Unexpressed emotions never die
“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways”, many have lived the reality of Sigmund Freud’s words. Consider the situation where you and your partner are at a party, you have been looking forward to it for weeks, a chance to socialise a chance to be together away from the pressures of everyday life. Yet for hours at the party your partner seems to ignore you, worse they seem to flirt with the host. Your partner doesn’t recognise all the signals you are giving off and continues to focus on their evening. You feel upset, embarrassed, betrayed and alone. You are angry with their ignorant behaviour. Yet you can’t, you don’t have the, “how dare you” conversation with them, even when you get home, perhaps you are tired of fighting or too angry or just don’t believe they would understand. You have successfully swallowed down those negative feelings and repressed them.
Now weeks, months even years later how are they going to come out. The pressure has become too great, and it rises to the surface in a fit of rage and we let go of all of that energy in a way we didn’t mean to and sometimes at a target we never meant to hit. A simple thing the children did gets the anger built up at how alone you feel in the relationship and so on. You begin to feel depressed anxious and unable to cope.
Fortunately you do not have to wait until you have this catastrophic emotional trauma before you do something about the situation. We need to recognise the importance of dealing with our unexpressed emotions so that we are not left repressing those years later. Buddha once intoned that “holding onto anger is like holding onto a hot coal – it is only you that gets burned”.
Perhaps the healthiest response is to unexpressed emotions is to be able to express the feeling or the though directly to the person responsible. Thus in the situation above being open and honest enough in your relationship to say that you were left feeling angry and betrayed at the party, you felt that they paid everyone more attention and ignored you. Being able to directly express these feelings allows you to talk through what is going on and invites a response to help you process those feelings
Of course it may not be possible to express feelings directly often our emotions are directed at situations or those who are not present. Yet there are ways that can help you decompress. Writing down your feelings or expressing them in some creative or safe way (like exercise) something that can let you process how the emotion has changed and affected your life.
Ultimately you are trying to get to a place where you can accept the emotional impact of what has happened to you. Understanding that it was a response to the events and by acknowledging the place it has in our past it begins to lose its power in our future. It is as though the processing burns the fire out and we can let the emotion be.
Often if you feel you normally have unexpressed emotions then you may want to consider a counsellor or therapist to help you explore how to process your emotions and get started on the process.