Have you ever been told to “stop being so sensitive” or that being emotional is bad or useless? It’s a common experience for many men, and it’s time to challenge this notion. In today’s episode, we’ll explore the hidden costs of suppressing our emotions and why it’s important to embrace our authentic selves.
Join us as we uncover the truth behind the myth that repressing our emotions leads to success. We’ll explore how repressed emotions can impact our intimate relationships, our professional lives, and even our overall sense of fulfillment.
Get ready for some eye-opening insights as we delve into the psychology behind repressed emotions and learn how to master our emotions to create deep, meaningful connections and achieve lasting happiness.
Show highlights include:
- Why others take advantage of you (and how to put an end to it today) (2:03)
- The biggest misconception about assertiveness which instantly make you more assertive and attractive (2:46)
- The weird way being assertive means you respect the other person involved (and how this helps you be more assertive if you’re not naturally assertive) (4:03)
- How reading this sleazy-sounding book can help you naturally become more assertive (6:52)
- Why growing up in a well-meaning Christian family makes you an easy target for hawks who want to take advantage of you (8:54)
- Dealing with an unreasonable demand from someone in your life? Here’s why standing your ground prevents you from being a doormat (11:28)
- True story: How the assertive “3 C” system can land you a free flight to France (17:24)
- The “Early Method” for eliminating nervousness before asserting yourself so tension dissipates instead of builds (25:52)
- 7 actionable techniques for becoming more assertive, especially if you shy away from conflict (and how to apply them in real conversations) (33:50)
- The “I statement” secret for handling conflict without attacking the other person (34:35)
Does your neediness, fear, or insecurity sabotage your success with women? Do you feel you may be unlovable? For more than 15 years, I’ve helped thousands of people find confidence, fulfillment, and loving relationships. And I can help you, too. I’m therapist and life coach David Tian, Ph.D. I invite you to check out my free Masterclasses on dating and relationships at https://www.davidtianphd.com/masterclass/ now.
For more about David Tian, go here: https://www.davidtianphd.com/about/
Emotional Mastery is David Tian’s step-by-step system to transform, regulate, and control your emotions… so that you can master yourself, your interactions with others, and your relationships… and live a life worth living. Learn more here:
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Note: Scroll Below for Transcription
Welcome to the Masculine Psychology Podcast, where we answer key questions in relationships, attraction, success, and fulfillment. Now, here’s your host, world-renowned therapist and life coach, David Tian.
David: Welcome to the Masculine Psychology podcast. I’m David Tian, your host. In this episode, we’re diving right into the heart of our emotional experiences as men.
Today’s topic is one that I think will resonate with many of us, especially if we’ve ever been told to hide our feelings or to just stop feeling something, and if you’re able to take in what I’m sharing in this episode and implement it, then you’ll be able to experience true happiness, fulfillment and love, as your most authentic you, without having to shut down your emotions or without having to live with the fear of being perceived as weak. I know this might sound too good to be true for some of us, especially those of us who’ve been raised to believe that showing emotions or being emotional equates to being weak. But stick with me and we’ll unpack this together. [01:10.3]
First, the big why. Why are we focusing? Why should we focus on our emotions, especially if they’re perceived as negative or maybe painful, or out of control? Why would we focus on our emotions and our vulnerability, when society and what we have come to believe as masculinity tells us otherwise? So that you can open up and feel your emotions, while still wearing the mantle of “the man” with pride and authenticity.
Real strength isn’t about suppressing emotions. It’s about facing them, understanding them, and feeling through them to the next level of growth. True masculinity is about coming from a place of strength and non-neediness. It’s about being emotionally available to yourself and to others, and that’s the kind of real strength that is unshakable in a healthy way. [02:10.4]
A lot of people have bought into this pervasive myth, that to climb the ladder of success, whether it’s your career, or social circles or dating, or your personal goals or endeavors, that you have to put on some kind of facade and repress your so-called negative emotions, like sadness or shame, or anxiety.
