Photo by Chuan on Unsplash

Holding it in isn’t good for you, or anybody else.

Emotional constipation is where you don’t express how you really feel, for fear of looking bad.

I think modern society is riddled with this condition. Everybody is worried about keeping up appearances, when inside they’re really screaming for help.

Some people think of their friends as a miraculous gift, which good fortune has had the grace to grant them and they express their gratitude for their friends openly and effusively. That’s fine. Gratitude for solidarity is a good thing and it’s mutually reinforcing. Other people regard their friends primarily as an inconvenience, an imposition and an obligation. These people invariably don’t keep their friends for very long, or have many dependable friends. Loyalty cuts both ways.

By the same token, some people regard expressions of familial love as rich, warm, necessary and strengthening of the family unit, whereas others eschew the emotional connections, preferring to hide their true feelings, for fear of humiliation in front of their own imagined, invisible audience.

Why do they do this?

It’s because vulnerability is often confused with weakness, in a hyper-competitive society, where you are trained, from cradle to grave, to ruthlessly outdo everybody else. In such a scenario, showing weakness is inviting predators to attack. That’s the biggest sin, in our world, but what we don’t ever bring to top of mind is that we’ve been gas-lit into buying into this competition, by people that benefit from our disunity. They prosper when we give up on mutual aid.

You see it in the extreme emotional repression of the stiff upper lip. That’s why people silently queue for oversubscribed busses that rarely arrive on time, rather than voting the perpetrators of these conditions out of power.

Once you understand this, you come to see that this ambient, faux stoicism, where you have to keep smiling even while the shit rains down on your head in a torrent, is actually a sign of spinelessness. Historically, stoicism was regularly imposed on the abused, by their abusers, to hide their shameful crimes. Public schools and church congregations, history has revealed, are famously awash with it and the same tendency explains child sexual abuse, human trafficking and the entire Jeffrey Epstein network. Victims are meant to accept the blame and shut up about it.

Showing emotions and openly expressing honest affection, where other people can see it, requires a kind of courage that emotionally constipated people lack. Ironically, it is the love given in return for your gratitude that is the wellspring of the necessary courage.

Without those mutually reinforcing connections, people remain fearful of everything and profoundly alone, left to struggle with the massive weight of existence and their certain mortality, all by themselves.

Manifestations of emotional constipation include venting and ranting on imaginary enemies, owning lots of guns, pretending you’re a rugged, self-made individual, owning the fastest car, the biggest house, the most impressive yacht, or most luxurious private jet, or having more money than you can ever hope to spend. It shows itself in extreme competitiveness and a lack of ability in collaborative situations. These are desperate displacement activities to mask the inability to express feelings openly and honestly. It saves you from ever having to confront the real source of your discontent.

Emotionally constipated people are often not even honest with themselves. They bottle it all up and hold it all in, constantly looking in the mirror, or the Instagram selfie, for affirmation of their acceptability. They frequently succumb to addictions or overindulgences, to try to assuage the gnawing hunger for love that consumes them from the inside out.

It’s an exhausting way to live. You can never feel you’re good enough or simply just enough.

Emotionally constipated people often become lonely and anxious, afraid of everyone and everything. Some label it as introversion, but it’s often something more like withdrawal.

The cure, of course, is to be open-hearted, generous with your affection and unconcerned with what other people think of you.

Just be.

It’s good to be.

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