Many of us may have heard at least once in our lives that it’s not good to keep things bottled up inside. There are many examples in scripture that back that idea up. However, a lot of us avoid speaking honestly about our negative emotions at home, work, church, or other social setting for fear we may appear too sensitive and weak, too focused on negativity instead of “the power of positive thinking”, we might offend someone (family, friend, associate, boss, etc.) to the point they lash out, we may not be politically correct to express how we feel, etc. Two new studies have shown that not talking out those emotions and holding on to hostilities can negatively affect our mental health and hurt relationships.
The first study done by the University of Toronto-Mississauga took a look at 162 parents. They studied the challenges parents face sometimes when interacting with their 4–12-yr-old kids. In the first part of the two-part study, parents discussed three experiences with their child from the previous month when they tried to be positive and cheery to suppress feelings of boredom, stress, worry, anger, frustration, or sadness centered around their kids’ problems, misbehavior, or illnesses. The second part of the study required parents to answer questions about their daily interactions with their kids. In both parts, the parents felt horrible, conflicted, and uneasy about themselves when they suppressed negative emotions and could see it eroding the bond they had with their kids.
In another study by the American Academy of Neurology, researchers in America and Switzerland studied 3,126 individuals starting when they were at or close to 25 years old. They gauged “participants’ personalities and attitudes, their ability to cope with stress, and their memory and thinking skills.” Then 25 years later, they measured their memory and thinking skills again after getting an account of any hostility they personally had toward others and what, if any, coping mechanisms they had for any of those stresses. They discovered that those who held on to hostilities when they were young and did not have good coping mechanisms through those years did worse with their memory and thinking skills when they were older. This occurred even when the researchers took into account additional negative occurrences and physical ailments the subjects encountered.
All in all, both studies show that when we avoid talking candidly about our negative feelings and hang on to our hostilities there are negative repercussions spiritually and mentally. Many scriptures warn us about such attitudes and encourage us to talk things out. Here are a few:
…I will not refrain my mouth; I will speak in the anguish of my spirit; I will complain in the bitterness of my soul. Job in Job 7:11
Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. Jesus in Matthew 18:15
For out of much affliction and anguish of heart I wrote unto you with many tears; not that ye should be grieved, but that ye might know the love which I have more abundantly unto you. 2 Cor. 2:4
Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled; Heb. 12:14-15