Motivation and emotion/Book/2015/Suppression of benevolent emotion

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Suppression of benevolent emotion:
Why do people suppress benevolent interpersonal feelings, what are the consequences, and what can be done about it?

Overview[edit | edit source]

This book chapter explores the suppression of benevolent emotion. Before we get too in depth let's look at some examples. You may have already encountered this sort of suppression before.

Let's see if you can pick which of the following is not suppression:

  1. Have you ever had to cancel a hotel room, holiday or flight because of an emergency and been dismayed by the lack of compassion shown by the person on the other side of the phone or reception desk?
  2. Have you ever had a really bad day, and you go tell your boss why your day has been so awful and received no response or little empathy and perhaps been asked to 'get over it'?
  3. Had a sexual urge but left the room or changed the conversation in order to avoid embarrassment?
  4. Have you ever been the person on the other side of the reception desk and had to decline a refund because of your company's policy, but rather then showing empathy or compassion you have had to remain stone faced for fear that saying something bad about the company will have repercussions?
  5. Ever been that boss watching someone having a hard day but unable to help talk through the problem as you have to meet a deadline?

It may not be obvious, which example is not the right one, but its the aim of this book chapter that you will clearly be able to define the odd one out.

Emotions are feelings that allow animals and humans to deal with opportunities and challenges as they arrive in life and act as functional ways of dealing with life tasks (Levenson, 2011). However, emotions are not always helpful or productive. Gross (2008;2002;1998) suggests that emotions can cause harm and can be situationally inappropriate. Therefore, humans try regulating these emotions or try gaining control over these often automatic reactions. Gross (2008) suggests there may be hundreds of different emotional regulations; however, relates that there are five main categories: situational selection; situation modification; attentional focus; reappraisal and Suppression.

This book chapter will focus on the regulation of the emotion suppression, but more specifically the suppression of benevolent interpersonal feelings. This will be achieved by exploring what benevolent interpersonal feelings are, why people may suppress them and what can be done about people suppressing these feelings. It will also provide the answer as to which example from above is not suppression.

What are benevolent interpersonal feelings?[edit | edit source]

Benevolent interpersonal feelings are conceptualized by Yagil (2015) as awareness of others' needs and distress. The expression of benevolent emotion can be displayed through compassion, (Frost, Dutton, Worline & Wilson, 2000), empathy (Scott, Colquitt, Paddock & Judge, 2010) and a motivation to help others.

Examples: The man who donates time at the Saint Vincent De Paul, because he knows that he is in a position to help the less fortunate; the lady who donates her children's clothes at Christmas time because she knows people are in need at that time of year. Are all examples of people having benevolent interpersonal feelings and acting on them.

For an explanation on Suppression and Emotional regulation Process model please see Appendices 1aa Suppression and Emotional Regulation strategies

What is suppression?[edit | edit source]

Appendices 1aa For an explanation on Suppression and Emotional regulation Process model, please see Appendices 1aa Suppression and Emotional Regulation strategies created by U3052056 ]

Suppression is unlike other emotional regulation strategies, as it is used during an emotional experience and is suggested to be the final point on the model. Unlike other emotional regulation techniques that have an antecedent strategy that regulates before the response tendency (Gross, 1998), suppression is a response-focus strategy, used during the emotional experience (Kühn, Gallinat & Brass , 2011). Kühn et al. (2011) describes suppression as altering the exterior expression to what the person desires the outward world to perceive, which may be markedly different from the internal emotions. Gross (1998) describes suppression as trying to control or down-regulate emotional outcomes whether that be a feeling or bodily activation.

Examples: As suppression occurs during the emotional experience, it is conceptualised to involving a persons[grammar?] self dialogue e.g., 'do nots', therefore, do not swear it will be considered inappropriate, do not talk to loudly in the library, do not say I love you on the first date.

