Are you suppressing your emotions, or controlling them?
Imagine the following situation: Your partner does something that you've told him/her repeatedly not to, but you choose not to vocalise your feelings.
How do you tell whether you're suppressing or controlling your emotions in this case?
Emotional suppression simply means hiding and not expressing your true emotions, even though you might want to. These emotions are often on the negative end of the spectrum, such as anger, jealousy, sadness, guilt etc.
You might find yourself ignoring your innermost feelings, believing it as a temporary phenomenon which will go away if you continue to suppress it, and even 'denying' it.
There are a multitude of reasons why you might possibly feel the need to hide your true emotions, but the most common reason is to protect your relationships with others at the expense of how you really feel.
On the other hand, controlling your emotions means to fully acknowledge how you feel internally but choosing how you want to express yourself externally through your behaviour.
To put things into context with the above scenario:
Controlling: You feel annoyed, but choose not to vocalise your feelings because it's been a long day and you don't want to get into a fight with your partner right now. That doesn't mean you're ignoring how you feel, you might bring it up with him/her the during the weekend when you both have more time and headspace for a h2h talk.
Suppressing: You are so jaded from the repeated behaviour from your partner, you ignore your own feelings and busy yourself with other things. You believe that there's no use telling him/her again since they will forget anyway.
What are the consequences of emotional suppression?
"Bottling emotions can decrease outward expressions of feelings but does not change the inner state of a person. Effectively, suppression does not make the feelings go away; they stay inside you, buried deeper, causing more pain." - Forbes India
When you constantly put aside your innermost feelings instead of internalising them, it becomes an unhealthy habit of ignoring these feelings when similar scenarios keep happening. You might even turn to unhealthy coping methods such as smoking or alcohol to 'forget' these emotions.
Hence, it's very important to acknowledge how you're feeling and manage your emotions instead of letting them control you.
Ways to control your emotions better
1. Identify all the emotions you're feeling
There might be a mix of emotions that you feel - usually the one that's focused on you and the one that's focused on the external party. For example, anger and guiltiness. Your partner made you angry but you're guilty of feeling the way you feel constantly.
Identify and internalise these feelings first, then choose your method of expression.
2. Know that you are allowed to feel what you want to feel.
This was a line that I observed from a reality TV program that I watch, where the mum said this exact line to her daughter when she was crying because she missed her dad.
Oftentimes we might feel guilty of feeling a certain way, or not wanting to show our 'weak' side to others. But there's a reason why you are feeling the way you're feeling, and it's important to acknowledge it yourself internally.
3. Look forward, not backwards
After you have recognised your emotions, focus on the solution ahead. Will expressing it be better in the long run, or make things worse? Is there another better time to express it or do you have to do it now?
4. Try other ways to express your inner feelings
- Talking to a friend
These are some examples of other ways you can let out your feelings indirectly.
Managing your emotions is tough - and there may be instances where it might get the best of you. But with time and conscious effort spent on controlling your emotions, you get mentally stronger over time and are able to make the best decision in every difficult situation you face in the future.