Why Do We Repress Our Emotions At Work?

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This quick and easy tool can change the way you deal with stress.

When you felt strong emotions and feelings as a kid, do you remember being told to be brave and just stop crying? Perhaps you were upset because somebody took your favorite toy, or you were at the playground, and somebody pushed you, and all you wanted to do was to express the anger, sadness, frustration, and pain. But, for one reason or another, you just weren’t allowed to. 

We all have these types of memories, meaning we have neural canals that hold the information and the energy of those experiences. Every time we get triggered by people or events that activate those neural connections, our nervous system starts, and we tend to react instead of respond. Most of us were not taught to recognize, feel, process, transform and respond to our emotions, feelings, and thoughts. Our nervous system goes into fight, flight, or freeze mode, so we tend to react in ways that can create more conflict for ourselves and others. This is how we fall into an unconscious, vicious cycle that impacts all areas of our life. Overcoming these responses can help us embrace our wholeness and improve in all areas of our lives.

It starts when we’re young.

Most of us have learned that suppressing our feelings and emotions is the “right way” because those are the principles under which our culture and systems work. It is considered unprofessional to express how we feel at work, and I suspect this “rule” was made up because it is easier to condition people to suppress, so we do not have to deal with our stuff and much less with other people’s things at work. But how effective is the subconscious strategy of repressing what we feel, and what do we do about changing it?

You might think, “Well, I am not a psychologist, so I am not prepared to deal with these kinds of things.”; However, we do not need to be a psychologist or therapist to know how to handle our emotions, feelings, and thoughts. The truth is we are fully capable of managing our inner world; it is just that we need the tools to do it. The good news is that when we develop and cultivate emotional competencies, we can also handle other people’s emotions, which helps us unleash our creativity, empathy, connection, intuition, productivity, and more

Truth be told, anyone can learn to manage their emotions in a healthy way.

Learning to express our emotions refers to social and emotional skills that lay the foundations for comprehensive and long-term development. Several agencies recognize the importance of both emotional intelligence and emotional competencies. Organizations such as UNESCO , through the 1997 Delors Report, propose a model of four pillars for the 21st-century education model: learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together, and learning to be. 

I am convinced that most of us are aware of the incoherence of repressing emotions when we genuinely want to connect with others and give our best at work. The challenge is how to develop and cultivate the abilities of self-awareness, self-regulation, and empathy. How could we create more robust and honest relationships with people at work without sacrificing expressing emotions in ways that open dialogue instead of confrontations and help us collaborate for a common purpose, bringing success to the company and ourselves? 

How to move yourself to a better state of mind:

The best way to make sense of the process is to ask ourselves this: How can I change something that I can not recognize? The short answer is that we can’t, so developing self-awareness is essential. What is self-awareness? It is the ability to recognize our thoughts, feelings, and emotions. Most of the time, we go on auto-pilot; this is why identifying what is bothering us or limiting us is unavailable. Thus, we cannot choose differently. 

I developed a tool to deal with these feelings when they arise: 1 Minute of Self-Reflection. That’s it – just 1 Minute of Self-Reflection to invite you to develop the ability to pause, connect with your body where emotions happen, recognize emotions, feelings, and thoughts and observe instead of judging them. This tool uses emotional intelligence, mindfulness, and neuroscience. When we are present, connected, and invested in creating conscious well-being for ourselves and others, things and our life changes.

Related content:

Being Hispanic Do You Hide Your Personality at Work? You’re Not Alone

How to Respond to Criticism at Work

How to Manage Emotions for Optimal Performance


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