Getting Your Act(ions) Together: Don’t Suppress Your Feelings

Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus


Natalie tended to bottle up her emotions. “I was taught to sit on my feelings,” she explained. “In our family the girls were expected to smile sweetly and shut up.” After a course of assertiveness training, Natalie started verbalizing her feelings. “It sure feels good to be a person rather than a doormat,” she said.


To continuously stifle feelings, to suppress all displays of anger or even irritation, to hide fears, or swallow annoyance is not healthy. Indeed, these suppressive tactics can result in dire consequences.

Of course, there are times when it is necessary or strongly advisable to suppress or hide true feelings. Only a fool would express his or her emotions at all times. The point is that 

• when emotional inhibition is a habit, in time it becomes increasingly stressful to the individual, creating opportunities for health problems to develop. 

The book Emotion Inhibition and Healthedited by Drs. Harold Traue and James Pennebaker, addresses the age-old question: Does the inhibition of emotion have very negative effects on physical and mental health? Researchers in Austria, France, Germany, Ireland and the United States have shown that failing to express emotion can indeed trigger mental and physical problems, such as asthma (especially in children), headaches, psychosomatic complaints, and cardiovascular difficulties. So the question is: What’s the best way of expressing feelings? If you are angry must you yell and scream and pound things? Emphatically not!

The best response is an assertive response, not an aggressive one. An assertive expression is simply saying things like: “That’s annoys me! I hate it when you do that! I’m really scared of that! I feel very depressed right now!” Remember, don’t deny your feelings and don’t develop the habit of always hiding them from others. The bottom line is simple:

• Don’t suppress nor aggress, but do express your feelings.


Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus is a licensed psychologist, Co-founder and Clinical Director of The Lazarus Institute. In addition to his general psychotherapy practice, Dr. Clifford Lazarus specializes in health and neuropsychology.

Dr. Clifford Lazarus received his B.A., M.S., and Ph.D. in psychology from Rutgers University where he was a Henry Rutgers Research Scholar.  Seen here are excerpts from one of his books, The 60-Second Shrink – 101 Strategies For Staying Sane In a Crazy World, a book, he co-authored with his father “One of the ten most influential psychotherapists in America”  Arnold A. Lazarus, Ph.D.  For more details on Dr. Clifford Lazarus visit this link to The Lazarus Institute.  Or visit his page here on