It was an unusually warm November morning when Maria waited with bated breath for the announcement of her promotion. She was sure she would get it. After all, her boss had just about confirmed it yesterday. Yet, when the announcement was made it was Bob, her junior, that bagged the coveted position. Her sunny demeanor instantly vanished.
She experienced myriad emotions ranging from sadness and disappointment to anger and jealousy. Finally, she quit her job and moved on. Only she thought she did.
The negative emotions festered. She started gaining weight. Losing hair. Eventually, she sought a therapist’s services who helped her stop bottling her emotions and start communicating how she feels with her loved ones. She lost weight, gained all her hair back and became more connected to her family and friends.
What changed? She stopped suppressing her emotions.
Keeping your emotions to yourself all the time isn’t a quality you must inculcate because it hampers your physical and mental health. Just look at the deluge of #MeToo stories shared by men and women around the world. Sharing sexual harassment stories and the emotions that accompany it has lifted a burden from many a victims’ chest. It gave victims a safe platform to express their emotions.
Why We Suppress Our Emotions
You might argue that you can’t express your emotions all the time. Yes, you can’t cry in a conference room when your boss passes you over for a much-deserved promotion. But you can certainly express your feelings to her in private later and ask them the reason for giving the job to someone else. There are a time and place for everything.
Here are some the other reasons why we suppress our emotions:
• Fear of being seen as “weak”
• Fear of hurting a loved one, sparking a conflict or worse or getting abandoned
• Giving the appearance of being in control of your emotions even though you’re not
• Excessive shyness
• Fear of being seen as feminine
Unfortunately, all these fears and beliefs are highly skewed. First, expressing your emotions helps you better connect with your loved ones. Wouldn’t you want to feel more connected to your spouse rather than appear “strong”? Secondly, if you aren’t honest about how you feel, a conflict might get worse in the future.
Thirdly, appearing in control of your emotions isn’t the same as actually being in control of them. In fact, avoiding your feelings just makes them stronger with time. Lastly, suppressing emotions might make you look masculine, but the feelings won’t go away just because you ignore them.
Physical, Mental and Physiological Benefits of Expressing Emotions
1. Inhibits an Underactive or Overactive Thyroid
Suppressing emotions has been directly linked to stress and stress causes a multitude of physical problems. Specifically, it disrupts the functioning of the thyroid gland. Hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism – two common conditions that arise from the improper functioning of the thyroid gland – can arise when you bottle your feelings for a long time.
2. Prevents Cancer
Yup, one study linked emotion suppression to the big C. In fact, keeping your feelings to yourself has been shown to increase the risk of premature death.
3. Promotes Understanding in Relationships
There are many emotional benefits to expressing your feelings and having a good cry when you need to. Primarily, it promotes better understanding between you and your spouse which leads to a more emotionally satisfying relationship in the long-run.
If you’re going through problems at work, wouldn’t it be better to talk to your partner about it rather than then let your worries fester inside? Your better half will be able to understand why you’ve become more anxious and stressed lately.
4. Prevents Heart Disease and Diabetes
Hiding your feelings won’t do your heart any favors. Not speaking up about how you feel has been linked to contracting heart disease and diabetes.
5. Prevents Substance Abuse
Why do broken-hearted people wish to drown their sorrows in a bar by getting drunk? It’s because they want to numb themselves from what they’re feeling. Ironically, drinking and consuming drugs won’t make that sadness go away. It just isolates you from your loved ones. Pretty soon, you’ll end up spending Christmas in a bar with a bottle of Jack Daniels rather than at the dinner table surrounded by family and friends.
6. It Shows your Human Side
Contrary to popular belief, expressing your emotions shows that you’re a human being rather than a tough-as-nails robot. It also helps you connect with your loved ones. Wouldn’t you rather be seen as a coconut – tough on the outside but soft on the inside – rather than an impenetrable fortress?
7. Improves Communication
The number one reason most people fight in relationships is lack of communication. Misunderstandings arise when married couples fail to communicate with each other. Talking about your feelings impedes the occurrence of misunderstandings and brings spouses closer to each other.
8. Prevents Anxiety and Depression
Bottling up emotions gets worse with time and before you know it, anxiety and depression will take control of your life.
9. Prevents the Common Cold
Yup, hiding your feelings lowers your immunity. Which means you’ll be more likely to contract the common cold, illness, fever, sore throat and other diseases than your emotionally happy counterparts.
10. Gives Other the Courage to Express More
The #MeToo movement encouraged sexual harassment victims to speak up about what they went through because their colleague, friend or family member had the courage to express their emotions. It’s a cool cycle – when you talk about your emotions, others are inspired to also express their feelings and before you know it, you understand each other much better than you did before.
Sure, expressing how you feel makes your vulnerable. But it also gives you courage and empathy. So how about speaking up the next time someone makes you angry rather than waiting for it to erupt like an undeterred volcano?
Do you or your loved one have a problem expressing your emotions? Counseling might help. Feel free to contact Orly Gueron a Licensed marriage and family therapist and relationship specialist in Aventura, FL!