Why do people suppress emotions?[edit | edit source]

Gross & John (2003) sets out that emotions are a necessary good; they allow humans to have, in some cases, automatic and effective coping strategies; allowing humans to function effectively, face problems and find solutions and have self control. However, Gross (2008) noted emotions can hamper our functioning and can also be the main cause, or issue when trying to solve problems as they can sometimes be too strong affecting our concentration or may come at a time when we are least able to handle them. Therefore, humans use emotional regulation strategies to try influence our emotions by trying to control how we have them, when we have them and the emotion expressed. As discussed in appendices 1aa there are multiple strategies.

Gross[grammar?] (2001) process model of regulation has two components: an antecedent-focused regulation and a response-focused regulation. With the antecedent being an automatic response before emotions have become fully activated, and the response regulation being the response once the emotion is under way. Suppression falls in the response-focus regulation component as it occurs in the emotion process. Current studies suggest that people suppress emotion for varying reasons, which may include self and other orientated motives[factual?]. Self orientated is suggested to be when people suppress emotions to avoid the consequences of displaying an inappropriate behaviour (Martini, 2007). Fischer, Manstead, Evers, Timmers & Valk (2004) suggested that people suppress emotions in line with the hedonistic principle, meaning they actively seek pleasurable feelings an[spelling?] suppress any negative emotions. Examples of other-orientated reasons include: to avoid hurting another person[grammar?] feelings (Martini, 2007) or to avoid showing emotion in a workplace environment as it would be considered inappropriate in that context (Yagil, 2014).

Examples: Butler et al (2003) suggest that suppression is used in cases like trying to avoid crying in a sad movie as we don't want to look weak, avoiding having an argument as you want to avoid conflict or inhibiting a facial expression to mask how you really feel. Gross and Levenson (1993) suggest that the reason people may suppress these emotions is because some people think by masking how we feel or avoiding conflict we can reduce ourselves from feeling bad about the situation or can give us time to figure out a better way to handle the dispute in the future.
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Key learnings

Do you now have an understanding of:

  • Benevolent Interpersonal Feelings are and how they maybe communicated?
  • Suppression and;
  • Why Suppression may Occur?

Can you provide examples?

Why do people suppress benevolent interpersonal feelings?[edit | edit source]

Current research into suppression of benevolent feelings suggests, like Gross' emotional regulation model, {{grammar{{ people suppress benevolent interpersonal as apart[grammar?] of the respondent-focused component, therefore having the feeling of compassion or empathy but rather then expressing this emotion, people use strategies to mask their feelings. Some of the reasons may include the generic ones listed above; however, this chapter will explore the role of employment requirements, and culture and social norms which dictate in certain emotional eliciting situations the need for suppression.

Employment requirements[edit | edit source]

Expression of benevolent interpersonal feelings, like compassion, is considered to be a basic authentic trait: a response that occurs naturally in humans[grammar?] everyday interactions (Goetz et al. 2011). Therefore, suppressing these interpersonal feelings goes against an innate quality that people possess. However, for people in jobs that may involve contact with customers or patients, despite there being a higher likelihood of the employee or medical practitioner having interpersonal emotion towards the other person they are forced to suppress these emotions or participate in Emotional labour(Erickson & Ritter, 2001). Kadushin (1962) suggests[grammar?] that in service-roles where objectivity and authority is necessary for the job, suppression of interpersonal emotions is necessary, to maintain professionalism but also allows for better business decision making. Another suggestion as to why people may suppress emotions in service roles is because it is important to suppress interpersonal emotion by still having a personable relationship with each client/patient but not having a personal relationship with every client, to avoid burnout or becoming too emotionally invested that it affects the ability to diagnose or properly treat a patient (Coulehan & Williams, 2001). Also, in service roles, managers will advise employees to maintain a neutral or standard expression; therefore, when a customer presents with a difficult or sensitive issue, the employee rather then displaying compassion or empathy will stick to the the script in effort to maintain the requirements set by the manager to suppress those emotions. Molinksy & Margolis (2006) investigated roles that require people that had to lay off staff, and identified that these staff needed to suppress this[grammar?] interpersonal feelings to successfully complete their role in the organisation. Therefore the research above shows that in order to fill job requirements or to insure[spelling?] a medical practitioner can be successful and for long durations complete their job, suppression is used to maintain those interpersonal feelings to prevent burnout or loss of authority or objectivity.