Now, how did this myth get started, and why is it going around so easily? It’s because it’s partly true that, in the short term, psychological repression can work, but only in the short term for quick bursts of some kind of performance or performative success. I’m sure we’ve all been there, right? Like pulling an all-nighter to finish something at the last minutes, and those brief hours or maybe weeks or even months, when we push down our true feelings to get through a challenging situation, or maybe hyper-focusing on just one narrow area, maybe getting that app done or to a certain stage, to the exclusion of your entire personal life and your health. [03:14.8]
But relying on repression is not a long-term strategy. In the long term, relying on repression is really bad for your health, both mental and physical, repressing parts of us that are having emotions that maybe the other parts of us don’t like. When we repress those parts of ourselves, this only ensures that these parts will come back later and often in more disruptive ways. Whatever you resist persists. This is a lesson from Carl Jung.
To be truly complete as individuals, to experience lasting fulfillment and happiness and joy, we must integrate all aspects of our being, including those parts of us and those emotions that we might be tempted to push away. Repressing any emotion means fragmenting ourselves, which leads to feelings of emptiness and a lack of fulfillment. [04:10.4]
You probably know Bessel van der Kolk, the author of this huge mega-bestseller, The Body Keeps the Score. He’s a renowned trauma researcher, and he posits that repressed emotions, especially anything related to trauma, they don’t just disappear. They’re stored in our bodies, these repressed emotions, and over time, this can lead to both physical and psychological ailments. In essence, by ignoring or stifling our emotions, we’re setting ourselves up for a potential health time bomb for both, again, physical and mental.
Let’s face the truth about repression. Don’t repress repression, but to face the truth about it, which is that while repression might offer short-term relief or quick bursts of energy to get to some kind of goal, the long-term consequences can be severe, affecting our mental health, our physical well-being, our emotional health and the quality of our relationships. [05:09.0]
Okay, so let’s dive into the meat of this. I’m going to be looking at three major areas. Let’s go into the first here, and this is where many men feel the weight of the world. This is our professional lives, so let’s start there. Now, many people might say, “I’ve achieved a success by pushing through, by gritting my teeth and grinding it out,” and while that hustle mentality, of course, has its merits—again, this is great for short-term bursts of energy—there is an unspoken cost to it when it’s rooted in repression.
True and lasting professional success is not just about reaching the peak. It’s about enjoying the climb every step of the way and recognizing that it’s not about the peak, because, hopefully, you won’t die right after. You have other years to live after that, and then you’re going to have to find another peak to climb and the whole thing begins again, and if you burned yourself out in that first peak, you’re done, and if you didn’t even enjoy the climb and were just waiting for the satisfaction of that one time, when you get to the top, then you’re in for massive disappointments. [06:16.6]
Contrast that with someone who not only enjoys being on the peak, of course, but enjoying the climb every step of the way, so that the climb itself, the work itself doesn’t even feel like work. And how can this be? Have you ever been so engrossed, immersed in a task that time just seemed to fly, where the challenge of the task balanced perfectly with your skills and this led to a kind of harmonious rhythm?
This is what psychologists refer to as being in Flow, capital “F” “Flow.” This is a real concept that was pioneered by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and this is a huge area of research and study in the universities and other places, so this is almost uncontroversial that there is this state of Flow. [07:04.5]
The Flow state is where work doesn’t feel like work. It feels almost effortless, and it feels incredibly fulfilling and satisfying and pleasurable, even more so, the research shows us, then sex itself. Now, imagine that for real, and I’ve covered this research before, but imagine that your work is more pleasurable to you than sex, and I’m not talking about you being a porn star. This is what the research has actually found.
To achieve the state of Flow consistently and more often, it requires a congruence of our internal world with the external challenges. Repression works against this. By pushing down our emotions, by ignoring parts of ourselves, we disrupt this balance, and instead of Flow, we find friction. [07:53.6]
Remember, our emotions aren’t just fleeting feelings. They’re signals, pointing us to what we value, what we need, and where we should steer our lives. So, when we repress, we’re essentially flying blind, making it harder to align our actions with our authentic selves, and this misalignment can lead to burnout, dissatisfaction, and the haunting feeling of Is this all there is?
