Repression will not help you avoid the trauma, nor will make sadness and negative thoughts go away.
Repression is a defense mechanism used to unconsciously block off negative thoughts and unacceptable impulses. In times of trauma, our memories can be altered and fabricated to avoid facing sadness or anger. Although we think ignoring the problem helps, the fact is, repression will result in our inability to process emotions and be truthful with ourselves.
Things about psychological repression you probably hadn’t considered. And really should
In freshman year of college, Kayla was assaulted by a student living on the floor below her.
She left the room, shaken and in tears, with no idea how to approach the situation. School had started two weeks ago and she was just settling into a new lifestyle. Instead of approaching the authorities, she kept silent, burying the memory deep into the back of her mind.
Kayla repressed her assault, completely avoiding the trauma for a full year. If she saw or heard triggering content, she felt discomfort, but couldn’t pinpoint why the subject made her upset.
The longer the assault was buried in the back of her mind, the more her mental health slowly declined. She started avoiding social interactions and had trouble going out in large groups. Kayla began having frequent panic attacks when she was in the presence of other males.
The summer after her freshman year, Kayla decided to start therapy to get to the root of her sadness. No one could understand the cause of her deteriorating mental state, but the first clue was her severe panic attack after she realized her therapist was a male.
Through intensive therapy, Kayla worked through the repressed thoughts and uncovered her trauma. Talking about the assault with her therapist did not erase all negative emotions, but she learned proper coping mechanisms to help deal with the memories. Kayla’s panic attacks almost completely stopped and she started to smile more. She returned to school and began to advocate against assault, helping other survivors.
When you tackle problems with psychological repression this is what happens
If you are drowning, time will be your greatest enemy. The farther the current pulls you down, the easier it becomes to lose sight of the surface. Eventually, you are so tangled in the waves that directions become indistinguishable.
Repression is similar. You think the easiest way to deal with problems is to push them as far away as possible, but the deeper they are buried in the back of your mind, the harder it is to come to the root of the problem.
Understandably, after a person endures trauma, no one is going to embrace the memories with open arms. You’re not expected to accept what happened immediately, however, eventually you need to properly cope with the suffering. Repression will only do you disfavor.
Therapists, school faculty, family, and friends are all great resources to take advantage of. You are not expected to overcome sadness by a certain deadline or pretend that everything is okay. You’re the only job is, to be honest with yourself and realize that you are strong enough to get through the trauma.