Culture & Social Norms[edit | edit source]

Wierzbicka's [missing something?] (1994) suggests that some Asian cultures encourage suppression to preserve relationships, where[grammar?] European or Americans are more likely to engage in suppression to protect the self. This analysis was confirmed by Chiang (2012) who found their were four reasons suggested as to why Asian cultures suppress positive emotions: to not show off, avoid jealousy, have consideration for others and not being used to displaying emotions. Compared to Western cultures which were to: maintain relations, avoid consequences of expression, control impulse to prevent hurting others, having manners, not valuing emotions, and having difficultly[spelling?] in expressing emotions. This research contributes to the suggestion that culture affects the suppression of benevolent interpersonal feelings as certain social norms of what emotions should be suppressed are impacted by culture.  

Figure 2. Helping others in time of need an example of communicating benevolent interpersonal feelings.

In conjunction with these findings Kim, Sherman, & Taylor (2008) suggest that individuals from Asian cultures are more reluctant than individuals from Western Cultures to ask for help or support. Yeh, Arora & Wu (2006) suggested this was occurring because those individuals did not want to create conflict or cause for someone else to have to worry. Therefore, the need to display these emotions are hampered by cultural and social norms thus resulting in benevolent feelings being suppressed.

Another possible reason as to why people try to regulate their emotions is according to whether they evaluate their behaviour as consistent with their values and general self respect (English & John, 2013). In a study conducted by Srivastava, Tamir, McGonigal, John, & Gross (2009) looking at students[grammar?] adjustment to college, it was found that when someone endures a change like transition to college, depending on their ability to handle the situation and first few days of interactions with fellow students, some found the experience to be a fun new challenge where others found the experience be traumatic. The students that found the experience to be traumatic inevitably reduced their social interactions and became emotionally guarded. This lead to suppressing both positive an negative interpersonal feelings, and resulting in a lack of social-support networks. This lead the researchers to conclude that when people go through a major transition and are unable to fit into a new social scene, they reconstruct their environment through evocative and selective transactions, which then becomes a cycle of feeling uncomfortable in social settings and continuing suppression. This research is supported by functionalist theories of emotion which theorises that emotionally expressive behaviour is central to maintaining social bonds, and with out it, could result in social isolation contributing to anxiety and depression in the individual (Keltner & Haidt, 1999). Therefore this research suggest[spelling?] that peoples[grammar?] ability to fit into society may effect not only there[grammar?] ability to establish an maintain friends, but in cases where a person is unable to make connections, they continue to suppress emotions habitually as a way of protecting themselves, but without expressing benevolent interpersonal feelings, the cycle continues being not being able to make and maintain friends causing further social isolation.

For an in depth look at a study, created by U3052056, please see The social consequences of suppressing emotion

What are the consequences of this suppression?[edit | edit source]

Despite their being an array of reasons as to why people may suppress benevolent interpersonal feelings, the consequences are continually found to be detrimental on both the person suppressing and the other parties.

Implications on the Person Suppressing[edit | edit source]

There are many implications of suppression of interpersonal emotions, including: effects on cognition, physical health and mental health. Richard and Gross (1999) suggest suppression has consequences on cognition, because emotional suppression interferes with other cognitive processes, such as memory, and is a distraction during conversation. The reason suggested is that it affects cognitive processing because of the huge amount of self-focus it takes to suppress the emotions. There are also effects on physical health. Krantz & Manuck (1984) found repeated suppression increased blood-pressure and metabolic demand, which the researchers suggested were indicators of coronary heart disease. Not only does suppressing interpersonal feelings affect cognition and psychological well being, social interactions are also impacted. Srivastava, Tamir, McGonigal, John, & Gross (2009) found in college students, suppression of interpersonal feelings led to poor ability to make and maintain friendships. According to functionalist theories, lack of social support fosters social isolation, which may lead to anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts.

