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Negative Effects of Avoiding Emotions

feelings photoMany patients have shared stories that they don’t pay attention to their thoughts. They explain to me, “I don’t think” or “It’s too painful to think.” Most rationalize, “If I don’t pay attention; it’s not there.” It’s the old adage, if I don’t see it, it doesn’t exist.

The mind naturally protects us during a trauma such as an assault, a robbery, or a car accident and shuts down our thinking part of the brain. Our body is then able to react quickly.

The similar way our pain receptors block us from feeling intense pain at the time of a disaster, the mind functions to suppress intense, negative emotions during times of crisis to protect us.

When we make a conscious choice to disconnect from our emotions during normal life’s tribulations such as a fight with our spouse, death of a family member, anxiety from work, or loss of a job; our mind and body suffers.

Many people were conditioned as a child to ignore their emotions because their environment didn’t allow feelings to be shown. The learned response to neglect our emotions is mistakenly thinking it is healthy or what makes people strong.

Here is a list common signs that you disconnect from your emotions.

  • You excessively distract yourself to maintain self-control.
  • You keep yourself extremely busy and moving to avoid negative thoughts.
  • You escape talking about the incident to not feel undesirable emotions.
  • You avoid people, places, or objects that remind you of the incident or that bring up adverse emotions.
  • You numb emotional or physical pain with alcohol or illegal substances.

Regardless how you were educated as a child or your cultural views, suppressing your emotions doesn’t make them go away. In fact, it makes it more difficult to manage imminent life distresses.  And research shows that avoiding emotions makes them even stronger.

The effects of suppressing emotions have detrimental effects on our mind, body, relationships, and health. Risk for the following factors increases:

  • Bodily stress
  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Poor Memory
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Immune system loss
  • Bone fractures, stiff joints, and easily susceptible to illnesses

It takes great courage to reflect inward and bring awareness to the many suppressed emotions let alone release them. Many of us, have a hard time even putting words to felt sensations.   Nevertheless, it is important to process for your emotions and express them in a healthy way so that we can be free of emotional pain and blocks to our happiness and creativity.

Here is a beneficial method modified from the teachings of Deepak Chopra to release emotions.

  1. Think of a specific event and write what happened. In your narrative, explain how you felt using feeling words such as:
  • Anger
  • Apprehension
  • Anxiety
  • Blame
  • Envy
  • Fear
  • Grief
  • Guilt
  • Hostility
  • Jealousy
  • Rage
  • Resentment
  • Sadness
  • Shame
  • Sorrow
  • Worry

As you are experiencing these emotions, feel them in your body. It may be a physical sensation of stiffness, discomfort, tightness, or pain in the stomach or around the heart. A headache or a tightening of the throat is also common.

  1. Next write the reaction of others and how you responded afterward.
  2. Write another narrative but this time from the point of view of the person who hurt you. Pretend that you are that person. Write down what they are feeling, why they acted as they did, and how they responded afterward.
  3. Finally write a narrative using the same event but from the perspective of a reporter. In the third person, write how an objective observer would tell readers about the incident. Be a historian and explain the incident as even-handedly as you can.
  4. Share your experience. Tell your experience to a good friend, loving family member or a therapist. Keep from relaying your three stories to the person who caused you harm. They will most likely not understand or be supportive. It is crucial to tell your tale to someone empathic and has your best interests at heart.
  5. Create a ritual to set free your three stories. Set the paper on fire, tear the stories into small pieces of paper, or flush them down the toilet. As you let go of your stories, visualize your pain; all your sorrow and frustration leave your body and disseminate into the universe.
  6. Celebrate your emotional release. Take yourself out to dinner, treat yourself to a massage, buy yourself those pair of shoes you’ve been eyeing. Choose an activity to cherish your courage, your hard work and your emotional release.

Photo by Luigi Mengato

Photo by Metro Centric

Photo by Metro Centric

Negative Effects of Avoiding Emotions


As a California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFC #96155) residing in Los Angeles, I offer a safe and comfortable environment for individuals, couples, and groups to heal from emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, and neglect; anxiety, depression, grief and loss, and adapt easily through life’s many transitions. We meet weekly for 50 minutes in a non-judging environment in West Los Angeles, or via Skype or FaceTime. We work together to determine your goals, assess your needs, and create a healing plan. Mindfulness, ACA tools, and nurturing support in the here and now are part of my approach to unleash critical thoughts, destructive beliefs, and assist in helping in reparenting the child within. I welcome you to contact me at l will contact you within 24 hours of receiving your email.

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APA Reference
, . (2017). Negative Effects of Avoiding Emotions. Psych Central. Retrieved on April 24, 2019, from


Last updated: 21 Aug 2017
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