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Why bottling up emotions may be bad for you

Written by Sowmiya Bhas |Updated : May 22, 2014 5:31 PM IST

StressLet's begin by rephrasing that sentence. Bottling up emotions IS bad for you.

Nathalie is in her 50s. Her children have grown up and settled. Her husband passed away recently. She has very few friends and mostly keeps to herself. Since her early 20s, Nathalie used to suffer from backaches. She could barely walk and used to be bed-ridden for days. She also developed asthma around this time. She still suffers from these problems today. All the medical tests and reports were inconclusive and nothing seemed to be wrong with her physically. The doctor then suggested a psychological evaluation. There, it was learnt that Nathalie's husband had been physically and emotionally abusive. Since theirs was a love marriage, she felt she couldn't stand up to him and had bottled in her feelings of sadness, guilt, betrayal, anger deep within her. She stayed with him for the sake of their children. Even after her husband passed away, these feelings remained. She is now learning how to deal with these emotions and is on the road to physical and emotional recovery.

Emotions can be categorised as positive emotions and negative emotions. Some makes us feel good and others make us feel bad. We find it easy to deal with the positive emotions. However, we often are lost when dealing with negative emotions. Anger, sadness, pain, despair, grief are the ones that most of us have trouble dealing with. Children until the age of five throw tantrums to express their inner turmoil. They don't know what's appropriate and what's not. Grown-ups, on the other hand, bottle up their feelings. The reasons are numerous. Sometimes you feel it is not the right time or place to express, or at other times, you feel that you are bound by some unspoken rules of conduct and courtesy, or you may be in a position that undermines your authority and position like at your work or at school.

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Whatever the case maybe, you end up feeling frustrated, angry, or sad. Instead of dealing with those emotions, you end up pushing it into the deep recesses of your mind. You tell yourself, "It's okay, no big deal. Such things happen. Maybe I deserved it. I am okay." Time goes on and you make it a habit to integrate and absorb such feelings into you system.

However, you need to remember, that there is a limit. You can only take in till a certain point. After that, you will overflow or burstwith the tension and pressure. If emotions and feelings are not expressed constructively, you will notice the repercussions in your day-to-day life.

Road rage, displacing anger, psychosomatic disorders as well as psychological disorders are all symptoms of bottling up and suppressing your emotions. If you take note of your behaviour, you'd notice that you get irritated at the smallest of things, shout at you children, friends and spouses and even experience some physical symptoms like aches and pains. If you do not address the core issue, you may end up spoiling your relationships or with chronic mental and physical illnesses. You don't seem to get relief with any kind of treatment either.

It is not always possible to express to the person who causes these emotions like your boss or your parents or your spouse. That doesn't mean you build these emotions inside you or try to put a lid on it. One day these emotions will spill out and it won't be pretty. You need to learn to express your negative emotions. Find a safe place where you can express freely without worrying about hurting yourself or anyone else. It can be your closest friend, your psychotherapist, your diary or even your pillow. Cry, scream, grumble, punch, talk do anything that will help you let go of these emotions. It's something you need to do to preserve your sanity and peace of mind.

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