On the flip side, embracing our emotions can lead to a richer professional life. It’s about understanding what drives us, what fears hold us back, and what dreams propel us forward. By integrating all these different aspects of ourselves, by listening to those signals that our emotions are sending, we can navigate our career paths, our work situations, our professional success, with greater clarity and purpose.
I’ve seen it in so many people that I’ve had the privilege to work with, when they stopped repressing and started embracing, their professional lives didn’t just improve. They completely transformed. They found a lot more joy in their work. They built deeper connections with their colleagues, and most importantly, they felt a renewed sense of purpose, a much more clarified, refined sense of purpose in their work. [09:15.7]
The next time that you find yourself pushing down an emotion, especially in your professional life, pause, ask yourself, “Is this suppression serving me in the long run or is it taking me farther from the authentic success that I desire?”
Now let’s move to the second area, physical health. The interplay between repression and our physical health, it’s like a dance that plays out in so many lives, often behind the curtains without us even realizing it. Let’s start by painting a picture. Imagine your mind as a vast, intricate mansion with countless rooms. Some rooms are bright, filled with laughter and cherished memories, while others are dark, shut off, perhaps even locked, filled with fears, trauma, or aspects of ourselves that we’d rather not face. [10:08.7]
Over time, as we repress our emotions, these locked rooms accumulate. But here’s the thing: they don’t stay shut forever. They influence our behavior or decisions, our minds, even our physical health from the shadows.
Now, the tricky thing with our mind’s mansion, is that the locked doors don’t just keep the pain inside. They also block out the lights, the love, the happiness, the joy. Repression might seem like a defense, a shield, but it very often very quickly becomes like a prison.
Many of the challenges in mental health sprang from this very phenomenon of repression, anxiety, for instance, very common. Anxiety can often be traced back to the shadows in our psyche, like a whisper from one of those locked rooms urging us to pay constant attention. But instead of listening, we try to push it further down, but only thereby amplifying its power. [11:09.7]
Then there’s the physical aspect. Our bodies are incredible messengers. That knot in your stomach, the tension in your shoulders or your neck, or the unexplained fatigue, it’s often your body’s way of signaling that something is wrong in your emotional world. Something is off. The mind-body connection is so profound that repressed emotions can manifest in physical ailments. Our body, in its wisdom, is shouting what our mind is whispering.
Imagine then the relief, the release, when we finally start unlocking those doors. By acknowledging and integrating our repressed emotions, we can often alleviate, not just psychological distress, but also physical symptoms. It’s as if our bodies sigh in relief, grateful for being heard. [11:58.6]
Of course, facing what’s behind these locked doors isn’t always easy. There are wounds there, old beliefs that are disempowering or limiting and painful, and disempowering patterns that don’t serve us anymore. But every time we open a new door, every time we bring light to the shadows, we also discover a strength within, an innate resilience, a deeper understanding of ourselves.
The journey to face our repressed emotions is, in many ways, a path to wholeness. When we embrace all parts of ourselves, both the pleasant and the seemingly painful, we achieve a more harmonious life within, in this internal harmony radiates outwards, influencing not just our relationship with ourselves, but with the world around us. We feel more connected, more grounded, and, yes, happier. [12:56.0]
It’s a bit like tuning a musical instrument. When out of tune, it doesn’t matter how skillfully you play. The music will be off. But with each turn of the tuning peg, with each acknowledged emotion, the music becomes richer, more harmonious, and when our internal world is in tune, our external world starts to resonate with that same harmony. Relationships deepen. Professional pursuits align with our passions, and life in all its diversity starts to flow with a rhythm that feels both exhilarating and comforting.
In this journey of unlocking and understanding, there’s a profound realization that begins to emerge. The very emotions we repress when understood and integrated can become our most potent allies. That sadness might point to a profound empathy, that anger to a deep sense of justice, that fear to an innate caution that keeps us safe. [13:57.6]
The next step is to harness these emotions, to understand their messages, and to integrate them into our lives. It’s about turning our wounds into wisdom, and as we do we find not just relief, but a renewed zest for life. In the next couple of episodes, I’ll be walking you through exactly how to do that, so make sure you come back for those.
