Emotional suppression is the phenomenon of blocking out awareness of emotions a person considers “bad”. He hides what Carl Jung calls the “shadow”, or what we think of as the “dark side” from himself. He doesn’t allow himself to know how angry or jealous or greedy he is. The usual way of accomplishing this is to project the unwanted emotion onto someone else.
As an example from my own life, I have a boss who lies continually. He lies to cover the fact that he doesn’t care about his employees at all and never considers their needs when making executive decisions. He cares only for the bottom line. He’ll tell you he’s giving you a raise or increasing your hours if he knows you’re in a tight spot. But he has no intention of doing it. He just says it to avoid dealing with tension until he can be rid of you and go on to the next thing. He considers himself a nice guy because he’s talkative and friendly and likes to joke around. He seems surprised when he gets feedback that most of his employees don’t like or trust him.
He projects this tendency to lie as a means of covering ulterior motives onto his employees. Needless to say, this creates a climate of fear and mistrust in the workplace.
He frequently suspects me of lying. He often suspects me of trying to screw him and the company if I make a simple mistake. Nothing I say will convince him otherwise. This makes my job stressful. Anytime I make an honest or careless mistake, I feel like I’m being called on the carpet to prove I’m not an inherently evil person. This not only frightens me, it makes me angry. Because I do a good job and I resent my loyalty being questioned for no real reason.
The competitive nature of our society, combined with the added pressure resulting from a bad economy seems to be making the incidence of emotional suppression worse lately, especially in the work place. I see it everyday. It seems like everyone is trying to outdo each other in appearing perfect; in appearing to have the perfect attitude and perfect performance. At my job everyone is always talking about everyone else; how this one is slacking and that one is lying. The invisible little knives are out everywhere.
No one wants to admit to jealousy or greed or laziness. It’s always someone else. And because no one is perfect, there can be a grain of truth in what the accuser says. But no one is perfect. Why can’t we all just admit it? We all have faults. We all sometimes have less than charitable thoughts. Why can’t we give each other a break? We’re all human. We’re all in this together.