Implications on the people from whom the interpersonal feelings are being suppressed[edit | edit source]

Research suggests people who suppress are seen to be inauthentic (John and Gross, 2004; Erickson & Wharton, 1997), and inauthenticity was seen to be the cause of breakdown in trust, openness and free communication. Because of this breakdown in trust, this then impacts emotional communication, which is considered imperative in creating and maintaining friendships and in customer service. With this breakdown in communication, it has been concluded in customer services roles when a person suppresses it is seen to interfere with relationship functioning, affecting the customer service quality reducing the satisfaction of the customers experience, thus suppression of interpersonal benevolent feelings can actually have an negative impact on customer service due to the inauthenticity of the experience.

Suppression of benevolent emotions has also been seen to cause relationships to become distracted and strained (English & John, 2013; John & Gross 2004), resulting in the other person to question reliability and responsiveness in both social and professional settings.This has been concluded because in studies where participants are face-to-face and were ask to suppress emotion it was found that poor interpersonal coordination occurred, there was no development of rapport and affiliation, and there were increased sensitivities about the next interaction (Butler et al., 2003). Suppression of emotion has also lead to negative impacts on marital interaction. Marital interactions were looked at where the husband would 'stone wall' or suppress emotions to the partner, resulting in decline in marital and life satisfaction ( Gottman & Levenson, 1992).  

Other implications include when emotion expression is suppressed the information people normally interpret in the conversation about how the conversation is going is disrupted (Fridlund, 1994). Therefore when a person chooses to suppress emotions the interpersonal coordination and relationship coordination is ambiguous (Fridlund, 1994). For example when someone says they are having a bad day, and the other person rather then showing empathy or compassion for the situation, ignores the person or does not shown an expression of interest. The person communicating the issue may then infer based on this interaction, their relationship is weak which may produce a fairly stressful event when a conversation or dialogue are entered into again. Literature has suggested that this anxiety or ambiguity in the relationship has resulted in not only the suppressor to have negative psychological outcomes, but also the person whom the emotions are being suppressed from also showed increases in blood pressure which is an increase on the cardiovascular response which the researchers consider over long term can take a toll on the physical health of the person (Krantz & Manuck, 1984).   

Therefore, when people endorse expressive suppression, there are both individual and social implications. These implications for an individual can be cognitive, physical and effect the persons mental health. The social implications can lead to poor customer satisfaction due to inauthenticity, poor relationship satisfaction and also effects on physical health.  

What can be done about the suppression of benevolent feelings?[edit | edit source]

Suppression of benevolent feelings can have detrimental effects on mental, physical and social health of the individual who suppresses these emotions and can also have detrimental effects on other people around them, both in professional and social settings. The reasons identified in this chapter as to why suppression occurs is for employment reasons and because of culture and social norms, this chapter will now identify what can be done about them.

Employment Reasons[edit | edit source]

In regards to the workplace, employees cannot be told to just express how they are feeling or show any emotion they wish, as this may result in the reputation of the company being diminished. Workplaces can rather as suggested by Yagil (2014) be taught strategies on how to express genuine benevolent emotions, These methods could include possibly using mature defence mechanisms:

Rationalising (Valliant, 2000): An example when training staff rather then telling them to only display neutral emotions and suppress benevolent emotion to avoid conflict. Ask them how would they like to be treated if they were the customer, and that in certain circumstances just suppressing how they feel may not be beneficial, therefore ask them to rationalise there thoughts on how they would want a service provider to express their emotions, and then express them in that way, which could allow them to feel like there problem has been herd and responded to allowing the customer to feel authenticity, but also allows the employee to express themselves, which as the literature suggests would be more beneficial then suppression.

