Why Do We Hide Pain?

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This might not be a long one because it’s really just a question.  One that everyone may have a different answer for:

Why do we hide our pain?

I notice that we’re told most often to keep smiling even though we’re hurting.  I saw a quote that said the ability to smile while hurting shows you’re strength.  Yet, it also makes sure that people don’t know you’re in pain.  So, you could continue being hurt because nobody realizes you’re suffering.  Eventually, you break and that smile either disappears forever or becomes the most empty thing imaginable.  A smile with nothing behind it isn’t a good thing.  In fact, I’d say it’s a sign that the soul is nearly dead.  This is why hiding our pain is such a bad idea.

The word ‘festering’ comes to mind here too.  Think of pain and negativity as an infection, which needs to be expunged.  Easy to do with a physical ailment since we have medications for that.  With emotional and mental pain, we need to vent and that can be tough.  It leaves us exposed and vulnerable as well as becoming a source of negativity for the person listening.  If you vent to someone who doesn’t like such things then they’ll react in a way that your pain is enhanced.  This is why many people keep everything bottled up until mental illnesses and physical symptoms turn up.

I remember how I was for such a long time.  Thoughts were dark and I felt like nobody ever understood me.  People bossed me around or used me because I was a good worker, but there was rarely any reciprocation.  I was even made to feel shame for asking for help or rest.  I kept my pain hidden from everyone and only let it out when either alone or pushed too far.  Now, I have anxiety and get very nervous about sharing my feelings towards others.

I did take on the idea that I need to make sure people know when I’m upset, but that came with a problem.  I’d get in trouble for showing that I was sad, mad, or nervous.  It was improper and uncomfortable for those around me.  This made me realize how much our society pushes for us to keep our darkness and pain hidden for the sake of others.  We’re told it’s for the best, but I don’t know.  We let our insides rot to make sure we don’t upset those around us.  Yet, they can see us deteriorate as time goes on, but we still aren’t ‘allowed’ to say anything.  This genuinely makes me wonder how many chronic physical ailments are created or simply made worse by this mentality.

Well, that’s my thoughts on it.  What do you think about hiding your pain?  Actually, do you think this is a generational thing too?  I’ve noticed that older people are bigger on hiding pain than younger ones.  Maybe other societal factors play into how often this is pushed as well.

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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17 Responses to Why Do We Hide Pain?

  1. L. Marie says:

    A very thought-provoking post. To answer your question, I don’t share what’s going on with everyone, because some people simply aren’t safe enough to share things with. I learned that the hard way. I only vent to God and close friends. If I’m down or in a mood, I let people know. I also think that hiding pain is generational. I was taught to hide pain. My nephew has no trouble sharing his pain even with total strangers.


    • I think venting to close friends is important. With the hiding part, I was thinking more about in public. I’ve noticed so many people put up a brave face when at work or around others, but then you learn they’re in emotional agony. That can’t be healthy, but it’s what society seems to promote. One can’t even take a mental healthy day from work without having to explain themselves.

      Liked by 1 person

      • L. Marie says:

        I think because people are afraid to be labeled in a way that sets them apart from others. People are quick to stigmatize others. That’s why some don’t share their pain. Others don’t share because they’ve been told in the past, “I don’t want to hear it.” So you learn to keep it in.


      • That says something really sad about our society. We’re taught to hide our pain out of fear. That amplifies it and rots us from the inside. Just doesn’t seem rational, but it still ‘makes sense’ somehow.


  2. I have two thoughts about this, and you touched on both of them. First, deep inside we have the instinct of a prey animal, not to show weakness because it might be used against us — or even be fatal! It’s similar to how your cat will hide when it’s sick. Sometimes the pet owner doesn’t figure out their cat is ill until it’s too late.

    The second thing is, people do feel uncomfortable when they witness someone getting emotional. Emotions can be contagious, and not everyone is ready to have empathy for someone who’s struggling. So in turn the onlooker feels an impulse to protect themself from the emotions.

    And then of course capitalism requires us all to be tireless worker bees. In the past two years, I’ve become very skeptical of any statements that “it’s okay to not be okay” because my experience was that this was not true. I was still expected to have a perfect demeanor regardless of what I was struggling with.


    • Never noticed that prey animals hide weakness. I always thought they were more likely to show it than predators. Mostly herd animals since they can depend on others for help.

      Definitely get the fear of emotional infection. Especially if you’re dealing with someone that’s falling apart after holding it in for so long. It’s tough to watch.

      That capitalism factor is a killer. I mean that too. Work the majority to at least emotional destruction and then grab some more. I noticed how some companies say you can take off for mental health days, but then ask for doctor notes. It doesn’t work that way.


  3. Maybe it’s more evolutionary. We hide our pain so the tyrannosaurs don’t eat us first. This seems to work so the trait carries on. Humans can be brutal, so the trait remains useful.


  4. V.M.Sang says:

    Mental health days sound like a good idea.
    But, yes, we are taught not to show we are hurting, either physically or mentally.
    When a child falls, we often say, “Don’t cry. It’ll soon be better.”
    As for the generation thing, you might be right. The idea that it’s ok for men and boys to cry is relatively recent. Boys used to be told that “boys don’t cry”, and to be brave. However, I was pleased to see the reactions of his friends when one teenage boy broke down and cried when his handicapped sister was very ill. His friends were supporting, and were saying “It’s all right to cry.”
    This was in the 90s. When I was the same age, he would have been exhorted not to cry. It wasn’t a male thing.
    But men are still reluctant to show emotion.


    • It was still rare in the 90’s from what I remember. The ‘walk it off’ mentality was still around though. I think men are still reluctant because people still chastise them for doing so. Oddly enough, I’ve found more emotional support in other men than women lately.


  5. Jennie says:

    It is definitely generational. My parents were WWII era, and you smiled and moved on. You didn’t talk about pain. My grandparents felt pain in daily life. Farming was hard, everything was hard. You smiled, embraced the good, and didn’t complain. That’s how generations kept happiness. Things were so hard, so dwelling on the pain made it even worse.

    Charles, I really understand this from my ancestors. It feels right. Yet, It feels right when people can express their pain. I am rooting for both sides.


    • My grandparents and parents are like that. Yet, I also saw how the pain festered. Maybe the world wasn’t as toxic back when they were younger. You could find peace since social media and 24-hour news weren’t things. Still, the shrug it off mentality I saw made me think that it was just inviting more pain. With no signs of pain, nobody would know to ease off to avoid damage. Now, I see people thinking those who don’t hide their pain are simply weak or dramatic. So, the agony continues yo get piled on.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Victoria Zigler says:

    Why do we hide our pain? Because we’re taught we should, and when we don’t the reaction and attitude we get for not hiding it only reinforces the desire to not let it show next time. Is this healthy? No. But we do it anyway, because it’s what we’re taught to do, and what we’re expected to do.


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