How Are Suppressed Emotions Uncovered in Therapy?

How Are Suppressed Emotions Uncovered in Therapy
Author: Claudia M. Elsig, MD

Bessel A. van der Kolk, founder of the Brookline, Massachusetts Trauma Center, is famously quoted from his 2014 best-selling book, The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma, “As long as you keep secrets and suppress information, you are fundamentally at war with yourself …The critical issue is allowing yourself to know what you know. That takes an enormous amount of courage.”1

Suppressed emotions refer to the feelings that individuals intentionally avoid because they are uncertain about how to handle them. While these emotions are a natural part of the human experience, we may sometimes find ourselves suppressing or ignoring them, which can lead to mental health challenges, chronic pain or tension in the body.

According to provisional clinical psychologist Victoria Tarratt, “Suppressing your emotions, whether it’s anger, sadness, grief or frustration, can lead to physical stress on your body. The effect is the same, even if the core emotion differs.”2

In this blog, we’ll discuss the importance of therapy to uncover, unlock and process negative suppressed emotions through a combination of techniques and approaches.

Creating a Safe Space for Expression

The first crucial step in uncovering suppressed emotions is establishing and creating a secure and comforting environment for emotional expression. This vital initial stage allows individuals to feel heard and validated, which can help them to start uncovering their negative emotions and work through any issues that may be causing them distress.

In addition, this safe and supportive setting offers individuals the space to delve into challenging emotions and address any underlying issues that may be contributing to their emotional and physical discomfort while simultaneously feeling acknowledged and reassured.

Mindfulness, Body Awareness and Yoga

When it comes to uncovering suppressed emotions, mindfulness and body awareness are two powerful tools that can be incredibly helpful. Mindfulness involves being present and fully engaged in the moment, without judgment or distraction, while body awareness is the ability to tune in and become more aware of physical sensations and experiences.

Many people have a tendency to intellectualize or rationalize their feelings, rather than actually experiencing them on a physical level. This can lead to a disconnection between mind and body, making it difficult to fully process and release emotional pain.

Mindfulness practices such as meditation and deep breathing exercises teach how to quiet the mind and become more attuned to bodily sensations, in turn helping to access and process suppressed emotions more effectively. By learning to be present with uncomfortable feelings rather than avoiding, numbing or suppressing them, individuals can begin to work through and release these emotions, leading to greater healing and well-being.3

The practice of yoga can also be a powerful tool for developing body awareness and uncovering suppressed emotions. Yoga involves a combination of physical postures, breathing exercises, and meditation, which can help individuals to connect with their bodies and become more aware of physical and mental sensations.

Yoga can be particularly helpful for those who struggle with anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues which can cause physical tension and discomfort in the body. Practitioners of yoga release this tension and connect with their bodies on a deeper level, helping them to access and process suppressed emotions more effectively.4

By developing a heightened awareness of the body in the present moment, it’s possible to work through and release physical and mental pain, leading to emotional healing and happiness.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a widely recognized form of therapy that is considered the “gold standard” in the field and known to be highly effective.5

CBT is based on the idea that our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are interconnected, and that by changing those negative thought patterns and behaviors, we can improve our emotional well-being. As CBT psychologist David D. Burns said in his book Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy  “One of the cardinal features of cognitive therapy is that it stubbornly refuses to buy into your sense of worthlessness.”6

During CBT sessions, the therapist works collaboratively with the individual to identify and challenge negative thoughts and beliefs that may be causing emotional distress. This may involve using various techniques, such as thought records, to help recognize and reframe these thoughts in a more positive and realistic way.

CBT also emphasizes the importance of behavioral changes, such as setting goals and engaging in activities that promote healthy emotions and experiences. With the therapist as a guide, individuals develop a plan for making these changes and accomplishing their goals.

In addition to helping individuals cope with negative emotions, CBT has been shown to be effective in treating a wide range of mental health conditions, including depression, anxiety disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder. With its evidence-based approach and focus on practical solutions, CBT is a popular and effective form of therapy for those seeking to improve their emotional well-being, uncover their suppressed emotions and reach their targeted goals in life.7

Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy

EMDR therapy, developed by Francine Shapiro 8 is a form of psychotherapy for processing traumatic experiences and related emotions that have been suppressed or unresolved. It was initially developed to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but it is now used for the treatment of a wide range of psychological conditions, including anxiety, depression, and addiction.

