Expression vs Inhibition

Most people feel stuck when they want to express a feeling or a desire. It is part of a natural inhibition process. Our brain tricks us with its so-called negativity bias. Learning how we inhibit ourselves is one step towards our self-expression.

setting aside your dream one more day…

It’s a bright and warm summer’s day.

William and I are eager to catch up. 

It is our last chance to see each other. Tomorrow I’ll be back to San Francisco.


We take ourselves to Gaston, a French restaurant in Batignolles.

William wants to arrive early, before the noise of the crowd.

More than just a quiet place, William wants to share one of his deepest desires.


William wants to write a book. 

But he fears being unsuccessful

so he set aside his dream for one more day.


“Each new day is a blank page.” William says.

For the past 2 years he has been living each day 

with the fear of being unsuccessful,

stuck with a pen in his hand.


“What is blocking you from starting to write the first paragraph of your book?” I finally ask him.

“I can see all the bad outcomes that could happen to me – literally – and I feel overwhelmed by the weight of those opportunities of failure.”


I’m shocked.

William is so talented ,creative, spiritual.

Why is he so stuck?

I want to speak but I remain silent.

Rick Hanson in his book “Just One Thing – Developing a Buddha Brain One Simple Practice at a Time” describes how the brain trick us to inhibit ourselves:

1. A desire or feeling emerges in the mind, seeking expression

2. This activates an associated expectations of emotional pain if the feeling or desire is expressed

3. This expectation triggers an inhibition of the original feeling or desire in order to avoid risking the dreaded experience

So why don’t I choose the path of self-expression instead of the path of self-inhibition?

Why don’t I choose the path of self-expression instead of the path of self-inhibition?

Well, because I EXPECT pain.

A part of my brain has this thing called a negativity bias.

Its function is to run scenarios in my head about all the horrible things that could happen if I had to express my feelings or desire.

I anticipate an imaginary pain that would occur if I would express my desire to the world.


I OVERESTIMATE the likelihood of a bad outcome from self-expression.

I OVERESTIMATE the amount of pain I’ll feel if something bad actually happens.

I sum up those two elements and I create a monster – a.k.a BIG PAIN –  that scares me.

Within a second, consciously or unconsciously, I inhibit myself to avoid Mr BIG PAIN.


And I set aside my dream one more day.


The good news is that NOW I know what is causing my inhibition.

It’s the negativity bias of my brain. Hallelujah.

I am not anymore a victim of my negativity bias

I can own my self expression

I can play with it, notice it, deliberately, and choose how to respond.

I have a choice to choose the thoughts I want to believe when I see I’ve been tricked by my brain.


What would be a way to recalibrate my expectations to avoid overestimating the expected pain?

How do I express myself?

 “How do I express my feelings?”

By Expressing one of them.


“How do I play the cello?” 

By playing one note.


“How do I write a book?”

By writing a word.


William, if you read this, here’s what I’d love to tell you.


“My apologies, it was me who was stuck.

I did not see it until today.

I could not answer because I was inhbitting myself too.

If you can see – literally – all the bad outcomes that could happen in the future,

then you have a gift for writing.

So please:

Just Try Stuff.

Start writing a word. 

Blablabla is enough.”


Think about one desire or feeling that you’d like to express (a desire to aim a goal, to express a feeling to someone else)

  • How likely is it that something could go wrong?
  • How bad would it be? How uncomfortable would it be?
  • If it did happen, how could you cope?
  • What would be the reward if it would work?
  • How would you start taking calculated risks to move out of your comfort zone?

To help you grow 

Love to get help to connect with yourself and others? Join The Authentic Connection Circle

A great book that inspired me in 2020 | Just one thing, Developing a Buddha brain one simple practice at a time- Dr. Rick Hanson