Denying Expression of Emotions
At an early age, I learned to deny my self expression. I heard from my parents and other adults that I was such a great kid because I was quiet. I think that was part of the reason why my dad adored me. My dad often got angry, and the less the trigger the better.
My younger sister, Irene, on the other hand, cried her pants off. Whatever was bothering her, she let everyone knew.
In the Philippines, we had caretakers, and one of them was so frustrated with my sister, that she put a clothespin on Irene’s mouth to shut her up.
To express how I really felt meant I didn’t receive what I needed, like my father’s adoration. To express what I truly felt could bring other negative consequences, such as getting belted by my father or being hit by a wooden stick across the face.
Then there was the general feeling of being different from the other girls. My mom would often put me in a dress, but I preferred to wear shorts and t-shirts.
I learned how to use a sling shot, kick ball and play tag with my boy cousins.
While my girl cousins played house and dress up.
Today I identify as bi-sexual, but back then and in the Philippines, demonstrations of anything outside of heterosexuality were unsafe. You would get beat up, ostracized and ridiculed.
Having this knowledge influenced my behaviour.
Self expression was dangerous.
At a young age, I also recognized within me feelings of aggression, anger and rage, especially when I didn’t get what I wanted.
But because my need for love from my caregivers superseded emoting what I felt, I learned to suppress them.
This belief carried into adulthood.
In western society, there are countless social signals that validate this belief. Expressions of love are encouraged, but showing a slight bit of anger, let alone rage is downright just ugly behaviour.
Why is it ok to express love but not anger?
Why is one type of expression celebrated, while another can result in one being cancelled by an entire culture?
Why do we demonize an expression of emotion that to me feels absolutely natural and inherent?
Why do I feel the need to flower and perfume my words, when what I’d rather do is vomit out the ugliness and ferociousness of what I’m feeling?
Why do I feel the need to soften my voice, and tip toe around someone, when I’d rather bite their head off, and crush their skull open?
Self expression is self expression.
It is the full articulation of the self – the good with the bad, and the ugly.
As an adult reflecting on my life, I can say that in many ways I betrayed my self.
I learned to deny what felt real and true, in order to appease, assimilate and acquiesce.
I can remember pivotal moments in my life when all I wanted to do was scream, but I gritted my teeth and stuffed down my emotions instead.
Like when my brother, Joseph, drowned.
My sister got married in the Caribbean, and family and friends attended.
The day after the wedding, Joe went snorkelling. Two hours later his lifeless body was found in the water and dragged onto the shore.
I was so angry at Joe for leaving us because a thought crept in that he may have killed himself. Months leading up to his death, he had broken up with his girlfriend, and had lost his job. Could he have lost his way? Why couldn’t he have talked to us? Wtf, brother?
Most of all, my anger and hatred was towards God. How was it possible that at one moment we were drunk on happiness as we celebrated my sister’s and brother-in-law’s nuptials, and the next moment we’re staring at my brother’s dead body?
How is it that my sister’s wedding anniversary will be forever associated with the death of my brother? What about the guilt she carried for thinking she was responsible for his death?
What a sick joke.
I felt the need to temper the fury that was brewing within me. I needed to be the stoic and my family relied on me, which meant I suppressed all the emotions I was feeling.
Let Emotions Move Up and Out
I betrayed the expression of what I am and my feelings, including the so called negative emotions, especially anger that rises from within.
Why do we use words like “rise” with anger? Likely because it is meant to come up and out of us. It is not meant to be buried.
The word emotion comes from the latin words “ex” which means “out”, and “movere” meaning “move”.
Emotions move us, stir us, excite us, but they are also meant to move out of us. And when they aren’t given the outlet to be expressed out, they end up moving into us.
They become stuck energy and blockages that hinder our expression of truth; distorts creativity; dams inspiration; blocks abundance and suppresses health.
Many years after my brother’s death, I got sick. The sickness was the catalyst to dive deep into my wounds. Doing the inner work and working with a therapist, I saw the correlation between the cancer in my cervix and inhibited traumas.
