‘I am not sad’ or ‘I am not irritable’ is very commonly heard statement. This is an example of denying a feeling. Disowning a feeling in action means denying that you are not experiencing a particular emotion. The person tries to block these emotions out of his awareness. He tells himself and others that he is not experiencing those feelings. We rarely assess our true feelings, so we hardly open to self and are also not well aware of how to express our emotions.
Unfortunately, denial of unwanted emotions causes a lot of damage. Denying a feeling doesn’t resolve it, Its somewhere there, not in our immediate consciousness, but some where there in our sub-conscious or unconscious and may come up again, without we being aware of it. It weakens our sense of self and an internal conflict with self begins.
Brushing off emotions, that one is actually experiencing, may lead to:
- Disappointment with self
- Symptoms of anxiety & depression
- It may give rise to psycho-somatic symptoms like headache, stomach discomfort etc.
- Chronic fatigue
- Disturbed interpersonal relationships
- Negative impact on work performance
Feelings that are denied often are feelings that create a kind of distress and discomfort. The person often denies having those feelings these are also called disowned feelings. Commonly observed disowned feelings are:
- Emotional pain/hurt : As an adult, it becomes difficult for the person to admit that he/she is hurt. As admitting can make the person feel weak, shameful and embarrassed. So, the person learns to deny hurt, to avoid feeling vulnerable and to feel safe. Understanding and learning to identify and accept that “I am hurt” or “I am in emotional pain” may help the person to cope with shame and guilt.
- Fear: Fear is a common feeling experienced by most people. Disowning emotion of fear may cause low self-confidence, poor decision-making etc. Owning feeling of fear, if its there may help the person to take a step to cope with anxiety and discomfort generated by it.
- Anger: Expressing anger in a destructive manner, and denying the feeling of anger may lead to various intrapersonal & interpersonal conflicts. Denial of feeling anger may lead to a false of all being fine. Learning to identify, process, focus, and express anger productively may lead to more positive emotions about self and build healthy emotional boundaries.
Unearthing your actual feelings:
When feelings are accepted & expressed , a persons sense of knowing self improves we become more aware and authentic. It’s a process where we grow and evolve in every situation especially emotionally charged situations. Once we discover our true self, it may create a discomfort initially, but later on takes us towards personal growth and freedom.
What to do to unearth & accept your true feelings:
Often, life moves in a very quick pace. And we are do or say things in an automatic mode without being aware of our feelings. To be more aware self, a self-introspection process is needed. It can be writing your thoughts and associated feelings and to identify your stressors. Asking yourself ‘what feelings am I experiencing’?, ‘what has triggered these feelings’? etc. Reflecting on thoughts and feelings regularly may help you become more mindful about yourself.
Psychotherapist can help a person become aware of about self and how to redirect attention inward & handle emotionally charged situations in a productive way. Art therapy, child counseling, family therapy, Marital therapy are available to help an individual become more aware of self. Therapist is a non-judgemental and neutral person, who can help you become aware your true feelings.
You only know your story best. Each step that you have taken to improve your ingrained behavior takes a struggle. Tell yourself that by using positive self-statements that, when I unearth my feelings, I learn to handle situations productively, have better coping and problem solving ability and have healthier relationships.