What is your understanding of what it means to express an emotion and to repress an emotion? What are the mechanics of it?

an emotion is ultimately a bodily response. it is a bundle of tensions and other sensations which move through the body when triggered.

you can repress emotions by directing your attention away from them, aka dissociating (e.g. many people rationalize/intellectualize and focus their attention on thought to escape emotion); engaging in numbing comforts; or adopting a “stiff upper lip” i.e. literally tensing your body to prevent the emotion sensations from running their course

expressing an emotion in this context means blindly allowing an emotion to steer your actions. emotions steer your actions because you think acting upon the emotion will make it go away if it is unpleasant, or stay if it is pleasant. you are playing out an addiction to emotional highs, with its complementary emotional withdrawals and valleys, and letting this cycle steer your actions

with neither repressing nor expressing, you feel the emotion and see it for what it is - just sensation. you see what made the sensations occur. you let the emotion emerge and move through your body (it isn’t bad to cry!) and dissolve on its own. when the emotion fully dissolves, your rationale can operate cleanly.

honest, direct observation of how and why emotions arise allows your brain to become aware of its own irrationality and needless suffering, and unlearn it, bit by bit

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I don’t have any good definitions but I have some observations :grin:

I’ve been enjoying lots of reading lately on psychology/philosophy, the 2 books that I have just finished were case studies of individuals with Psychosomatic disorders and Psychiatric disorders.

The main thing that stood out to me is the super super important thing of being able to experience ones emotions fully, to ‘be’ them without splitting away, suppressing, intellectualising or any of the number of things that the psyche does which ultimately tangles it into deeper and tighter knots.

If I can ‘be’ my emotions without the layers and layers of the reactionary activity, that is already a huge step in the right direction.


It is quite simple really!

Say you are in a stressed/impatient mood. You are looking for a pair of scissors and they are not in their usual place. This causes you to become irritated and even more impatient.

This is your life, it is your choice. What do you choose to do?

  1. Express: Fuel the irritation, goddamn this is annoying, why can’t anything be where I last put it…

    You have a wide variety of options from here, ranging from stomping about, letting it simmer, or even letting it blossom into full-blown anger, causing some property damage, yelling at or perhaps even hitting someone, etc…

  2. Suppress: You are a cultivated, sophisticated person. Such trivial matters can’t possible cause you to be irritated. What a fool you are for being irritated! This is shameful. How can you let such trivial matters upset you?

    From here you can continue to castigate yourself as you go about your day.

    Continued suppression also unlocks a new ability, Repress

    Repress: After continued suppression you figure deep-down that it’s easier to simply not even be aware you get impatient in the first place.

    Instead of feeling impatient or irritated, you will get muscle cramps, back pains, headaches, maybe generally be in a lousy mood – while insisting nothing at all is wrong, of course.

    You aren’t upset or irritated, of course not. You feel no irritation at all actually! It’s just that certain things have to be in their proper place. A talking-to is in order, there must be some sort of order in a household or else we are just animals aren’t we?

  3. Neither: Having been somewhat habituated to the actualism method by now, you recognize that you are in an impatient mood, and that not finding the scissors has caused you to become irritated.

    You’ve been down this road, many times, and concluded you don’t like expressing it and the plethora of options and avenues of anger that leads to – and neither do you like suppress it and berating yourself etc. for feeling this emotion in the first place.

    You’ve come to see that all feeling-beings feel irritated now and again, it is part of human experience and nothing that is ultimately a personal fault. It is the nature of being a feeling-being.

    Just being aware of all this you see that the irritation has not progressed any further. You aren’t getting angrier, you aren’t stomping about or causing any property damage or yelling, yet you also aren’t telling yourself off or trying to pretend you aren’t irritated.

    This is starting to become a familiar occurrence. There’s a certain nice deliciousness to be able to be aware of yourself like this, with neither moral condemnation nor moral validation, just an assessment of what is happening and what’s the best thing to do now?

    By now you already are feeling better, and you realize that you actually left the scissors in the other drawer the last time you used them – and there you find them, you cut that which you were wanting to cut, and move on with your day.

Be advised that unlike a video game there are no ‘levels’ or ‘experience points’ to be gained or ‘achievements’ to be unlocked from any of these choices.

It’s simply a matter of how you prefer to live your life and whether you are willing to take the steps to live it that way!



I’ve been thinking about expressing vs repressing recently I like Claudiu’s explanation. I don’t know if I have anything to add on a ‘mechanics’ level but maybe I’ll share a few experiences of doing ‘neither’. This has been especially relevant to me living with my partner over the last 5 months.

I think expression is pretty self explanatory, and suppression is a bit trickier. I have struggled a bit here and there with understanding what the difference between suppressing and ‘neither’ is. For instance I found it hard to get this bit of advice from Richard to be relatable:

By neither expressing nor repressing emotions, something new can happen. The emotion is put into a bind, it has nowhere to go. Next time anger, say, comes up in a situation, simply decline to have it happen. Observe it as it gets up to all kinds of tricks to have its way. Do not express it – but do not repress it either. Watch what happens … you will be surprised.

