Emotional Suppression causes Serious Damage to Bodies, Minds, and Spirits

Emotional Suppression causes Serious Damage to Bodies, Minds, and Spirits

The world of feeling is unpredictable, confusing, and hard to control. That is the nature of feeling. . . . Some people are fortunate enough to grow up in families that teach that it is all right to experience feelings and tell the truth about them. Many families -- perhaps most -- teach their children strategies that become problems for us later.

-- GAY AND KATHLYN HENDRICKS,
AT THE SPEED OF LIFE

Michael SkyEmotional suppression sometimes serves a useful, even essential purpose. When suffering a severe traumatic injury the body automatically passes into the physiological state of shock, blocking all feeling and sensation and numbing consciousness, so that the injured person can better begin recovery. Similarly, when children experience physical, emotional, or sexual abuse, they commonly report feeling numb, losing consciousness, and sometimes even leaving their bodies (they may remember objectively observing the event from above). In such cases emotional suppression serves as a mercy, a blessing, and a necessary first step in the healing process.

Even during lesser travails, suppression often seems the best we can do. As children learn early on, no matter how much a parent (or boss, policeman, or other authority figure) may violate you, it rarely helps to vent your rage. Indeed, expressing anger-energy typically makes matters worse. Grief-stricken as you may feel, crying does not always help -- especially around other people who will not abide tears, or when the time and energy given to crying might interfere with something else that needs to get done. The same goes with fear: showing your fear to others can undermine your ability to lead or interfere with the need for immediate action. Some situations seem to offer no other choice than to suppress a feeling now, such as needing to laugh during a funeral or experiencing sexual arousal at the wrong time or place or around the wrong person.

We mostly suppress emotions as a way to avoid expressing them. All social groups, beginning with the family, develop their own sets of good manners and mores, which govern the acceptable and unacceptable times for emotional expression. A society full of people all spontaneously expressing their emotions threatens unending chaos. In order to form polite, civil, working groups, individuals must somehow control their emotional energies; maturing socially means learning to rein in our natural (but childish) tendency for emotional expression.

Yet while emotional suppression may sometimes serve a useful purpose, inhibiting the free flow of emotional energies over the course of a lifetime causes serious damage to our bodies, minds, and spirits. Our efforts to stifle emotion become a stifling of life itself. Though the symptoms vary, most people die from a slow suicide of self-strangulation. Therefore it behooves us to understand just how badly emotional suppression injures us, even as we find healthier ways to deal with ever-flowing emotional energies.

Emotional suppression causes system wide dysfunction and disease.

When we suppress an emotion, the energy of that emotion does not go away. Instead, it subsides -- it sinks deeper. Rather than resolve the emotional energy through some form of response, we choose (however unconsciously) to hold it inside. Though the immediacy of the feeling may pass, the energy does not. We hold it deep inside and, typically, it stays inside.

Modern physics tells us that mass becomes energy as energy becomes mass. Though emotional energy forms the most subtle stuff, it is stuff nonetheless. If you hold enough of this stuff inside you, then you become energetically "stuffed up," which carries the same implications as a stuffed nose, stuffed colon, stuffed arteries, or even owning too much stuff.

Energy moves within the body in regular currents and beyond the body in radiant fields. As emotional suppression becomes an unconscious habit and emotional energy becomes stuffed inside, the free movement of vital energy gradually degrades. Think of a wide rushing river into which one daily throws several large stones. Over the course of a lifetime the river becomes clogged, diminished, and sluggish. Likewise, over the course of a human lifetime the habitual suppression of emotional energy clogs and diminishes the once-rushing river of light.

As we clog and diminish the flow of emotional energy we block and interfere with the fundamental design and function of the human organism. This causes system wide dysfunction, with most biological processes and organs (including the brain/mind) failing to operate at full efficiency. Life spans shorten and creative potential declines. Sickness, disease, and general unhappiness all take a larger-than-necessary role in the human drama. Our bodies and minds struggle through energy-starved lives, while suppressing great wells of life force within.

Emotional suppression inflicts specific injuries upon the body.

This occurs when, especially as children, we must suppress extremely traumatic emotions. The child who has just suffered a severe violation or who has suddenly learned of a huge loss will experience a great burst of emotional energy in response. If for immediately compelling reasons the child suppresses that emotion, then all of the child's surging energy becomes forcefully jammed somewhere in particular in the body.

