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Suppression and expression

When you study disease from a holistic point of view there’s one thing that becomes very clear. Ill health is often linked to emotions that have been suppressed. It’s as if we can only deal with so much emotion, different levels in different people, and anything that we can’t deal with we put a lid on. The trouble is, it doesn’t go away, and it can pop out in the guise of disease at some point in our lives. Holistic therapy is about looking for root causes, looking for this suppressed emotion in order to get back in touch with it, understand it, and in exposing it for what it is, enable the body to come back to health.

The opposite of suppression is expression, so it stands to reason, then, that we should freely express every emotion we feel? In a way, yes, but not totally.

Expressing emotions freely isn’t that common in the British culture. We focus a lot of effort on maintaining a stiff upper lip, and on not showing any weakness. A lot of the time when it does come out, it comes out awkwardly. All sorts of emotions get jumbled up and because we’ve been trying to keep the lid on, when the lid blows off, it’s anger that comes out rather than the true emotion that we’re really feeling.

Understanding ourselves is key. If we distil our emotions down then there are only so many of them. I believe it comes down to quite a short list:

1. Anger, which is linked with frustration and a desire for control.

2. Fear that something will happen, which is linked with anxiety, stress and insecurity.

3. Sadness, which is linked with grief, a sense of isolation and depression.

One event can trigger 1, 2, or all 3, from the list.

It’s important that we’re in touch with our emotions. Rather than ‘expression’, I see ‘connection with’ our emotions as being the opposite of suppression.

Expression of emotion is sharing that emotion with others. I’m angry so I’ll be angry at you – you’ll either get angry back or you’ll shrug your shoulders and turn away. I’m afraid so I’ll share my fears with you – you’ll either feel afraid too or you’ll tell me I’m worrying unnecessarily. I feel sad so I’ll tell you about it – you’ll either feel sad too or you’ll manage to cheer me up.

When we share emotion, we’re spreading a rain cloud instead of sunshine. Anger is a particularly undesirable rain cloud. Expressing anger has a negative effect on us – raising our blood pressure, putting strain on the heart, and it often leads to headaches and other physical symptoms. Much better to see it coming, understand it and stop it from bubbling over.

What do we really feel when we feel anger? If we could analyse a moment of anger it would come back in some way, directly or indirectly, to some form of frustration, fear or insecurity. I can’t do what I want to do. If I don’t do this then something bad could happen. It’s not fair. They think they’re better than me. If we can get in touch with what’s going on below the anger then the anger might well dissipate and we, and those around us, will be much happier.

Whatever our emotion, we have to recognise it for what it really is and understand it. It’s like you have to settle into that feeling, as if it was an uncomfortable armchair. What does it feel like, what’s actually wrong when you’re in that chair, what’s really going on inside you. Having done that, and having got some better understanding of your emotions, it becomes easier to move on. If we do that for every deeply felt emotion then we’ll have less that we store up inside, and that has to be good news.

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