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Repression vs. Supression

Discussion in 'General Discussion Subforum' started by RikR, Mar 9, 2013.

  1. RikR

    RikR Well known member

    One thing I have not seen discussed here is the difference between repression and suppression of emotions. One separates us from our true selves and the other says I know about the pain but I refuse to live in that negative energy storm.

    Repression. It is similar to suppression in that a thought or feeling or emotion is not expressed -- but in repression, we deny that the element even exists. The repressed element might come into our conscious awareness and then be denied, or it might be prohibited from our awareness at all. it is blocked because it has been judged it to be potentially disruptive to our psychological stability or our self-image.

    Repression can be a useful defense mechanism. Although repression is generally viewed as a destructive act, it is rightly called a "defense mechanism" because it defends us against psychological material which might indeed be dangerous if we don't have the ego strength or psychological skills to manage certain challenges to the ego.

    We repress by intellectually denying the reality of the emotion, and by desensitizing ourselves to our awareness of the movement and pressure of the emotional energy within us. The extent to which we repress one emotion or sensation is the extent to which we repress all emotions or sensations; for example, when we refuse to feel fear and anger, we also lose our capacity to feel happiness and pleasure.

    Moving out of repression does not require going back into the painful memories and reexperiencing each one. Simply knowing that they exist and then being "Emotionally Current" is a process of using present day emotions to learn about ourselves and see where they might be created by old traumas.

    I feel the major work of moving out of repression is not denying our current emotions as they are the doorway to both our past and present. It is being present "right now" with all our emotions and listening to their message.

    Suppression. It is a conscious choice not to indulge a particular thought, feeling, or action. "Not to indulge" means that we are aware of a thought or feeling, but we decide not to dwell on it (internally, by continuing to think about it) -- nor to express it (externally, by acting it out).

    Suppression is a pathway to mental health. We know that painful things happened to us in the past and acknowledge that there are no positive benefits to revisiting them after we have acknowledged their presence...especially not repeatedly returning to them.

    Neuroscience has proven that reexperiencing a painful emotion or experience only creates more hyperactive pathways in the nervous system for pain and suffering. This is the way post traumatic disorders, phobias, anxiety and depression are created.
    The amygdala is the reactive fear and trauma protective part of the brain. It stores every event in your life that could be a potential threat and it has genetic programming for threats that have been laid down over thousands of years of human evolution.

    It does not differentiate between reality and thought. It learns by experiencing or by our thoughts. Whatever you think is the absolute truth to the amygdala and it stores it as reality.

    So if your mother was mean to you it stored that memory as a warning....be careful of mother. If you go back and rethink this occurrence the amygdala puts the fear of mother on a higher, and higher response alert with each repetition.

    If you think back to painful experiences many times this little organ can consider there is real danger and switch on the nervous system for constant vigilance...with the flood of destructive stress hormones. This is where neuronal sensitization starts and the HPA axis starts to create TMS and other mind/body symptoms.

    Our thoughts, beliefs and behaviors have told the amygdala too many times there is an enemy at the gates!!!

    A belief is a proposition we hold to be true. If we have a belief our childhood was mostly traumatic and painful the nervous system will honor that belief and assume life is "Crap" and it needs to be on guard. If we search out the good parts and suppress (chose not to focus on ) the bad the nervous system will relax having concluded that good things might happen today.

    Obsessively (or in the name of therapy) entertaining experiences in the mind that are sad, traumatic, frightening, frustrating, unfair or negative alerts the amygdala that the world you live in is dangerous....so out comes the cannons - armies and the full defense. This defense is a storm of scalding hot chemicals that rip through every cell in the body, overdrive many into apoptosis and can accelerate the organism into breakdown.

    Once an alerting memory is stored in the limbic system it cannot be erased. HOWEVER...it can be over written. When you remember mommy was mean to me on this occasion we can chose to also chose to remember another time when she was nice.......third grade was hell - the bully never left you alone...focus on this and the nervous system goes on alert.

    Remember that your third grade teacher was so kind, you liked the cafeteria food and the school bus driver was really funny. You just sent a critical message to the brain alert center that life was good and it will reduce the protective vigilance a notch.

    I am learning that the take away here is that we have the power to reprogram our nervous system by which view point we chose...and I do mean chose. Most wounded people have a negative bias as a protective mechanism and this is the part that is constantly talking to the amygdala with perceptions that cause it to be on Hot-Button alert.

    This selective negative bias is what I have come to believe is the real causation of stress disorders. I am certainly challenged in making this switch as I am sure many others are....but as Byron Katie says: "This is the Work"
    Ellen and BruceMC like this.
  2. RikR

    RikR Well known member

    Especially look at the part that states if the limbic system is overloaded with negative data is turns the cortex and the positive part of the brain off.
    Then the limbic system evokes the stress respose
    Ellen and BruceMC like this.
  3. Painfreefuture

    Painfreefuture Peer Supporter

    This is wonderful! My therapist has been trying to explain this to me, but I didn't quite get it. The reprogramming piece was missing and I think is critical. When recalling the negative event, I interpret what you are saying as to take a "so what" kind of attitude towards the negative event, and then shelve it, while bringing up every positive thing you can about that time, is this accurate?

    Thank you for this wonderful explanation!!
  4. Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021)

    Walt Oleksy (RIP 2021) Beloved Grand Eagle

    I also appreciate your explanation, RikR, about the difference between repression and suppression.

    I spent some time journaling about my repressed anger and guilt regarding my mother, and it helped
    to be able to suppress the emotions.

    It led me to reprogramming the emotions so I was able to forgive
    both her and myself.

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