I repress a thing because I don’t want people to see it.
For example, I repress my inner anxiety when out in public because I don’t want people to think I’m so anxious just by being around strangers. I don’t want them to think that of me, but I actually am anxious. I hide it.
How do you hide your social anxiety from people? How do you hide your anxious breathing? your face being tense? Your physically protective body language?
I don’t know about you, but since I was young I’ve learned to do that by pretending to myself that I’m not anxious. I make myself believe it. Then within myself, I fight and suppress any signs of my anxiety endlessly till it dies. Like a game of Whack-a-mole. Then no one has to know it was ever there.
Intellectually, it’s clear that doesn’t work. I understand Jungian psychology and the shadow enough to know you can’t kill a part of your self that way. It’ll never die. Maybe because it’s not a living thing separate from you to begin with.
This way, whenever a sign of my anxiety becomes apparent to others, I can quickly find a way to explain it away, because I myself believe I have no anxiety. Throwing off anyone suspecting that I’m anxious. I keep diverting their attention left and right.
But this is a short-term fix for a long-term, potentially permanent, issue.
So… what to do?
You accept your anxiety.
But, what does it mean to accept something?
Acceptance is worth an article on its own. But for now, accepting your anxiety means to accept whatever the fact of your anxiety implies.
So, if you being anxious in public means that your social skills are weak, then accept that your social skills are weak and need work, and accept the responsibility that comes with that. It’s ok, then, to allow yourself to fail at that, if it’s overwhelming.
It’s better to accept the responsibility and fail, than to deny the responsibility.
Accepting your social anxiety also means to allow those around you to see that you’re anxious. Because when you stop hiding and fighting your anxiety, it will come out and people will see it, and you need to accept that as well. Which means to be ok with being seen by others as being anxious. Be ok with people thinking that about you when you’re anxious.
I used the example of social anxiety to show you how repression operates and how acceptance reverses it. But the same patterns apply to anything repressible.
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You can find me on Twitter @TheMshary.