Hiding your emotions is probably something you do often. It’s something we all do very often. You silence the pain and bottle up your anxiety, fear, and anger. But little by little, hiding your emotions stops being functional. Instead, it causes mental blocks keeps you from good health, spontaneity, and personal growth.
For several centuries now, society has educated us to believe that the most important thing in our world is reason. Descartes said, “cogito ergo sum” (I think therefore I am), and that sets the stage for how we think about emotions today. Emotions and everything we associate with them takes us farther away from all things civilized.
“Walk like lion, talk like pigeons, live like elephants and love like an infant child.”
Maybe that’s why we teach children that crying is immature and that it’s always better to hide your sadness. We teach them that people who get angry and react to what they don’t like or think is unfair are rude.
“Laugh quietly,” we implicitly tell them, because laughing loudly means you’re crazy. We explain that emotions, and especially showing them, is weakness. No one tells children that emotions have a lot of potential and that it’s important to understand them and make the most of them.
We feel because we exist. That is the simple truth. Feelings and emotions give us life while repressing them takes life away, bit by bit. Hiding your feelings is harmful.
Emotions and their purpose
We can say right now that all of us come into this world with an incredible potential for happiness. However, there are some nuances to this concept that are important to pick apart. Your genes and environment predispose you to certain things.
So, a large part of the emotional suffering that you carry around without knowing why comes from that mental and emotional structure that developed very early on in your life.
Teachers and parents teach you rules and knowledge. You might not realize, however, that they are also teaching you about emotion. It is precisely this last factor that determines, to a large extent, your quality of life and human potential.
Unhealthy emotional management often leads you to distort truths. Sometimes you think, for example, that an emotion is like an option on a menu. You can pick and choose (i.e., today I am disappointed, but I choose to show happiness.)
However, the internal dynamics don’t work that way. That’s because you can’t postpone emotions. They don’t die or disappear. Emotions do, however, transform. They turn into psychosomatic disorders and distress.
Hiding your emotions isn’t healthy
Hiding your feelings has a high cost. You might think that hiding your feelings will make things go better. After all, you don’t want the attention, and while you don’t change, you can still be productive. But how long are you going to be able to wear that mask?
- Think about emotions as energy, as internal impulses that need expression and movement. If you hide your emotions, that energy is channeled inward. The result? Muscular tension, gastrointestinal problems, headaches, etc.
- Keep in mind that the stronger the repression, the stronger the emotional expression will eventually be. At the end of the day, all repressed emotion looks for resolution, a way out. Sometimes, it comes out in the worst way possible. We see this a lot when we repress anger or disappointment. In the end, you end up dumping all that tension on the wrong person or react disproportionately (with violence.)
How can I manage my emotions?
You now know that the solution is not to repress, hide, or pretend your feelings away. The emotional energy is there and will stay. The key, then, is to let it flow. To understand how to manage your emotions better, think about these simple metaphors.
- The well. If you decide to leave your emotions in a well, you will get sick. Water left stagnant for a long time goes bad, it smells bad, it rots. So avoid the well.
- The tsunami. If you choose this strategy, you will end up hurting others. Sometimes emotions are like a hurricane or a tsunami. They drop down on others with so much anger and contempt that everyone ends up losing.
- The water wheel. The mill, or water wheel, allows water to move through. It flows smoothly through, in harmony. The movement is gentle and nothing is contained. The water stays fresh, never stagnant. This is the best option.
It’s all about appropriately channeling each one of your emotions. Move with them. Say what’s bothering you when it bothers you. React when the moment requires a reaction. Be assertive and agile under everyday pressures. Basically, make your emotions into a harmonious engine instead of a trap.