It’s no secret that emotion regulation is a fundamental skill in maintaining some semblance of stability in our lives. Influencers and mental health advocates have been promoting self-soothing, distraction, and distress tolerance skills for decades now to ensure we don’t escalate or collapse into dysfunction.  However, an overreliance on emotion regulation can have unintended consequences, undermining authenticity and emotional health. So, let’s explore the pitfalls of excessive emotion regulation and so that we can safely express feelings in an authentic manner.

The Dangers of Over Relying on Emotion Regulation

1. Suppression and Repression
Suppression involves consciously pushing away unwanted emotions. While useful in certain situations, chronic suppression can lead to a build-up of emotional tension, potentially resulting in outbursts or health issues. Whether that is chronic headaches, gastrointestinal issues, pain, or poor sleep – if it is not acknowledged at an emotional level then it will absolutely manifest in our bodies!
Repression is an unconscious process where distressing emotions are buried deep within. Over time, repressed emotions can manifest as anxiety, depression, or psychosomatic symptoms, complicating mental health further. There are a range of societal norms and cultural expectations that have endorsed repression including beliefs that men should be stoic, that conforming to norms is fundamental for group inclusion, that feelings get in the way of productivity and performance, that professionalism is the absence of feelings, or that anger is toxic.

2. Erosion of Authenticity
Constantly regulating emotions can create a facade that distances us from who we really are. This can lead to a loss of authenticity in our interactions, as we present a curated version of ourselves to mask our genuine emotions and thoughts. Not wanting to lose the plot or completely shut down is one thing, but when we cannot express feelings that make us unique and real then what are we doing??

3. Emotional Exhaustion
The continuous effort required to regulate emotions can be mentally and physically draining. Emotional exhaustion can impair daily functioning, reduce motivation, and lead to burnout, particularly in high-stress environments.

4. Impacts on Relationships
Authentic connections are built on trust and vulnerability. Getting to know someone requires a bit more investment than a superficial chat about what you are having for dinner, the weather, and where you are planning to go on your next holiday! Overregulating our emotions essentially prevents us from forming deep, meaningful connections with others. Without a bit of raw authenticity and personal disclosure, we run the risk of coming across as distant or insincere. I mean, attending functions where everyone is putting on their best game face in an attempt to prove they have their shit together can be purgatory right?

5. Stifling Creativity and Spontaneity
Emotions are a driving force behind creativity and spontaneous actions. Overregulation can dampen our creative impulses and reduce the richness of our experiences, making life feel monotonous and unfulfilling. Feelings give us art, poetry, and theatre – they bring everything to life!

Pathways to Authentic Emotional Expression

1. Mindful Awareness and Acceptance
Practicing mindfulness allows us to start observing and getting more familiar with our feelings, thoughts, urges, and desires. Techniques such as meditation and deep breathing help us stay present and recognize our feelings, providing a foundation for authentic expression. It is hard to show up if you are not even sure where you stand on things.

2. Gradual Exposure and Expression
Start by expressing emotions in safe, controlled environments. Begin with journaling or talking to a trusted friend or therapist. Gradually, extend this practice to broader social contexts as comfort with vulnerability increases. Process Group Therapy is another fantastic space to start exploring vulnerability.

4. Engaging in Creative Activities
Art, music, writing, and other creative outlets provide safe avenues for emotional expression. These activities bypass the need for verbal articulation, allowing emotions to flow freely and authentically. Other things to consider include joining theatre groups and choirs to start experimenting with different roles and ways to express different sides of yourself.

5. Building Emotional Literacy
Understanding and labeling emotions accurately is crucial. Emotional literacy involves recognizing subtle emotional states and their underlying causes. This awareness enhances our ability to express feelings clearly and appropriately. In naming and sharing our feelings, we give others the best opportunity to get to know us. Otherwise, we can fall into the trap of blaming and shaming others because we do not know how to express ourselves effectively.

6. Setting Boundaries and Communicating Needs
Establishing boundaries ensures that emotional expression is respected and not exploited. Unfortunately, there are people out there who weaponize our vulnerability, so it is important to speak up and set boundaries accordingly if this is happening.

7. Developing Empathy and Compassion
Practicing empathy towards others and self-compassion towards ourselves creates a supportive atmosphere. Empathy helps in understanding others’ emotions, while self-compassion allows us to accept and express our own feelings without harsh self-judgment.


While emotion regulation is essential for psychological resilience and social harmony, an overreliance on it can stifle authenticity and lead to stress, anxiety, depression and burnout. Balancing regulation with authentic emotional expression is key to fostering genuine connections and personal wellbeing. By practicing mindfulness, engaging in creative activities, developing emotional literacy, and seeking support, we can learn to express our emotions authentically and safely. This balance not only enriches our emotional lives but also strengthens our relationships and overall sense of self.

With Love

Sarah x

Emotion Regulation