January 31st, 2009 10:00 AM by Lehel Szucs
The Dangers of Keeping Your Feelings to Yourself (and What to Do About It)By Sedona.com & Hale Dwoskin
There are often times when shouting your feelings at the top of your lungs is not such a good idea (for example, during a talk with your boss or at a wedding when it is announced, "If there are any objections, speak now or forever hold your peace").
But there are also times when sharing your feelings is essential to your very health and well-being. And if you continually violate this principle, suppressing your emotions on a regular basis, you're putting yourself at risk.
"It is always OK to share how you feel or not to share how you feel. If you are simply sharing because you think you should, this will not benefit you," says Hale Dwoskin, CEO and director of training of Sedona Training Associates. "If you are not sharing as a way of suppressing what you feel, medical science now agrees that this causes or magnifies many illnesses by interfering with your body's natural defense system.
"Suppression on an emotional level tends to bottle you up and cause you a lot of unnecessary tension, stress, and distress," he continues.
What's Wrong With Suppressing Your Emotions?
As Dwoskin said, it creates a lot of unnecessary tension in your body, which can manifest as disease, or worse, death.
Take one study of 4,000 people published in Psychosomatic Medicine. About 23 percent of women reported that they typically kept their feelings to themselves during arguments with their spouse, and these women turned out to be four times as likely to die during the 10-year study than women who spoke their minds!
"When you're suppressing communication and feelings during conflict with your husband, it's doing something very negative to your physiology, and in the long term it will affect your health," Elaine Eaker, an epidemiologist in Gaithersburg, Md. and the study's lead author, told the New York Times. "This doesn't mean women should start throwing plates at their husbands, but there needs to be a safe environment where both spouses can equally communicate."
Suppressing feelings during arguments, a practice known as "self-silencing," has been linked to other risks as well, including depression, eating disorders, and heart disease.
Further studies have also shown that women who suppress anger end up feeling angrier, outraged, and upset, and yet another study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that suppressing emotions may interfere with your memory.
Meanwhile, a study in the journal Health Communication found similar results. It investigated the differences in emotional distress among people getting medical treatment for a breast cancer diagnosis.
Those patients who suppressed their emotions tended to report more emotional distress, including anxiety, depression, and anger, than did patients who expressed their emotions. They also experienced strong psychological distress when they attempted to suppress feelings of anger and anxiety.
Ironically, most people try to suppress their emotions to make themselves feel better, but what usually ends up happening is that you feel worse.
Keeping your emotions bottled up turns you into a human pressure cooker. In order to keep the lid on your feelings, it takes up all of your energy. And you can't possibly keep everything inside forever, so eventually you blow up, losing your temper with your family or in public over something small and trivial.
Then, in an attempt to regain control, you suppress those feelings as well, fueling a never-ending cycle of all-consuming negativity.
If Suppressing Your Emotions Isn't the Answer, Then What Is?
We all have negative emotions swirling around our heads. Whether from an argument, a trauma, a loss, a mistake, or any other difficult situation, it doesn't matter; negative feelings are the same no matter what their cause.
You may be tempted to push these feelings aside so you don't have to feel them, but while this may work temporarily, the feelings are still there. This means they will resurface when you least expect it, in the form of anxiety, anger, rage, depression, fatigue, an inability to concentrate, or any number of other manifestations.
Fortunately, there is a better way: letting go.
When you let go of your emotions, a host of good things happen. Suddenly, you have a lot more free space to feel good things, and the bad things that have been weighing you down are no longer using up your energy. You have, instead, become free.
"If you are willing to release whatever you are feeling and then share what you feel when appropriate, you will feel a lot better both physically and emotionally," Dwoskin says.
Psychosomatic Medicine, July 18, 2007; 69(6):509-13
The New York Times, October 2, 2007
You can break free of the vicious cycle of suppression by using The Sedona Method. For an in-depth discussion of how, scientifically, The Sedona Method works, read Why The Sedona Method Improves Lives so Dramatically: Science and The Sedona Method.