During an EMDR therapy session, the therapist guides the client to recall a traumatic event or a painful memory while engaging in specific eye movements or other forms of bilateral stimulation, such as tapping or auditory tones. These eye movements are thought to stimulate the brain’s natural ability to process and integrate information, leading to the resolution of distressing emotions and thoughts associated with the traumatic event.9

EMDR therapy can be particularly helpful in uncovering and processing suppressed emotions that may be related to traumatic experiences. Often, individuals who have experienced trauma may ignore or numb their emotions as a way of coping with the overwhelming feelings associated with the experience.10 However, this can lead to long-term emotional difficulties and may even contribute to the development of psychological conditions.

Processing traumatic experiences and related emotions with EMDR can help develop more adaptive coping mechanisms and find relief from the emotional distress associated with the trauma. EMDR helps to understand and work through suppressed emotions, leading to improved emotional well-being and a greater sense of control over circumstances in everyday life.

Clinical Hypnosis

Clinical hypnosis, a technique widely practiced for more than a century, has gained increasing recognition for the treatment of various psychological and physical conditions.11 The practice involves guiding an individual into a state of deep relaxation and focused attention, where they become more receptive to suggestions. 

One of the primary benefits of hypnosis is its ability to help uncover suppressed emotions while overcoming negative thought patterns and behaviors. During hypnosis, a therapist can suggest new ways of thinking and behaving to reframe past experiences in a more positive light.

This technique is often used in conjunction with other forms of therapy to cope with anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and a wide range of other physical and emotional issues.

Seeking Therapeutic Help for Your Suppressed Emotions at CALDA:

CALDA Clinic specializes in trauma treatment to help you overcome negative emotions that prevent you from achieving your true potential and living authentically. If you’re struggling with difficult emotions related to past traumas it’s time to address the root cause. Effective emotional regulation is essential for coping and functioning in everyday life, and CALDA Clinic can support you on this journey.

CALDA Clinic offers a road to recovery in a private, luxurious rehabilitation center where our clients are assured of a tailor-made approach to their specific needs. Our team of psychiatrists, psychologists, and therapists are here to ensure our clients receive only the best care and services.

Contact us for an exploratory call and find out how we can best help you uncover your suppressed emotions.


  1. Bessel A. van der Kolk, September 2014 The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind and Body in the Healing of Trauma   [Online: accessed 18 April 2023]
  2. HFC Health Agenda for Mental Health, August 2022. “Can Always Staying Positive be Bad for Our Health?”  [Online: accessed 18 April 2023]
  3. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, June 2022 “Meditation and Mindfulness: What You Need To Know”  [Online: accessed 18 April 2023]
  4. National Library of Medicine, January 2011 “Effect of integrated yogic practices on positive and negative emotions in healthy adults” [Online: accessed 18 April 2023]
  5. Harvard Health Publishing, 1 March 2023 “Anxiety Overload” [Online: accessed 18 April 2023]
  6. David D. Burns, 1980, Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy p.54
  7. American Psychological Association (APA), July 2017 “What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy” [Online: accessed 18 April 2023]
  8. Journal of Neurology & Neuromedicine, 8 March 2019 “Scientific Evaluation of EMDR Psychotherapy for the Treatment of Psychological Trauma Summary: Scientific evaluation of EMDR psychotherapy” [Online: accessed 19 April 2023]
  9. Scientific American, 1 August, 2012 “EMDR: Taking a Closer Look” [Online: accessed 19 April 2023]
  10., David Bullard 2014 Bessel van der Kolk on Trauma, Development and Healing [Online: accessed 19 April 2023]
  11. Taylor and Francis Online Journal, 13 March 2023  “Current Practices, Experiences, and Views in Clinical Hypnosis: Findings of an International Survey” [Online: accessed 22 April 2023]