“Sit there and smile” and “Never contradict your father” are statements we may have been told in the name of good manners. We learn very early about what is acceptable in family and social settings. We sit up straight, suppress our tears and laughter, and consciously decide, “I better not say that.” Decades later, these deeply ingrained behaviours are now unconsciously repressed.
Jung stated that, “Repression is a process that begins in early childhood under the moral influence of the environment and continues through life.” These childhood lessons met and continue to meet other people’s needs. However, they did not and currently do not have our soul in mind.
One common lesson is “to be nice.” A closer look reveals that nice involves acting pleasant, being overly cooperative, and ‘biting our tongue.’ We respond with, “Whatever you want.” Nice is being more concerned about what others think and feel. Nice is suppressing one’s thoughts, feelings, intuition and wants.
For the most part, we live in an emotionally illiterate society and are not practiced in expressing and receiving feelings. We feel embarrassed or vulnerable when talking about certain feelings. We silence our selves so we might not hurt someone with our truths. Ironically, we end up hurting our bodies and soul when we withhold what we feel and want.
Emotions are there to let us know that this choice or situation does or does not match what is right for us. Feelings connect with our ability to notice and trust our gut reactions. When we don’t fully feel we become detached from our intuition and in deciding what is best for us. We may begin to question our ability to make soulful decisions.
When we don’t express feelings and wants they show up in behaviours such as gossip, sarcasm, blaming, anger, the silent-treatment, lying, and compliance. These actions avoid dealing with real feelings and lead to more intense feelings of anger, depression and resentment.
Our body gets diseased when stressful feelings are not expressed. The highly controlled Type-A personality’s ability to suppress hostility has been linked to increased cholesterol and blood pressure and heart attacks. Cancer specialist Dr. W. Brodie has identified a Type-C or cancer personality which is characterized by the suppression of anger and resentment and by a strong tendency to be nice, non-assertive, people-pleasers.
Another way to look at withholding feelings is not really being fully there with others and with our self, only showing up with our body and mind. A great place to start is merely expressing the emotion by stating, “I feel disappointed.” Rather than covering up feelings by saying, “Oh, don’t be mad,” validate other people’s feelings by using reflective statements such as, “You sound angry.” Most people find that when they take a risk and practice emotional honesty they feel closer to others. We soon realize that others have feelings, too, and like us, need to be heard without being judged, criticized, fixed or having to defend ourselves.
Next week we’ll explore more about asking for what you want.