But for now, if you find yourself at a crossroads, unsure of whether to face the locked doors in your mind’s mansion, I’ll leave you with this thought. On the other side of repression, lies not just understanding, but a vibrant, enriched and authentically joyful life. All you need to do is turn the key. [14:41.5]
No matter their physical strength, for many men, emotions are too much for them to handle. It’s why they can’t give women the deeper levels of emotional intimacy and connection that they crave. It’s why they fail to be the man that modern women desire most: a man with inner strength, a man who has mastered his emotions.
Find out how to master your emotions through David Tian’s “Emotional Mastery” program. The Emotional Mastery program is a step-by-step system that integrates the best of empirically-verified psychotherapy methods and reveals how to master your internal state and develop the inner strength that makes you naturally attractive, happy, and fulfilled.
Learn more about this transformational program by going to DavidTianPhD.com/EmotionalMastery.
That’s D-A-V-I-D-T-I-A-N-P-H-D [dot] com [slash] emotional mastery.
Okay, now let’s move to the third area, intimate relationships. This is, in fact, the most, perhaps the most complex of the areas, because it’s got the most riding on it. Intimate relationships are a space that often mirror the most profound aspects of our inner worlds, where repression can manifest in nuanced and often unexpected ways. [16:01.0]
Intimate relationships are like mirrors, constantly reflecting parts of ourselves back to us, some of which we’d like, others we don’t like. These are mirrors that point to our blind spots and perhaps willfully ignored blind spots, and they point out to us the parts of ourselves that we thought we had gotten rid of or exiled long ago, only to find out that, yep, they’re still there and they’re in just as bad a state or even worse than when we first tried to lock them up and get rid of them.
So, guess where most of our repressed memories, feelings and traumas love to pop up? Yes, in these very intimate interactions, the more intimate the relationship, the more likely this will happen. Let’s go a little deeper. When we think of love, especially in a romantic context, there’s an underlying yearning for wholeness, for a connection that fills the gaps within us, and often unbeknownst to us, we seek out partners who reflect those repressed parts of ourselves. It’s like our psyche’s clever way of saying, “Hey, remember this? Time to deal with it.” [17:10.7]
This might explain why certain patterns, certain triggers, keep emerging in our relationships, especially the ones that become more intimate. Do you ever wonder why a specific action from your partner evokes such a strong, sometimes disproportionate reaction from you, or vice versa, something innocent that you say triggers your partner into a completely disproportionate blow up? It might very well be that you’re touching a repressed memory or emotion there.
Here’s where it really gets interesting. In the dance of intimate relationships, repression doesn’t just influence our reactions. It often dictates our unconscious choices. We gravitate toward partners who, in some mysterious way, hold the key to our locked rooms. They represent the very issues that we’ve been trying to push down, offering us an opportunity, though often a very challenging one, to confront and integrate these repressed parts. [18:10.5]
However, if both partners are repressed in their ways, it can become a tangle of triggers with both individuals continually setting each other off, often without understanding why and it just escalates and spirals. This dynamic, though painful, is not without purpose. It’s the soul’s invitation to another level of healing, growth, and deeper connection. But for healing to happen, for the relationship to thrive, there needs to be awareness. Both partners must recognize the dance for what it is, an invitation to face the repressed shadows, both in themselves and in their partner, and to grow individually and as a couple.
A crucial step here is to stop seeing each other as adversaries and start viewing the relationship like a joint venture, a JV in personal growth. It’s about saying, “Hey, we’re in this together. Let’s figure out our triggers, understand our repressions and support each other in this journey.” [19:10.2]
Richard Schwartz, the founder of IFS therapy, calls it the tor-mentor dynamic, where your tor-mentor becomes your mentor by tormenting you, by triggering you in these painful ways. It gives you an opportunity to see your blind spots, the parts of yourself that you thought you had exiled or disowned or gotten rid of completely, but that you find out are still there in pain, and are yearning for love and connection and understanding. When you can go to them with appreciation, and love and compassion, they then soften and heal, and over time, become integrated into your overall inner system—and when that happens, you’ll discover a whole other level of unconditional love, of happiness, joy and fulfillment. [19:57.3]
So, actually, in an intimate relationship, the very issues that seemed insurmountable become stepping stones, if viewed in the right way. Every conflict becomes an opportunity to understand yourself and your partner better, and as understanding grows, so does compassion for yourself and for your partner. In this context, vulnerability becomes strength.