Anticipation (Vallaint, 2000): As an example [grammar?] train employees to be aware that some customers may at times present with dilemmas and its important to be personable, rather than personal and also beware of the signs a customer may show, when they as the service provider, may have to show compassion, therefore if a customer calls and has an issue they have anticipated the occurrence as they may then be able to better express their emotions rather then just suppressing them.

Humour (Vallaint, 2000): As an example customer service roles constantly face circumstances with which a customer is facing a difficult time and requires the professional to show empathy or compassion, therefore as an employer rather then just asking the employee to not show compassion for the difficult situation rather show it in a humours but professional way, showing that yes the interpersonal feeling is still there but still communicating the seriousness of the issue.

Figure 4. Smiling which depicts humour as a mature defence mechanism

Sublimation (Valliant, 2000): As an example lets[grammar?] say a hotel reception takes a call, an the customer is going to be late for the hotel booking, however the hotel has strict policy no refunds, rather then asking an employee to suppress their emotions and not show compassion or empathy for the customer and just say no refunds. Employees rather can be allowed through sublimation to organise another booking at another hotel, send out a gift voucher apologising for the inconvenience, allowing the anxiety of not showing compassion to be source of energy to provide a socially acceptable way to allow that emotion to be communicated.

In conjunction with the use of mature defence mechanisms, employees can be taught to be better able to deal with customer challenges. This can be done through effectance motivation where it is suggested the ego tries to deal with issues as they arrive (Pearlman, 1984). Pearlman (1984) suggests that Ego effectance is used to be better able to display behaviours that are performed to generate successful responses, an how when these behaviours successfully attain the desired goal the ego allows for the feeling of sense of competence. Therefore in the training process employers should train employees how to handle situations which require the employee to maintain objectivity an professionalism but also display benevolent interpersonal feelings, allowing the person to grow their effectance motivation, and as the effectance motivation grows they master this interaction, rather then just suppressing their emotions.

Social and Cultural norms[edit | edit source]

Unlike employment dictating what emotions can and cannot be displayed for an employee to maintain employment, culture and social norms dictate what is an is not acceptable to establish and maintain relationships, therefore in most circumstances the need to comply or suppress these emotions is imperative to fit in. However the use of suppression to regulate emotions can have detrimental effects.

Therefore people who receive these detriments from suppression may seek a therapist in assistance to overcome them. The first possible solutions is for people who have come from cultures , where suppressing benevolent interpersonal feelings is the norm they may need to provide assistance in understanding their new cultures, social norms and that the display of compassion, empathy and wanting to help others is part of their new norm. However this process may be not be as simple as discussing what the new culture does, and rather may need therapy to overcome the maladaptive behaviour to reduce the impact of the detriments associated.

As discussed earlier suppression is not the only emotional regulation method that can be used when handling interpersonal emotions, therefore if someone presents with anxiety, depression, issues with social functioning or physical illness a therapist may be able to change this maladaptive behaviour to reduce the fall out. As indicated above, Gross's model (Gross, 1998,2002) suggest there are several other strategies available with antecedent focused showing to have not as severe consequences as suppression. An example of this can be seen in Richard & Gross (2000) which showed cognitive reappraisal strategies reduce the stress response and increase tolerance for emotional stimuli with fewer effects then suppression.

Figure 5. A picture illustrating that the "norm" isn't for everyone

Hofmann & Asmundson (2008) and Beck (1979) suggest that CBT promotes adaptive antecedent-focused emotion regulations strategies partially due to exposure allowing maladaptive cognition to be tested and also through therapy discussions around schemata that make suppression automatic. Another therapy is ACT Acceptance commitment therapy, where Campbell-Sills, Barlow, Brown & Hofmann (2006) tested the effects of suppression or acceptance, with results showing that acceptance led to less negative affect compared to the suppression group. Therefore what can be done about the suppression of benevolent interpersonal feelings? People who a suffering from the detrimental effects may seek out a therapist to change there maladaptive behaviour through CBT and ACT, allowing those people to use antecedent focused strategies which as the literature suggests has less negative outcomes than suppression may have on both the suppressor and the person whom the emotions are being suppressed. Which as the literature suggests will allow people to be able to better establish and maintain relationships, improve social functioning, which intern according to functionalist theory will reduce the susceptibility to depression and anxiety and because both people are not suppressing information will reduce the physical effects.