Simply declining to have it happen eh?

This more spelled out experiential description of what is involved in declining to have it happen certainly helps:

And then, in the late-afternoon of an otherwise typical summer’s day, in 1981, a six-foot-two man was standing in the kitchen of his ex-farmhouse being soundly berated, as was also typical, by his four-foot-eleven wife; he was in a bind, a double-bind, in fact, and of his own making insofar as he had formed the intent, a few weeks earlier (on the 1st of January), to live life as it had been in their all-too-brief honeymoon period a little over fourteen years previously; his intent to do so was formed as a way of having it segue into the pristine purity of the four-hour perfection experience, indelibly imprinted in his memory, which he had experienced in all its marvellous wonder in the mid-winter of the previous year; his wife, having impetuously agreed that day to travel in concert with him, had already succumbed to the same-old same-old and was out to have him crack, too, so that their life together could revert to normal (having put all that pie-in-the-sky romantic nonsense back where it belonged in the wishful-thinking department).

As he stood there, with the slowly-setting sun streaming yellow through the wide-open French doors leading out onto the brick-paved patio, he was quite aware that a similar scene had taken place only the day before, plus how he had managed to keep his act together only by the exigency of abruptly vacating the scene, until the barely suppressed anger she had invoked in him had subsided enough to return; he was acutely aware, also, that she had his number and, as far as she was concerned, it was only a matter of time before he too succumbed to the same-old same-old; and as he stood there he was uncomfortably aware that the same anger of yesterday was rising, slowly but inexorably, from the solar plexus up toward the rib-cage diaphragm.

There was no way he was going to suppress it – he’d had a lifetime of the failure of the ‘stiff upper lip’ approach – and he was damn’d if he was going to express it, either (for then this four-foot-eleven female would have triumphed over this six-foot-two male yet again); the vision of having to vacate the scene once more – and again and again off into a sombrely-looming future – was not at all an attractive option, yet, if all else failed, he supposed he could always make the unseemly dash to the door.

Thus he stood there still, despite feeling the anger rising ever upward, through the rib-cage diaphragm, and now suffusing the thoracic region with its all-too-familiar temptation.
And he could see her eyes begin to gleam, even through the wrathful glare which had transfixed him all the while, and he just knew she was zeroing in for the kill; his own anger was mounting, ever-simmering and seething it was brimming at the region of the lower throat by now; her face was flushed with purple, with nostrils quite distended, and spittle flecked her livid lips as her shrilling rose to fever pitch; he had left it too late to beat a hasty retreat and his throat muscles quivered as the brimming anger shimmered and shifted into a pre-shout mode born of old and … and, wonder of wonders, that oh-so-familiar throat-muscle quivering skipped a beat or two and began to ease!

With a rapidly-mounting amazement and delight, he marvelled at the fact that he had, in some way, neither suppressed nor succumbed and that he had finally freed himself of domination by this four-foot-whatever fleshly package of seething anger and hatred that had become the mother of his and her children.

And as the slowly-setting sun streams golden from the west another world entirely hoves into view.

Pristine and pure, ever-fresh and new, peerless perfection permeates all and sundry, without exception, and he knows with a certainty that his life is never going to be the same ever again.

Anyway my experience of that little moment of doing ‘neither’ I experience as a realization of the inevitable harm either of expressing or repressing. I think it is a bit of a new concept to me that repressing is genuinely harmful. Like if I am ‘harboring’ a feeling without expressing it my partner always knows and it always hurts them (in addition to hurting me to have that feeling to begin with).

But what is the allure of repressing? That is really the little insight I’d like to bring up from recent experiences. I think there is something good-feeling about repressing. The feeling that I won’t react because I am above it all. However this smugness depends on harboring the notion that it is a justified feeling that I am not expressing. I hold tightly to the idea that my anger is justified and valid while simultaneously tightly keeping a lid on expressing it in confrontation. In fact I avoid any confrontation because it might disrupt my unfair little worldview where I am mistreated yet so calm and patient.

Neither expressing nor repressing means I am not creating this self-indulgent fantasy. I decide I won’t express the emotion because I know it is harmful to myself and others in a common sense way, without indulging in the self-congratulation and self-pity.

It is simply more sensible to remain happy and harmless. In fact it is quite lovely to do so, especially when it keeps happens a few times in a row and the normal pattern of ups and downs starts to fade away.

I don’t need the reward of recognition and admiration, I can ‘get away’ with having a ball without anyone needing to know about it.


Yea it’s like you admit you are feeling it, you don’t rationalize why it’s justified to feel it, you just see that it’s silly, in doing so there’s no suppression and then you genuinely allow yourself to change

Very different from suppressing! But it’s an experiential thing , I had trouble figuring out this distinction at first too

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