Updated: May 11, 2018
Do you suppress your feelings or are you more inclined to express them? Perhaps a combination of the two depending on the situation? Or do you think it depends on your gender? Men are often seen as emotional suppressors whereas women are emotional expressers.
This idea is quite generalized. It’s hard to fit anyone into one bucket. I’m personally really good at suppressing my emotions for days, weeks, years if I need to. But when it comes out as expression? OHHHH you will know that I’ve fully expressing myself!
Society usually sees expressers (often associated with women) as people who are overly dramatic. They cry on a whim, respond over the top to situations and do not know how to control their emotions. On the contrary, those usually seen as emotional suppressors (often men) can be categorized as heartless, unemotional, unattached and distant. Dare any gender not act their part as they are seen as an anomaly to the norm!
The truth is, neither of these generalizations are the case. They are often just exaggerations. An expresser is generally someone who emotionally responds to a situation or stimulus, whereas a suppressor is someone who inhibits from expressing emotions*. You do not have to be a man or woman to be associated with either term. It can apply to both men and women.
Both expression and suppression in combination can actually lead to good emotional management. Sometimes we need to learn when to suppress our emotions and express them in what may be considered more appropriate environments. For instance, screaming out in the middle of a library probably is not the best place to express your feelings, whereas your boyfriend or girlfriend telling you he or she loves you for the first time may not be the most appropriate place to stare into the abyss, not saying anything at all.
So, which one are you? And more importantly, if you find yourself on one extreme or the other, how do you move yourself closer to a more balanced emotional state?
Here are a few things to keep in mind as you seek emotional balance:
Be proactive, not reactive – You may tend to act before you think, “put your foot in your mouth” or express your emotions at perhaps the wrong time. Take a moment to reflect and think before you express your emotion to make sure it is appropriate. You may be surprised by the response.
Influence others – Being an expresser is not a bad thing! Sometimes others may have difficulties expressing their emotions and it comes easy to you so perhaps you can help them express their emotions too by being supportive and open-minded to their words and emotions when they do actually express them.
Write down your emotions – If you have difficulty expressing your emotions to other people, writing down your emotions may be a good way to begin that process. As you notice an emotional response to a situation, jot down your feelings towards it and even what you would like to say. This is a great first step to effective emotional expression.
Pay attention to those more expressive – Observing those who may be more positive in their emotional expression can provide some insight into how you may be able to be more expressive as well. What are they saying? What are they doing? How do they communicate with the people they interact with? Observing and answering these questions can help determine what may work best for you.
Whether you consider yourself a suppressor, expresser or a combination of the two there is always room for improvement if you feel yourself leaning to one side or the other. Being able to effectively manage your emotions can lead to being able to recognize and understand others’ feelings as well, leading to great, effective relationships!
*Gross, J. (2002). Emotion regulation: Affective, cognitive and social consequences. Society for Psychophysiological Research, 39, 281-291.