The specific location will relate in some way to the specifics of the situation. If the child suffers physical injury, then emotional suppression may occur at the site of the injury. If the child contracts into a grimace or a frown, then emotional energy may lock in the muscles of the face. Anywhere that the child experiences pain or tension during the traumatic event -- clenched fists, upset stomach, spanked bottom, abused genitals -- becomes a likely place to harbor suppressed emotional energies. And unless the child later experiences deep healing, the suppressed energies of a traumatic event remain embodied forever.

When a strong charge of vital energy contracts in the body for a long period of time, the energy eventually becomes matter. The energy literally becomes an unhealthy, pathological mass. Suppressed emotional energy can become tumorous, harden arteries, stiffen joints, weaken bones. Suppressed emotional energy can precipitate the onset of cancer in any system or organ of the body. Suppressed emotional energy can undermine the immune system and make a body vulnerable to innumerable illnesses.

Ironically, what begins as a gift of vital energy and the raw material for empowered response turns into its opposite: the stuff of dysfunction and disease. The choice to contract and suppress traumatic emotional energy plants energy-charged seeds of future pathology. The more urgently a child suppresses a traumatic event, or the more often the child experiences a less traumatic event (such as a specific criticism that a child hears several times a day, every day, over a period of years), the more potentially destructive the specific quantity of suppressed energy.

The typical adult body, as any experienced bodyworker will tell you, comes riddled with the suppressed emotional energies of the past. Bodywork is a growing field of alternative medicine whose modalities include various forms and combinations of movement, sound, breath, and physical manipulation. The latter ranges from the gentle touching to often painful probing of deep tissues. Often the simplest of touches to some innocuous part of the body, when expertly applied, will release a torrent of emotion and long-suppressed memory. The powerful healing that such work can initiate testifies to the destructive effects of long-term emotional suppression.

Emotional suppression renders us less capable and responsible.

Ideally, energy-in-motion empowers us to deal more effectively with the changes and challenges of life. Through the unconscious habit of suppressing emotional energy, however, we misplace the very essence of effective response. The person who habitually suppresses all feelings of fear will stand frozen in the road unable to leap out of the way of approaching traffic. The person who suppresses all feelings of sadness will fail to fully resolve painful losses and may always suffer from low-grade chronic grief. The person who habitually suppresses anger will feel forever cowed and victimized by the inevitable violations of life. The person who suppresses feelings of sexual pleasure will derive little satisfaction from lovemaking and may manifest various forms of sexual aberration.

We need our emotions. They provide us with the vital force to think creatively and act decisively. The more successfully we suppress our emotions, the less successfully we do anything else.

Emotional suppression deforms the body.

Whenever we suppress an emotion we physically contract some part or parts of the body. In time we develop patterns of repeated emotional suppression, which means that specific parts of the body must engage in chronic tension. Such long-term chronic tension eventually alters body form and posture, invariably for the worse.

The "character lines" etched into an older person's face result from years of tensing the face while struggling with emotional energy. A permanently hunched upper back reveals a person who never made peace with burdens and responsibilities, just as a caved-in chest shows us someone overwhelmed with unresolved grief. Years of fearing and resisting sex can tilt the pelvis back and away from other people. Angrily clenching the jaw will eventually grind the enamel off of teeth, just as chronically clenching toes will shorten tendons in the feet, with ramifications throughout the body.

Bodyworkers have cataloged many such examples of emotional suppression leading to misshapen bodies. The tree will grow as we bend the twig. As human bodies grow, incalculable bending comes from the chronic physical contraction of emotional suppression.

Emotional suppression causes system wide fatigue.

Emotional Suppression causes Serious Damage to Bodies, Minds, and SpiritsSuppressing strong emotion does not occur easily. It requires an act of forceful muscular contraction, stifled breath, and mental denial to engineer the original suppression of an emotion -- the stronger the emotion, the more force required -- and it requires continuing contraction and denial to sustain such suppression. Without the expenditure of great quantities of energy, emotional suppression could not and would not occur. Typically, as a person ages more and more emotional energy becomes suppressed, while more and more vital energy is tied up in sustaining suppression. All of which just plain wears us down.

Emotional suppression undermines the healthy function of body and mind and stuffs inside the rushing energy of effective response. To make matters worse, emotional suppression requires that we permanently commit significant amounts of energy to keeping everything stuffed away, unfelt and unnoticed. This places heavy demands on our daily resources. So much of the chronic fatigue that afflicts people in modern societies stems from this unconscious sustaining of emotional suppression. Though we have access to great wells of vital energy, we can only lose so much to the dynamics of suppression before we become chronically enervated.

