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What Triggers Repressed Emotions?

Repressed emotions are feelings that have been buried deep in the subconscious mind in order to avoid the pain associated with them. Though repression can serve as a protective mechanism in the short-term, repressed emotions will inevitably resurface over time in various forms. Understanding what tends to trigger these repressed emotions can provide insight into healing them.

Common Triggers

Certain situations or circumstances often serve as triggers to unearth repressed emotions. Relationship struggles, major life changes and traumatic events frequently bring suppressed feelings to the surface.

Relationships connections often act as mirrors, causing old wounds and unresolved pain to rise up. Marriage problems, divorce, arguments with friends or family members, and rejection can all tap into repressed hurts, fears and anger. The closeness of intimate bonds tends to expose vulnerabilities and touch on sore spots. Defensive reactions may then occur as the psyche tries to bury those feelings again.


Turning points like graduation, retirement, moving, changing careers or having children can lead to feelings of loss, fear and insecurity as the ego identity shifts. These major life transitions may open the floodgates to uncertainties and pain that were long buried. Reestablishing a sense of safety and stability helps to work through the unearthed emotions.


Post-traumatic stress often entails repressing intense, overwhelming emotions. Triggers like witnessing an accident, experiencing violence or revisiting the location where the trauma occurred can all abruptly bring up suppressed memories and feelings. Anniversary dates of the original traumatic event can also serve as painful reminders. While difficult, allowing oneself to fully process and release the emotions enables healing.

Daily Stressors

Even everyday hassles and frustrations can accumulate and lead to buried anger, resentment or hurt rising up to the surface. Fatigue, conflicts, workload, financial issues and other nagging stressors chip away at people’s coping resources. When the mind becomes overloaded, suppressed emotions tied to those stressors may be unleashed. Regular self-care helps manage these low-grade triggers.

How Repressed Emotions Manifest

When repressed emotions are stimulated, they materialize in various forms. Common manifestations include:

  • Anxiety, panic attacks or feeling suddenly overwhelmed by fear or dread
  • Nightmares and insomnia as buried memories invade dreams
  • Irrational bursts of anger or rage
  • Depression or inexplicable sadness
  • Feeling numb, disconnected or ambivalent
  • Hypervigilance and becoming easily startled
  • Unexplained physical ailments like headaches, stomach issues and pain
  • Emotional outbursts and frequent crying
  • withdrawing socially and avoiding certain places or situations
  • Turning to unhealthy coping mechanisms like overeating, substance abuse, etc.
  • Feelings of dissociation and losing a sense of self

Learning to notice these signs provides the opportunity to address the root causes. Rather than again repressing the activated emotions, journaling, speaking to a trusted friend or therapist and utilizing self-reflection can help uncover the source. The ultimate goal is to express and release the awakened emotions in a healthy manner.

Healing the Hurt

Though unpleasant, revisiting repressed emotions is key in resolving past trauma and grief. Supportive professional counseling or group therapy can guide this challenging process. Learning stress management, practicing relaxation techniques like meditation and finding appropriate outlets for feelings also allows repressed hurts to be gradually unpacked, processed and laid to rest. While emotions buried alive never die, uncovering and addressing them compassionately can help put them to peaceful rest.