Located at the end of the vaginal canal, the cervix is a reflexology point to the heart. Deep traumas such as sexual abuse, rejection, and heartbreak can be stored here if not processed and integrated.
Shutting down the desire to step into the truth of self, is the same as closing down the heart, blocking any love from being shared or received; not allowing for deep vulnerability; not being able to completely trust and surrender.
In the entire time I was with my ex, our sex life was a one way street. I pleasured her and took her to orgasm, but I didn’t allow myself to dive further than the surface of our bed. To go deep means losing control, and allowing something else greater than me to take over.
Integral to the expression of our truth is not compromising. Stepping into my truth means I won’t compromise what feels to be true.
However, this also means that I won’t compromise others.
When I’m angry I have the choice in the way in which I communicate my anger. The words and the way we use them have effects not only on myself, the people in my immediate surroundings, and also on the collective whole.
When the expression of negative emotions are forbidden, we often resort to mechanisms such as passive aggressive behaviour. We pretend everything is fine, even though we are feeling resentful or frustrated.
Passive aggression is distorted expression of anger. The passive aggressor wants to suppress the anger, so the channel for the release of the emotion gets contorted, instead of offering a direct line for anger to come up and out. Instead of a straight line, the channel becomes a labyrinth.
Then the real feelings are communicated in an indirect way through backhanded comments, sulking or withdrawing.
When passive aggressors take up space, their bodies also seem distorted and not grounded, which is a reflection of their energetic vibration. The posture in which passive aggressors take is one that allows for the suppression of emotions – it is contracted, tight and wound up.
Sometimes passive aggressors use communication techniques such as non violent communication (NVC), as a way to inhibit their emotions and exhibit control.
So when aggressors use NVC to communicate, every bit of their vexation and fury is felt energetically, even though non violent words are used.
There is a general feeling that the aggressor is behaving from a place of deception, therefore cannot be trusted.
To express non-violently is to embody a state of mind that harbours no violence and no judgment. It is heart to heart connecting, or heart to wound, but never wound to wound.
What is more violent, uninhibited anger in full display, or the suppression of anger whilst cutting everyone down, including yourself, through niceties and pleasantries?
Let it Rip
The other day I was triggered. I was pissed. I then went for a drive with a friend, and instead of tamping down my feelings, I gave myself permission to let it rip.
I felt the entirety of my anger and rage. I expended every joule of that volatile energy and gave it a channel to move through and out. In no way was I going to let that anger move in and take up space in my mind and body.
There are many ways disturbing emotions can be felt and cleared out in a healthy way – like a gruelling workout, uncompromising venting sessions, punching the lights out of a cushion, and screaming into a pillow.
The expending of energy is important, but more critical is investigating what’s underneath the anger.
I am furious because I am hurt.
I am hurt because I feel rejected.
I feel rejected because I am rejecting myself.
I am rejecting myself because I don’t love myself.
The sacred work of processing our wounds is far more complex than what I laid out above, however, I’ve done enough extensive inquiries into my traumas that I can deduce it simply to not having self acceptance.
This is where self compassion practice can play a role in our healing. Having compassion for ourselves doesn’t require changing who we are and what we are feeling.
True self compassion is accepting all of who we are, including the angry b*tchy bits of us.
Part of the reason why curating self expression is emphasized in our society is because we are appalled and in denial that there is anger in us.
Covering up our disgust and hostility with pleasant pretence is much more palatable than admitting that we have inherent rage.
Allowing ourselves to be angry does not mean that we are identifying as an angry person.
Anger is temporary, expendable and something that wants to be felt and expressed, not something to hold on to and attach to.
We need to stop seeing ourselves as monsters.
We are not monsters because we get angry.
We get angry because we are humans.
Writer and globe wanderer, who's interests not only take her to distant corners of the world, but also to undiscovered regions of her inner Self. Proponent of the practice of mindfulness, self-compassion, and gratitude, the trifecta of healing and being, to transform her relationship with daily life challenges.