Also as discussed under employment reasons, a therapist could teach other mature defence mechanisms or ego effectance to improve how the person presenting in therapy deals with situations that they have in the pass suppressed.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

To conclude [grammar?] people suppress benevolent feelings for a variety of reasons, this chapter explored that employment requirements and social and culture norms play a large role as to why people suppress these emotions. The outcome[grammar?] of suppressing these emotions have detrimental effects on the suppressor which are cognitive impairment, mental health and physiological health. Detrimental effects have not only been found to affect the suppressor, but also the person whom which these emotions are being suppressed, with effects being found on the quality of service provided by a customer service employee, physical health in relation to coronary heart disease and can be a cause for relationships becoming distracted an strained. This chapter suggests that for employers not wanting these outcomes, they may in training processes [say what?] rather then teach their employees to suppress, they can use mature defence mechanisms or strengthen the ego effectance of the employee in handling situations where expression of benevolent interpersonal feeling is needed. In regards to social an[spelling?] culture norms, unlike employers the effect of suppressing benevolent interpersonal feelings does not effect business satisfaction rather the individual. Therefore people who may be unable to to fit into society, due to the suppression of benevolent interpersonal feelings and the cyclic nature of being unable to form friendships thus lacking social support. Can [grammar?] utilise other defence mechanisms or ego effectance with their therapists and possibly in conjunction with CBT and ACT to be able to teach the person how to express emotions and deal with their emotion in the antecedent component rather then suppressing them.

What you have learned?[edit | edit source]


1 Can humans stop a thought? or rather use techniques to try control them?

Yes, we use our brains NO special technique required!
No we cant stop thoughts, But we can use techniques called Emotional regulation strategies to TRY control them
No we cant stop thoughts, BUT we can use suppression an it is the most effect technique
Yes we can stop thoughts, through Emotional regulations

2 Which answer Best describes suppression?

Rationalising the issue when it occurs.
A tatic used to cover up an emotion
Something that was proposed by Freud.
Modifying an already occurring emotional experience, to down regulate the aspects of the emotion.

3 Suppression is a ".........."

Form of appraisal
Emotional Regulation Strategy
Strategy only used to suppress desires
Rare occurrence in day to day lives

4 Which is not an example of a Benevolent Interpersonal Feeling?

Motivation to help others

5 Can you answer the first example given in the chapter?

Have you ever had to cancel a hotel room, holiday or flight because of an emergency and been dismayed by the lack of compassion shown by the person on the other side of the phone or reception desk?
Had a sexual urge but left the room or changed the conversation in order to avoid embarrassment.
Ever been that boss watching someone having a hard day but unable to help talk through the problem as you have to meet a deadline
Have you ever had a really bad day, and you go tell your boss why your day has been so awful and received no response or little empathy and perhaps been asked to 'get over it'

See Also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Butler, E. A., Lee, T. L., & Gross, J. J.(2007). Emotion regulation and culture: Are the social consequences of emotion suppression culture-specific? Emotion, 7(1),30-48. doi:10.1037/1528-3542.7.1.30

Chiang, W. (2012). The suppression of emotional expression in interpersonal context. Bulletin of Educational Psychology43, 657–680.

Coulehan, J., & Williams, P. C. (2001). Vanquishing virtue: The impact of medical education. Academic Medicine, 76, 598–605.

English, T., & John, O. P. (2013). Understanding the social effects of emotion regulation: The mediating role of authenticity for individual differences in suppression. Emotion (Washington, D.C.), 13(2), 314-329. doi:10.1037/a0029847

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