Now or in your past, have you ever felt as if you could not express how you feel? That your feelings were invalid or dismissed? That you were unseen or unheard? If you've experienced these feelings, especially in a chronic sense, your experiences and your perception of them may be impacting your mental and physical health today, more then you might think.
When someone does something that hurts us or makes us feel bad, it is common to think that you must play nice, not speak up. Even though our initial feeling is of hurt, disgust, anger, or sadness, we repress these feelings because our conditioning is to believe that our reaction is invalid, that we are “overreacting,” or that it's normal for people to make us feel this way.
Some of us may stay silent altogether, becoming someone that people continuously take advantage of or disrespect. Some of us have learned to resort to passive aggression, triangulation, or other dysfunctional communication patterns. The result is often a lack of boundaries and a lack of ability to assert our needs in a relationship or situation effectively. And then we tend to normalize these patterns.
But something else happens when we learn to repress or not honor our needs or feelings in a situation. Our nervous system reacts to feeling unheard and unsafe. And if we continuously suppress how we feel, have a lack of boundaries, and feel stuck in this state of feeling dishonored, our nervous system responds as if we are chronically unsafe.
This chronic stress on the nervous system can manifest in many ways. The nervous system, feeling unsafe most of the time, stays in a persistent state of fight or flight or freeze/shutdown. It can lead to chronic anxiety or depression. It can lead to somatization of our feelings in the form of physical stress, chronic pain or fatigue, gut problems, or a variety of other health issues.
It's essential and challenging work to begin to recognize our triggers and understand how we are dishonoring our feelings, our nervous system, and ultimately contributing to our own poor physical and mental health.