“Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.”
~ Sigmund Freud
Concerning pain, there are two ways in which human beings are biologically programmed: To demonstrate our own, and to respond to that of others.
Screams were evolutionarily essential to the survival of man. We yell out when we are hurt to alert others of our plight — and more purposefully, to elicit empathy and rescue.
On some occasions, our failure to call out for help may be a result of particular limitations in physical structure. An injured animal for example, may conserve its resources by first dragging itself to safety where it can lick its wounds quietly; it may be aware of the dangers of lurking predators, where vocalizing pain may be a deathtrap rather than serve its intended function. The homeless man begging for alms at the side of the road, dying of a disease we cannot pronounce; too weak to move and locked in muteness, he can say only with his eyes, “I am lonely. I have lost the gift of hope. Please help me.”
Perhaps being one of the few mammals with no natural camouflage however, few of us splay ourselves on the ground, wounds on blatant display for all to see — much less call out for help. Bleeding on the inside, we have learnt to hide behind drink, money, and superficial relationships. In the relative absence of circumstances requiring us to fend off wild beasts, we are hunted by threats of rejection, abandonment, invalidation, and loss of control. Predators take form in insecurity, feelings of unworthiness and at times, pride. No rescue comes to stem the blood flow.
Like the siren of an ambulance or a car alarm, screams have a unique sound quality to which the human species is innately configured to respond with immediacy and urgency. More colloquially known as “empathy” today, we are inherently tuned to the distress of others. The unique temporal feature of a scream worries other members of the human species; it brings them running to console, curb or alleviate the pain which had elicited said cry.
What happens to our capacity to respond to the distress of ourselves when we contain within ourselves screams unheard? Quoting Sigmund Freud, “Unexpressed emotions will never die. They are buried alive and will come forth later in uglier ways.” We become closed — not only to people’s pain — but also their happiness. These two states of being will rub you the wrong way: pain, because it hits too close to home, and happiness, because it seems so far away, so beyond reach.
Identifying our pain is the only the first step; the hardest part comes in allowing ourselves to feel our pain. Only then we might find a channel to disseminate it, lest, in a vicious cycle, it comes forth later in uglier ways.