Owning Emotion. Many high achievers learn that they should suppress emotion. Some have worked in a corporate environment for years, and in doing so, have learned to mask emotion to increase self-protection and to avoid losing credibility. The habit pattern has carried into their personal lives.

Other people have learned from early childhood that emotion is useless or detrimental.Sometimes the messages have been overt “stop crying.” At other points, the message is more subtle “everyone in the family has problems and you are the responsible one.” The resulting belief  is “I need to take care of everyone else, so there is no room for me to be weak.” One of the messages is incredibly silent–the parent simply doesn’t respond to emotion. The message  = “no one seems to care how I feel, so my emotions don’t matter.”

Intellectualizing Emotion

The high achiever often strives to make sense of things at an intellectual level. This tendency results in emotional suppression and the somatization of emotion. A person will frequently under-estimate the amount of emotional stress present but will experience increased headaches, muscle pains, digestive upset, or other physical difficulties.

The messages from family or work environments combined with the high achiever’s innate tendency toward intellectualizing emotion can make it difficult for them to:

  1. Be aware of the presence of emotion.
  2. Be able to accurately identify emotion
  3. Know how to successfully process the emotion

Increasing one’s emotional intelligence, awareness and emotion management helps to protect from future illness, improve relationships, and increase personal quality of life.


First Steps to Owning Emotion:
  1. When you are upset, identify the specific emotion you feel. Assess the variables of the situation that most disturbed you. (i.e. Often we feel angry, but we are hurt and disappointed).
  2. Journal your emotions or talk to a friend. Writing helps people process emotion and make sense of it. Talking with someone you trust provides feedback to better understand your emotional reactions.
  3. Begin to challenge the belief that emotion is weak. When did you learn to believe it? Why? Did you have good emotional role models? Were they happy? Do you know anyone who shows emotion but whom you also respect as being grounded and intelligent?