NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Monday, November 7, 2022

How to Manage Your Emotions Without Suppressing Them

Everyone experiences emotions. They are a normal part of everyday life whether you feel sad, angry, frustrated, happy, disappointed or any other emotion.

Although everyone expects to feel emotions, some people have problems regulating their emotions.  

How to Manage Your Emotions Without Suppressing Them

Often this is because they never learned emotional regulation.  But the good news is that you can learn to regulate your emotions by developing emotional regulation skills and strategies.

What is Emotional Regulation?
As I mentioned in my article,  How to Develop Emotional Intelligence, emotional intelligence involves:
  • Developing self awareness
  • Managing emotions
  • Picking up on social cues
  • Maintaining relationship
Emotional regulation is the ability to control the intensity of emotions.  With emotional regulation, not only do control the intensity of your emotions, but you also know how to express your emotions.

For many people this can be especially challenging with difficult emotions.  

Emotional regulation doesn't mean avoiding or suppressing emotions.  On the contrary, avoiding or suppressing emotions often makes them even more intense.

Emotional regulation is the extent to which you stay calm and collected when you experience difficult emotions.

People who have a high degree of emotional intelligence are good at regulating their emotions. They are aware of their internal experience as well as the experience of others.  

These people experience distressing emotions just like everyone else but, over time, they have developed emotional regulation skills and strategies so they can regulate their emotions.

What is Emotional Suppression?
Emotional suppression occurs when someone pushes uncomfortable emotions out of their awareness.  Rather than dealing with these emotions, a person who uses emotional suppression either distracts themselves or pushes these emotions down.

Some people suppress emotions by distracting themselves by watching TV, participating in online activities, watching pornography or other distracting activities.  

Others numb themselves emotionally by drinking excessively, using illicit drugs, overeating, gambling compulsively, overspending, engaging in sex compulsively and so on (see my article: Changing Maladaptive Coping Strategies That No Longer Work For You: Avoidance).

Why Do People Suppress Emotions?
Many people suppress uncomfortable emotions like anger, sadness, fear, disgust and contempt because they don't know how to manage them.

It's often the case that these people never learned to experience uncomfortable emotions when they were growing up.  Usually this is because they grew up in a household where their family discouraged any signs of discomfort around difficult emotions.  

Under healthy conditions, children learn to tolerate uncomfortable emotions in an age-appropriate way with the help of their caregivers.  

For instance, a child, who has to leave the park with her mother when it's time to go home, feels upset, but she is soothed by her mother (or father) so that the child's emotions don't become overwhelming.

Over time, this same child learns how to soothe herself, which is called self soothing so that she develops this emotional regulation skill over time.

But a child who has no one to soothe her or, worse still, is told, "Don't be a baby!" or "Stop crying!" or "You have no reason to be upset" doesn't learn how to regulate emotions. 

This is a form of childhood emotional neglect which is traumatic for the child (see my articles: What is Childhood Emotional Neglect? and Overcoming Your Unresolved Childhood Trauma).

That child suppresses her emotions because she's being told that these emotions are uncomfortable for the parents. This is the only way for this child to survive in a dysfunctional family where uncomfortable emotions are suppressed, numbed or expressed in inappropriate ways.

Emotional suppression becomes the way this child continues to deal with uncomfortable emotions when she becomes an adult.  This often results in problems in personal relationships as well as problems at work when she can't deal with uncomfortable feelings.

What Are Some of the Consequences of Emotional Suppression?
As previously mentioned, emotional suppression can also result in emotional numbing with alcohol, drugs and other forms of abuse which creates its own problems.

Emotional suppression can also result in medical problems due to the mind-body connection. This is because, even though the difficult emotions might be out of someone's conscious awareness, they're not gone.  So, it's possible to develop headaches, stomach problems, elevated blood pressure and other related medical issues.

There have also been studies that reveal that over time emotional suppression can shorten a person's lifespan.

The Benefits of Managing Your Emotions
It's important for your own well-being, your personal and work-related relationships, and your health to learn to manage your emotions.

Whether you do this on your own or you seek help in therapy, most people can learn to manage their emotions.

Next Article:
In my next article, I'll discuss useful strategies you can learn to manage your emotions.

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT, Somatic Experiencing and Sex Therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples.

I have helped many clients to learn how to manage their emotions and overcome unresolved trauma (see my article: What is a Trauma Therapist?).

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.