By Harry Petsanis and Donna McCance
When you suppress something, you are intentionally trying to prevent something from happening.
Suppression is a conscious effort of deliberately pushing unwanted thoughts from your awareness. Unwanted thoughts can include emotions, desires, painful memories, and things that may cause you anxiety.
Suppression is also an intentional effort of people trying to prevent others from developing, expressing, or acting out their ideas or opinions.
Emotional Suppression of Others
The Receiving End
Most things in life are based on control. People suppress other people to control them. One of the first ways that people try to control someone is to prevent them from expressing themselves by suppressing them. When you allow other people to suppress you, they have a greater chance of controlling you.
People who feel suppressed and controlled often internally dislike it or resent it, but often outwardly allow it, which only empowers the person to control them more. The majority of people who allow this suppression end up conforming and falling in line. They may hold true to their beliefs internally, but their actions contradict their internal beliefs by aligning with the person suppressing them.
People who try to control you don’t want you to be authentic. They want to prevent you from contradicting their belief system. Their goal is to shut you down so that they can destroy your authenticity. Authenticity is acting in a way that’s true to your belief system. When you act in a way that contradicts your belief system and allow yourself to be suppressed, then you’re being inauthentic.
Stop Being on the Receiving End of Emotional Suppression
"Authenticity is living life according to your beliefs, opinions, and instincts.
Authenticity is breaking free from control, guilt, and fear.
Authenticity is living in a space of original thought.
Authenticity is living on your terms.”
Developing a new mindset will guide you toward authenticity. By examining your life and past experiences, you will be able to reflect on the times your authenticity was compromised. Reflect on who you have become, who you truly want to be, and take steps to change.
Writing a journal allows for a reflective practice to help you process your experiences, such as the times you felt pressured and gave in to others, were afraid to speak up, didn’t want to disappoint people, or didn’t want to be disliked. Think about your upbringing and situations when the expectations to conform affected your authenticity. This starts the process of self-awareness.
Communicating is key to authenticity. Sharing your thoughts is advocating for your authenticity. You can be the true person you were meant to be, released from the habits of social confinement and the feeling that you need to surrender your free thinking. As you become more self-aware and take action to live life according to your beliefs, the life you live will be on your terms, free from control, guilt, and fear. (See our Blog on Authenticity, October 25, 2021).
Another example of suppression is when people ask your opinion of something, with no intention of wanting to hear it. They just want to open the door to a one-sided conversation so they can express their opinion of something. As you start to give your opinion, your voice is immediately suppressed because they don’t want to hear you. They want to hear themselves speak and force their opinions onto you.
This conditions us to suppress our thoughts because we become conditioned to knowing that the other person has no interest in listening to us. It’s all about them and their need to control, and we simply stop expressing ourselves to them.
This is an important point for you to consider as you develop self-awareness. Are you that person? Do you stifle the opinions of others because you only care about expressing your own? People are aware that you are doing that to them. You are not fooling anyone, what you are doing is demonstrating how controlling you are and not interested in listening to other views.
Trying To Suppress Your Thoughts
When you try to suppress your thoughts, you are consciously trying to stop yourself from thinking or feeling things by bottling them up or smothering them. You do this as a means of thinking you are keeping your emotions under control and out of your thoughts so as not to cause you to feel anxious about it or to act on it. You think you are using this as a defense, coping mechanism.
An example of suppressing thoughts is when someone has gone through a broken relationship and tries to push their thoughts of the person out of their mind. They do this to prevent themselves from feeling the emotional pain of the breakup. Trying to suppress thoughts of someone causes them to keep thinking of the person in an endless cycle of continuous thoughts of them.
Another example is when someone is angry about something and they hold it in. Over time, the anger builds in their mind because it is unresolved, and eventually it comes out because they can’t hold it in any longer. Sometimes it comes out in a different way, at a different person, in a different situation, at a different time, in a way you had not intended.
The problem with suppression of emotions is that trying to block out unwanted emotions doesn’t work. Research shows that the more we try to force our thoughts from our conscious, the stronger they become because they still exist within our subconsciounsous. Suppression of thoughts is not a healthy response to emotions.
Emotions are part of human nature and cannot be avoided. They are not good or bad, they are just there. How you react to them is what matters. Acknowledge your emotions and accept them for what they are. You can’t deny or change things that have happened in the past. You can, however, distract your thoughts by thinking of something else.
When things happens to you emotionally, you can learn to channel your emotions constructively. Do not channel your emotions internally, such as hating on yourself or doing self-destructive behaviors. Channelling emotions constructively is putting your energy toward something that’s healthy for you, such as exercising, practicing mindfulness, learning new things, and focusing on yourself. You can distract your thoughts by thinking of something else, and in time, the emotions will eventually calm. Focus on doing things that allow you to feel good about yourself.
Work on your self-confidence. You will never develop self-confidence when your thoughts and actions are driven by other people. Your thoughts, opinions, and voice should not be dependent on the views and perspectives of others, taking precedence over your instincts. (See our Blog on Self-Confidence, November 1, 2021). Believe in yourself regardless of whether anyone else believes in you, and be true to yourself.
About the Authors
Harry Petsanis is a mindset and accountability coach, philosopher of human nature, consultant, and lifelong fitness and nutrition expert. He is a writer and author, with two published books: “The Truth is A Lie” and “The Logical Path To Life.” His book “The Truth is A Lie” was nominated by the 2019 Author Academy Awards in the "best self help" book category. Harry has a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. He has an intense passion for psychology and the human condition.
Click here to order Harry Petsanis’s books.
Donna McCance, M.Ed. is a business administrator, licensed teacher and principal/vice principal with over 20 years experience teaching in elementary education and educational leadership. She has a Masters in Education, Masters in Human Services Management, Bachelors in Business Administration and Associates in Business Administration.