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KeepYourEyesWideOpen's avatar

Should people try to suppress negative thoughts and fears or confront them in an effort to work through them?

Asked by KeepYourEyesWideOpen (345points) January 16th, 2013

I believe that the more you suppress your thoughts and feelings, the more they’ll develop inside of you until eventually you’ll implode with the force of all of the negativity inside of you. It’s best to reveal these thoughts, fears, emotions, etc when they happen, work through them in a stable manner, and understand where they’re coming from and why they’re developing in the first place.

This is my personal feeling.

What do you have to say about that?

Special thanks are due to you.

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18 Answers

cookieman's avatar

I agree with you and try to approach fears and negative feelings head-on and as quickly as possible.

I find that ignoring them only makes it worse.

Shippy's avatar

I don’t think any thought is negative. It may be seem scary to feel it, it can cause the person distress, it can also cause depression. I agree though these types of thoughts can cause us all of this, if we do not release them. Plus find their source. Once we do find their source they lose the power to create certain behaviors that produce negative results.

zensky's avatar

GQ. Curling up with some tea waiting for those more insightful and wiser than I to reflect and share.

Shippy's avatar

@zensky Are you saying the wise are yet to arrive?

zensky's avatar

@Shippy I didn’t want to derail the thread. I wasn’t being negative nor mean. JUst settled in and “followed” the Q. Tha’s all. PM me – don’t start a convo here – jellies will avoid this excellent Q.

KeepYourEyesWideOpen's avatar

@Shippy : That’s an excellent answer, and I appreciate that.

SABOTEUR's avatar


Practice simply observing them*.

Any thought you focus your attention on without imposing Your opinion or “inner dialogue” about will go away.

The thought won’t go away indefinitely, though.
You just have to remember to resume your practice of
simply observing.

It ain’t easy, but it works.

marinelife's avatar

Supressing any emotion is a bad idea. Just experience it.

JLeslie's avatar

Both. Avoiding fears and situations can lead to severe anxiety, but sometimes we need to push or avoid to get through certain situations or times in our life. Compartmentalize to function. Focusing our thoughts and reframing situations in our mind help us cope, but avoiding often means the tape is constantly in your mind and becomes obsesseive thoughts. Surpression can lay beneath the surface and seep out in bits of anger and depression. Facing negative situations and working through negative thoughts in the end is usually the best way to put them behind us. Not everything bad that happens needs to be talked out to death, it depends on how the individual is coping, if it interferes with their life. That’s my opinion anyway, I am not a psychologist.

Coloma's avatar

Yep, there is no way out but through.
Repression is never good, and learning to be with your feelings and fears and not avoid them is the healthiest way to cope.
If you really practice sitting with your feelings and just observing them as @SABOTEUR mentions, you will notice they pass on through you quickly. Repressing them takes much more effort and this is often where alcohol and substance abuse kicks into high gear for a lot of people.

It’s the old ” you can run but you can’t hide” saying, for long, anyway.

JLeslie's avatar

I think it is worth mentioning that there were studies done on Holocaust survivors and if I remember correctly it was about 50/50 that some proceeded to move on and live good happy lives without ever talking much about the horrors, and others needed to talk it through and did well. The study hoped to see a clear cut answer about coping with such difficult things, but there was not one.

Akua's avatar

“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.”
― Sigmund Freud

burntbonez's avatar

@SABOTEUR is on target, I think. Observe your thoughts. You don’t have to do anything about them. Most negative thoughts help you feel bad about yourself. That’s great if you want to feel bad, but you don’t have to if you don’t want to. Observe them and let them go.

Shippy's avatar

@zensky you know it was a joke right?

tranquilsea's avatar

I am the poster child for what happens to you when you suppress traumas/fears/feelings etc. They back up and mess with your life later. Confronting your feelings and working through them is the only way to stay emotionally healthy.

YARNLADY's avatar

It’s important to recognize that confronting does NOT equal acting out. When one’s feelings and thoughts seem to be out of control, it would be a good idea to get professional help.

Mariah's avatar

Gonna make a case for suppression here…hear me out.

I used to think ignoring my problems at all was a recipe for disaster, I’d bottle up and someday explode. So I did the diametric opposite and thought about my problems way. too. much. I believed that thinking about them was the only way I could come to terms with them. It was an illusion of control. If I think hard enough, I’ll figure something out. I’ll come up with a plan. I’ll find a way to fix everything.

Some problems, no amount of thinking is going to solve it. I can’t think my disease away. If the problem is unsolvable, what then? You can still think, of course. Think about it and try to come to some profound realization about how the problem isn’t as bad as you had thought. But is that going to happen? I don’t know, but it never happened for me. My problems suck. Why am I spending all this time thinking about the part of my life that is shitty?

I’m not saying I’ve buried it deep inside, but I don’t stew on things nearly as much anymore, and that has been the #1 thing that has helped me. I allow myself to get distracted by the things in my life that are good. I don’t dwell and I don’t make contingency plans. I let life happen to me and I make a conscious effort to appreciate the things that are worth appreciating. I don’t feel like a victim anymore.

Learning to ignore my problems a bit more did more for me than all that thinking put together.

tranquilsea's avatar

@Mariah there definitely is a middle ground. Ruminating endlessly on your problems while never coming to a conclusion is just as bad as shoving everything away as soon as it happens.

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