Repression of emotion is a mechanism and survival skill.
It is useful as an immediate, short-term measure for coping with threatening or overwhelming situations.
Repression as a way of managing difficulties usually begins in childhood and helps children to maintain a degree of emotional stability in painful circumstances.
By using repression, we push away painful or unwanted thoughts, feelings, fantasies, memories and impulses, and store them in our subconscious mind and body.
Repression of emotion involves denial, direction and projecting attention away from feeling and sensations. Through repression, we subconsciously judge our emotional energies as being negative and undesirable and overwhelming, so we block and control them.
But repression of emotion does not make feelings, sensations and emotional energies go away; they are stored and accumulate in the mind and body, and become a potential cause of illness and disease.
Repression can become a habitual way of dealing with difficult emotions, and it can create emotion phobia – a default position of avoiding emotions – as well as all sorts of addictions and distractions.
Here are some of the most common ways in which we use repression:
MIndfulness of emotion is the oppsite of repression of emotion, and it can be used to release and heal repression, gently and compassionately, and thereby to release and heal the past.
Through bring mindfulness to our emotion, we turn and face them with courageous willingness to connect with difficult feelings.
Healing often involves consciously turning our attention towards those parts of ourselves that have been ignored. This means listening and responding to our own needs and feelings instead of neglecting them. By avoiding our emotions we create an inner struggle – a struggle between the thinking mind and the feeling body.
The ability to listen to our physical, emotional and spiritual needs, and feelings that accompany them, can be severely restricted when our attention is dominated by the thinking mind.
Psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) is the scientific study of the impact of thoughts, feelings and behavioural patterns of response on our immune system.
In this field of study it has been found that the same biochemical messagers that communicate needs and feelings also regulate the functioning of our immune system.
To the surprise of many immunologists, it turns out that needs, feelings, thoughts and instincts are mediated by chemicals call neuropetides, which also regulate our body’s defence and healing mechanisms.
The more our emotions flow and are expressed appropriately, the better our health and wellness.
Research findings in the field of PNI shattered the myth that ‘negative emotions’ cause immune dysfunction and ‘positive emotions’ promote it.
The critical issue is not the presence of ‘negative emotions’ but whether they are experienced and expressed, or repressed and withheld.