Opening up about our fears, our wounds, our repressed emotions, our exiled parts might seem daunting, but it’s often the gateway to deeper intimacy. By showing all of who we are, warts and all, we invite our partners to do the same and thus setting up in the shared vulnerability, in this mutual unveiling, the essence of true intimacy.
But it’s crucial to remember that this journey is not always linear. There will be missteps, misunderstandings, moments of doubt, in times when we may be going farther than we’re capable of, or it’s too challenging and it overrides or overwhelms our current skill level in handling it. But with every hurdle crossed, the relationship can grow stronger, more resilience, more antifragile. [21:08.4]
Now, a word of caution. While intimate relationships can indeed be a powerful catalyst for confronting and integrating our repressed emotions and parts, they shouldn’t be the only avenue. Expecting your partner to be the sole healer can be overwhelming for them and limiting for you, and also violating their boundaries. It’s essential to also seek growth and healing outside the relationship, be it through personal reflection, therapy or other avenues.
Okay, so let’s recap what we’ve got so far. Repression, when left unchecked, can create shadows in our intimate relationships, manifesting in recurring conflicts, emotional distance and misunderstandings. But with awareness, understanding and mutual support, these very shadows can become pathways to profound intimacy, growth and connection. [22:03.4]
To truly thrive in love, we must be brave enough to face our inner worlds, to embrace the locked rooms of our psyche, and to be courageous enough to invite our partners into the sacred space, and as we do, we discover that love in its purest form, is not just about romance or passion. It’s about mutual caring, mutual growth, shared journeys, and the joy of unveiling and embracing one’s true self together.
As we step now, beyond the intimate domain and into the wider world of our interpersonal relationships, now we’re going to get into a fourth area—I didn’t expect to have time for this, but it looks like we do—the fourth area of interpersonal relationships, where we uncover yet another layer of the complex tapestry that’s human interaction. This would be friends, family, colleagues, and even passing acquaintances. Each relationship or interaction is a dance, a give and take, influenced heavily by our own inner dynamics, and the deeper we go, the more that’s the case. [23:10.4]
Imagine walking into a room and, as you enter, there is an invisible field around you. This field unknown to you contains all your repressed thoughts, emotions, experiences. Everyone that you interact with, in some way, senses this field, even unconsciously. It influences the energy of the conversation, the level of trust, the depth of the connection.
So, you see, repression has a ripple effect. Our unconscious minds, brimming with unprocessed emotions and experiences, don’t just stay dormant. Our unconscious mind finds ways to express themselves, influencing not just how we perceive others, but also how they perceive us. Have you ever felt an inexplicable disconnect with someone or perhaps an unspoken tension? It’s often a dance of unmet shadow parts, a subtle interplay of the repressed aspects within each person, and this dance can significantly influence the depth, authenticity, and vitality of our interpersonal relationships. [24:14.1]
In the realm of our friendships and family, where trust and understanding form the foundation, repression can create unseen walls. It’s like there’s a part of you that remains hidden, inaccessible, and this very invisibility creates a gap, a distance that can be felt but not always understood. The beauty, though, is that awareness can bridge this gap.