Emotional suppression energetically disconnects us from the rest of our world.

The energy fields that surround a healthy human being extend outward to touch and meaningfully connect with other people and the environment. Through these vital energy connections we experience oneness and can communicate with others in the most profound and satisfying ways. Positive emotions, such as love, compassion, empathy, intimacy, and trust, only occur between people who can connect energetically. Telepathy works in the same way; we experience better nonverbal communication with those with whom we have the greatest intimacy simply because we have more energy links through which to transfer information.

The more we expand our energy-selves, the healthier our relationships become. Conversely, the more we suppress our emotions the less we can energy-connect with others and the more difficulty we have with basic human relationship. A tight and chronically suppressed person has contracted his or her energy fields in and away from others and becomes effectively disconnected and less able to relate.

All forms of communication seem difficult for the "energy-disabled." When we have the sense that another person "just doesn't get it," it indicates some degree of energetic contraction and disconnection we have from one another. The most sincere efforts at verbal communication quite literally go nowhere once we have severed our energy links. Even worse, we sever our innate capacities for feeling other people. We cannot experience empathy, compassion, trust, or love without the genuine oneness engendered by vital emotional-energetic connection.

Such disconnection takes an enormous toll. The worst of human behavior occurs between those who become energy-disconnected. All of our violence, wars and oppressions, racism and sexism, and various domination-driven inhumanities -- such foolishness can only be perpetrated by those who have cut themselves off from "the other." We cannot intentionally hurt another person (or animal, plant, or ecosystem) with whom we experience living oneness. To the contrary, before we actively attack or exploit another person or group we must first sever our common links. Before we lash out, we must first suppress, contract, disconnect, and separate.

Our modern world teems with men and women who have been conditioned to emotional suppression since early childhood. They stumble through and struggle with the unceasing waves of emotional experience that define any life. They hide from grief and run from fear and collapse in the face of anger. They seem perplexed by the simplest pleasures. They suppress their emotions defensively, reflexively, unconsciously. Much of their natural biological and intellectual potential has become dammed up, rendering them more vulnerable to disease and dysfunction and less capable of dealing with the challenges of human existence. They lack the boiling-over enthusiasm for life that they knew as children; they instead feel chronically fatigued, tired all the time.

These unfortunate emotional cripples treat one another abysmally. How could they not? They have had the essence of their humanity conditioned out of them, and they routinely submit their children to the same conditioning. They have become incapable of feeling -- simply feeling -- the insanity of it all.

Tension Release Breath

Now, even as you read, bring attention to the movement of your breath.

Now breathe in slowly through the nose and, as you inhale,
tightly clench your toes, tightly clench your hands, and tightly clench your jaw.
Continue to slowly inhale while creating tension in your feet, hands, and jaw.

And now release that tension with a long, soft, gentle sssshhhh...

Again, breathe in slowly through the nose and, as you inhale,
tightly clench your toes, your hands, and your jaw,
creating as much tension as possible in your feet, hands, and jaw.

And now release that tension with a long, soft, gentle sssshhhh...

Once more, breathe in slowly through the nose and, as you inhale,
tightly clench your toes, your hands, and your jaw,
creating as much tension as possible in your feet, hands, and jaw.

And now release that tension with a long, soft, gentle sssshhhh...

Now pay attention to the movements of your lower belly.
As you breathe in, allow your belly to expand,
becoming full and round with vital energy.

As you breathe out, your belly empties and flattens, sssshhhh...

Every breath in, your belly expands, every breath out, your belly empties.
Continue this breathing, these deep, gentle breaths,
your belly rhythmically expanding and emptying, even as you read...

Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Bear & Co.,
a division of Inner Traditions Intl. ©2002. http://www.innertraditions.com


This article was excerpted from:

The Power of Emotion: Using Your Emotional Energy to Transform Your Life
by Michael Sky.


The Power of Emotion by Michael Sky.Create a lifestyle that frees suppressed emotional energies and allows for empowered responses. With meditative breathing practices at the end of each chapter and inspirational passages from the teachings of Adi Da, you will learn to positively experience and develop your emotions while enhancing your creativity and productivity to accomplish your goals.

Info/Order this book

More books by this author


About the Author

Michael SkyMICHAEL SKY, breath work teacher, certified polarity therapist, and fire walking instructor, is also the author of Breathing: Expanding Your Power and Energy. Michael has been leading human potential seminars for twenty-five years, including more than 200 fire walks. He lives in the Pacific Northwest. Visit his website at http://www.thinkingpeace.com

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