Why Expressing Emotions is More Important Than You Think: Research Brief
Suppression and Expression as Distinct Emotion-Regulation Processes in Daily Interactions: Longitudinal and Meta-Analyses
Psychological Medicine, 2016
Suppressing and expressing emotions is something we all do regularly. Emotion expression and suppression are usually thought of as two sides of the same coin. This study shows they are separate constructs, occurring independently with beneficial and detrimental impacts on personal well-being and interpersonal relationships.
Emotion suppression occurs when a person actively tries to prevent a display of emotions with others, but is not the suppression of the actual emotion. Emotional expression refers to the opposite, displaying the emotion felt for others to see.
Cameron and Overall (2018) found that when people suppressed their emotions it increased depressed mood and fatigue and lowered self-esteem and life satisfaction. Plus, individuals who suppressed their emotions felt less acceptance from others, more distanced and less relationship satisfaction. Study participants who engaged in emotional expression experienced both mood and relationship benefits. Thus, research indicates there may be benefits in helping people learn to express their emotions in a constructive manner.
Highlights from the study
“... when individuals were more emotionally expressive during daily interactions, they experienced interpersonal benefits such as greater acceptance from others, greater relatedness and relationship satisfaction, and less distancing by others. Greater emotional expression in daily life also predicted increases in self-esteem and relationship satisfaction over time.”
“The four studies and the meta-analyses of their findings revealed distinct patterns of associations suggesting that emotional suppression confers strong intrapersonal costs and certain interpersonal costs whereas emotional expression confers weak intrapersonal and strong interpersonal benefits.”
Many people may not have a social setting where they feel comfortable expressing their emotions. At Feeling Good Institute, we provide a warm supportive environment where clients can feel safe to express their feelings, get guidance to overcome obstacles, and equip themselves with tools for a lifetime of feeling good.
Learn about the essential skills for effective cognitive behavior therapy and how we set therapists up for success.
Cameron LD, Overall NC. Suppression and expression as distinct emotion-regulation processes in daily interactions: Longitudinal and meta-analyses. Emotion. 2018 Jun;18(4):465-480. doi: 10.1037/emo0000334. Epub 2017 Jun 1. PMID: 28569538.