By acknowledging and exploring our repressed emotions and experiences, we invite authenticity into our interactions. It’s like saying, “Here I am in all my complexity and depth. I see you and I invite you to see me.” This mutual seeing, this shared understanding, has the power to transform relationships. It fosters trust, nurtures empathy, and it creates a safe container for vulnerability—and in this safety, in this shared authenticity, relationships flourish. We find ourselves more connected, more understood, and more alive in our interactions. [25:16.0]
Within the professional sphere, repression can manifest as a mask, a facade that we put on to fit in, to be accepted. But here’s the paradox. True leadership, true influence comes from authenticity, from showing up as one’s true self. People are drawn to genuineness, to sincerity, to individuals who are unafraid to be vulnerable, to be human. By confronting and integrating our repressed aspects, we step into this power of ours. We become leaders who inspire, who create spaces of trust and sincerity and authenticity, and who foster environments where everyone feels seen and heard. [25:56.7]
In essence, every relationship can become an opportunity, a mirror reflecting parts of ourselves back to us. Repression can cloud these mirrors, creating distortions and shadows. But with awareness and integration, we can clear the fog, allowing for deeper connections, mutual growth and shared joy.
Okay, so let’s do a bigger recap here. Let’s bring it all together and revisit the waypoints that we’ve crossed so far. First, we went into the heart of the matter with repression and professional success. The idea that to be professionally successful, you need to be an emotionless machine, isn’t just outdated, but very detrimental for you.
True professional prowess, and especially in the long term, doesn’t come from burying your emotions, but from mastering and channeling them effectively into the tasks. The most impactful leaders, innovators and game changers are those who have embraced their authentic selves, not those who have hidden behind masks. [26:54.6]
I went into this concept of Flow and how much more enjoyable it is when you aren’t repressing, but instead allowing all these different parts of yourselves, including the ones that you might have tried to lock up, you’re allowing all of them to experience the joy of the activity itself, and in that way, professional success in your career is much more sustainable and enjoyable the whole way. You’ve already won the prize from the first second.
Then we went into the second area here, the intricate realm of physical health and happiness. The web of repression is complex and it casts shadows on our physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. I mentioned some now well-known research, thank goodness, that shows how repression is like a pressure cooker. Without a release, it can lead to a ton of issues from stress and anxiety to more severe mental health challenges, as well as, of course, physical ailments.
Then we continued into the waters of intimate relationships. Repression here can create huge chasms between partners. True intimacy comes from a place of vulnerability, understanding, and shared emotional experiences. When parts of us are locked away repressed into the darkness, true connection is almost impossible. But by shining a light on the shadows, we invite deeper connection, understanding and love. [28:17.2]
Then we moved into the fourth area of interpersonal relationships. From friendships to professional connections, repression acts as an invisible barrier, preventing us from truly connecting, understanding and being understood, and in repression’s absence, there’s space for trust, sincerity, and authenticity and genuine connection.
To truly grasp the gravity of repression, let’s contemplate its severe consequences. At its worst, repression can lead to a life not fully lived. When marred by unexpressed pain, unresolved traumas, unfinished business, and a constant feeling of disconnection, it can manifest in chronic physical ailments, debilitating mental health conditions, and relationships that feel shallow and unfulfilling. [29:08.4]
But let’s not end on that note. Instead, imagine a world where repression has no hold over you. You can close your eyes or visualize waking up each day with a heart light and free from the burdens of unprocessed emotions. Visualize interactions where you’re truly present, deeply connected to yourself and others.
In this world, every conversation, every experience is richer, deeper, more fulfilling. Your professional life thrives not despite your emotions, but because of them. Your relationships, both intimate and interpersonal, become sources of joy, growth, deeper connection and deeper self-knowledge. Your health and happiness are at their peak with a mind, body and soul in complete harmony.
So, that is the life on the other side of repression, a life of authenticity, deep connections, boundless possibilities. And the beautiful part? This life isn’t a distant dream. It’s within reach, waiting for you to step forward and claim it. [30:09.3]
Thank you so much for listening to this episode. If you have any feedback whatsoever, I’d love to hear it. Leave it in the comments here or you can message us, and if this helped you in any way, please share it with anyone else that you think would benefit from it. I look forward to welcoming you to the next episode, where we’re going to dive deeper into repressed emotions and what to do about them, how to heal them, how to unburden them, and that whole process.
So, I look forward to welcoming you to the next episode. Until then, David Tian, signing out. [30:36.4]
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