll get a result we dearly want.

If we stay with the work—which may involve stopping and starting, moving forward and backward, and innumerable retreats into the comfort of our familiar patterns and habits—we eventually find what we’ve really been looking for all along. We find ourselves.

If you’d told me a few years ago—heck, maybe even a few months ago—that taking this path would lead me to more of the self I already was, I might have run screaming in the other direction. I didn’t want to be more of myself unless it involved being a happier, fitter, more together, cellulite free, incredibly stylish, and professionally successful version of me (just for starters).

But along the way something started to change. I’m still undergoing this process, but I’m at the point where more of me doesn’t sound like such a bad idea anymore, and I can definitely see how more of you would definitely be a welcome addition to this world. I used to hate it when other people wrote things like that. How could they know that I had a light inside me if I sure as heck couldn’t see it? They didn’t know me. And I may or may not have met you. But I do know that everyone, including you, whether you believe me or not, is welcome and wanted in this world. And I’m talking about the you that you are today—high energy or low energy, natural weight or more or less, disconnected or connected—you name it.

So what does this have to do with emotional suppression?

As my coach friend lovingly helped me to realize yesterday, when we suppress, it’s not only the so-called negative emotions that we’re suppressing. We suppress the whole kit and caboodle, including laughter, playfulness, joy, power and more. Our emotions come as a package deal.

And when we suppress emotion, we’re containing the expression of ourselves: our innate wisdom, energy, vitality, the expression of our individual uniqueness and brilliance and so much more. Whether we know it consciously or not, there is something within all of us that’s yearning to be expressed. As we learn to allow our emotions to move through us in the moment, we learn to experience and express the grace of who we are.

Suppression is most definitely not “bad”—we learn to contain our emotions as a creative response to what’s happening in our environment. And unlearning suppression, if we choose to do so, takes time and commitment. But if you ever need some extra motivation or inspiration when you’re feeling discouraged, remember that when you’re ready, in your time, the universe is waiting with open arms for more you.

* Here’s the short story of emotional suppression in case you’re new to mind body healing…because you’re human (at least I’m assuming you are if you’re reading this), you feel. It just happens, the way rain falls and the wind blows. But sometimes for a wide variety of reasons, we learn that some, or even most, emotions are not okay to feel. So we work very hard to keep from feeling these emotions—or even knowing that we have them at all—by tensing our muscles and creating distractions in our minds and in our lives. This is the short story of emotional suppression—if you’d like to learn more, you’ll find lots of great tools and resources on Abigail’s blog.

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2 Responses to Food for Thought about Emotional Suppression

  1. Ann Burrish November 4, 2010 at 6:48 pm #

    Well said, Jen. I love the idea that opening that box also lets out the brightness. It is a good counterpoint to fears that the feelings that arise will all be uncomfortable to experience.

  2. Cathy Tobin November 26, 2010 at 4:17 pm #

    thank you, Jen! My spiritual consultant has been telling me for months to go inside and feel my emotions and their bodily location, but reading your post helped me see the REAL importance of doing this! Of course, I want to be able to really feel the joy and happiness in my life, but never made the connection of their revelancy to attending to all the so called negative emotions that ,for years, I have tried to supress, which goes back to a violent childhood. Your post really “spoke” to me with such clarity! Beginning today, I will earnestly try your approach. Thanks again. Cathy Tobin

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