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Jul 06

Emotions: Suppress or let fly?

Posted by Hartzy in suppression , Stress , relationships , Freud , emotions , behavior , anger


Recent studies have found that suppressing emotions can be more harmful than previously thought.  Though many of Freud’s theories on suppression remain highly speculative in the scientific world, psychologists have recently focused on the long forgotten topic and have found surprising results in several studies.

Cool customers may never seem to blow their top, but they’re only guaranteeing themselves future problems.  In times of crisis, these people may be respected for their ability to operate under immense emotional pressure.  However, studies have found that this ability often harms personal relationships and portrays a fraudulent image.  For example, 2003 Stanford study instructed participants to discuss a documentary regarding the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombings with a poker face.  These cool customers made conversation quite stressful for the participants that were allowed to show emotion.  

Additionally, a Brandeis University study showed that those 55 and older, are much more likely to use pre-emptive emotional suppression techniques when entering difficult situations than those 25 and under.  While indeed emotional suppression is a technique that requires years of practice for the brain to master, social stigmas may also play a role.  A sudden burst of anger can be associated with mental disorders or substance abuse.  Perhaps the younger generation does not make this connection quite as quickly as the older one.  Regardless, it has become more socially acceptable to show true emotion to others.

Like us, these suppressors can also display sudden bursts of anger, but in reality, it’s not so sudden.  A Boston College study found that participants want music and memories that would better allow them to enter a difficult situation, in this case, a video game in which they were hunted down by monsters.  As a form of emotional regulation, the participants mostly asked to be able to recall fearful memories and listen to scary music.  This is no different than the preparation a landlord takes at the door of a bad tenant.  It‘s obvious that both extremes have disastrous effects.  Those who regulate their emotions too much have the ability to produce incredibly callous behavior and be able to bounce themselves back in a matter of minutes without much reflection.  Those who cannot regulate their emotions are prone to take drastic measures and only bounce between the extremes.  In short, both paths are harmful to personal relationships.  However, it’s only recently that we’ve found that some cool customers may need to let their top blow.