• How Emotions Enter Our Dreams and Impact Our Mental Health

    Society seems to condition us to always appear calm and in full control of how we feel, no matter the circumstances. Hiding how you really feel can have serious health consequences such as mental fatigue, elevated blood pressure, and sleep problems.

    Common signs that you repress your emotions as a coping strategy include:

    – Using substances like drugs or alcohol to numb the pain and escape from your thoughts.

    – Consciously not talking about how you feel.

    – Avoiding situations that remind you of your emotions or force you to confront them.

    – Distracting yourself as a way to prevent yourself from reacting.

    One of the major ways that ‘shutting down’ negative feelings, affects you is by affecting your dreams. The brain naturally tries to work out emotions, but it needs your help to do so. When you refuse to consciously acknowledge these negative emotions, the brain is forced to process them alone, unconsciously. While you sleep, memories are processed and stored. When you refuse to confront your negative emotions while you’re awake, the brain works on combating the negative emotion while you sleep at night. This causes these emotions to surface in your unconscious dreaming state.

    Research by Malinowski (2017) has confirmed the importance of ‘dream rebound’. When we repress our emotions, they show up in our dreams. Participants who repressed negative thoughts had more negative emotions manifesting in their dreams in forms of sadness, fear, anger, and anxiety. Participants who suppressed their negative emotions also had sleep problems and experienced poor sleep quality, difficulty falling asleep, use of sleep medication, restless sleep, and tiredness during the day. They also recorded higher levels of depression, anxiety, and stress.

    In essence, researchers discovered that there is a greater tendency for negative emotions experienced during waking hours to manifest within dreams. Especially sadness, fear, anger, and anxiety. Positive emotions did not significantly manifest in dreams. Also, repression of feelings is associated with poorer sleep quality and correlates with anxiety, depression, and stress.

    How To Work Through Your Emotions In A Healthy Manner

    Here are a few tips to help you process negative emotions in a healthy way, rather than by repressing them:

    – Journal: ‘Free-form’ journaling can help you purge yourself of the negative emotions that you feel. Writing down your negative feelings and noting possible solutions before going to bed can be cathartic and improves your sleep quality significantly.

    – Talk about your dreams: It is incredibly helpful to analyze your dreams with the help of a therapist. At Smart Therapy in Kitchener, an Online Counselling Service, we offer dream analysis services called Dream Revealing™. Unpacking what happens in these dreams with your therapist can help you identify the particular emotions you’re suppressing and how to manage them in a healthy manner. Book a therapy session or Dream Revealing™ session with me here.

    – Practice mindfulness: Be mindful of your thoughts. Note them, and then let them go, rather than repressing them. Meditation can help you feel calmer too.

    Here at Smart Therapy in Kitchener, an Online Counselling Service, I help people manage their emotions in the best way possible and unleash their full potential to live and love well. If you need help with managing your negative emotions properly, please book a session here.

    Rebecca Steele

    Rebecca Steele, MA, MSW, RSW is an individual therapist in downtown Kitchener.


    She specializes in offering insight-driven depth therapy and supports adult individuals who may be experiencing symptoms related to anxiety, depression, and trauma.


    Click here to learn more about her online Kitchener counselling practice!