Emotion Suppression

"Well, that's it, then — you had a controlling mother who had certain expectations, and if you strayed from them, you were shut down. That's why you're afraid to care about anything — and why you can't express yourself."
Azula, summing up her friend Mai on Avatar: The Last Airbender

Human emotions can be quite an obstacle. Fear can make you unable to face the danger. Compassion can prevent you from shooting the dog even if it's necessary. Love can make you crazy, dumb or lead you straight to the Dark Side. Let alone it hurts. And then there are such things as anger or hatred. Anyway, emotions cloud your mind and impede logical thought.

So, what do you do with them? Well, in the world of fiction you can find a way to relieve yourself of this burden. Via some sort of training or some Applied Phlebotinum you can completely remove your capacity to feel emotions. Results and consequences depend on the author and how exactly the emotions are suppressed.

Portrayed as a good thing, Emotion Suppression can be used to enter Heroic Safe Mode, to escape Mind Rape or simply to concentrate on the fight clearing your head of unimportant thoughts. The Smart Guy may enter a state of pure impartial logic to perform Awesomeness by Analysis, and the master of Politeness Judo can calmly suggest to the ambassador that it would be wise for his kingdom to withdraw their invading troops before the Fantasic Nukes are launched without dropping her polite and reserved facade for an instant. More combat or magically oriented characters likewise can benefit from a Meditation Powerup. This kind of suppression is almost always temporary and voluntary.

Sometimes it is portrayed as a bad thing. In that case the character in question can at best hope to be an a loner or an Emotionless Girl not knowing This Thing You Call Love. Alternately, when a character has been emotionally hurt previously, or seen someone close to them be hurt, they may decide to seek Safety in Indifference, and often need time before they feel comfortable letting down their guard again. At worst, the character will be put in a sort of Uncanny Valley, being human in appearance but not human in behaviour- arguably the worst form being the Stepford Smiler. Any sort of permanent Emotion Suppression will probably turn out this way, especially if it is not voluntary.

On the neutral side, Emotion Suppression is often portrayed as a form of Power at a Price: a character's Super-Powered Evil Side may demonstrate Tranquil Fury or take the pragmatic approach to solving problems, or The Empath may have to practice Emotion Suppression to prevent Power Incontinence. Occasionally a hero must also remember that Good Is Not Soft or Nice, and that they may be occasionally called upon to set aside their personal feelings For The Greater Good when solving a Cold Equation.

This trope can also be carried out on a massive scale. There can be a human or alien culture where every representative has their emotions supressed. This situation also has little chance of being undeniably good. At best, (other) humans will just leave it as it is, perhaps after some demonstrations of how emotions can be useful. If it's done by an Evil Overlord or... uh... a caring and benevolent ruler who is unable to paint smilies on their subjects' souls but at least wants to remove tears from there, you've got a ready dystopian setting.

This is part of the basis of The Stoic and the Emotionless Girl, Ice Queen and The Quiet One characters, The Baroness, the Deadpan Snarker (and Little Miss Snarker), the Broken Bird, the Sugar and Ice Personality and the Aloof Big Brother. Compare and contrast Getting Smilies Painted on Your Soul or Lotus-Eater Machine: Emotion Suppression does not make you happy, it just makes you, well, emotionless or lets you get rid of certain emotions.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • Sai from Naruto, being a member of a special ANBU branch, has undergone a training that removed his emotions. It also left him with No Social Skills.
  • In Ranma the emotional suppression technique "Soul of Ice" is needed in order to generate a cold Battle Aura, which is a vital component in the "Hiryu Shoten Ha" Counter Attack technique.
  • Seta Sojiro from Rurouni Kenshin.
  • This forcefully happens to Satoru Suzuki in Overlord when he becomes Momonga, his lich video game character, as the undead cannot feel emotions. This is both a good and a bad thing. While he does not feel emotions like fear, disgust or rage which could cloud his mind, he also loses his empathy and becomes completely inhuman.
  • In the Angel Beats! manga, Yusa voluntarily undergoes this.

  • Enforced upon all Psyches in Psychelia (including Empath) in Empath: The Luckiest Smurf. Even information about emotions is suppressed.

  • Equilibrium takes place in a society where everyone uses a drug called Prozium to suppress their emotions. Refusal to administer it is punishable by death. Hypocritically, the higher-ups don't take it and freely indulge their emotions and senses.
  • The Soviet film Teens In The Universe features a planet where robots driven by crapshoot AI decide to make all people "happy" by removing most of their emotions. People are forced to undergo this operation with a form of Mass Hypnosis. Did not end well: the entire race almost died out because of no desire to love and procreate.

  • We: people of the One State are calculating, emotionless and strive only to follow only logic. In the end a way is discovered to truly erase an individual's ability to feel emotions by irradiating a certain spot of the brain with X-Rays and everyone is irreversibly brainwashed.
  • The Chronicles of Grimm Dragonblaster: the titular character has to repress his emotions using dangerous addictive drugs in order to confront a demon mage who draws magic from negative emotions, renedering him emotionless and logical.
  • Philip Jose Farmer's The Other Log of Phileas Fogg. In this retelling of Around the World in 80 Days, Phileas Fogg is actually an agent of an alien race. His habitual reserve is due to a mental ability to shunt aside negative emotions so he can act normally.
  • In Sergey Lukyanenko's Genome the specs (specialists who are genetically augmented for certain jobs) have certain emotions suppressed and others modified as part of their specialization.
  • "Dissociation" in Strata is a type of meditation with this effect.
  • In Patrick Rothfuss's The Kingkiller Chronicle, Kvothe learns a mental exercise called "Heart of Stone" which places the practitioner in a state of dispassionate calm where all other emotions are temporarily shunted aside. Which he then doesn't use for the three years he needed it.
  • The telepaths in the Firebird Trilogy possess this ability. However, the stronger the emotion, the harder it is to completely suppress; only the best telepaths are truly capable of controlling all their emotions. The suppression is completely voluntary; it is generally used to ignore painful or unhappy emotions.
  • In Max Barry's Machine Man, Dr. Charles Neumann is not very emotional to begin with. However, after mapping his emotional responses with an MRI, he suppresses any traces of guilt or regret. Chemically.
  • Jedi in the Star Wars Expanded Universe are expected to be able to suppress their emotions in order to think clearly; in practice it depends.
    • Dengar, a man The Empire rebuilt as an assassin, had his emotions surgically cut away, all but anger, despair, and hope, as those would be useful to an assassin. Hope is the driving force, the hope that if he does well enough they will restore him to his old self. They also accidentally left him the ability to feel loneliness. Interestingly, when they ordered him to assassinate children, he left Imperial service- he wasn't able to feel why it was wrong, but he could still logically recognize that it was not something he wanted to do. He did get what he wanted, sort of, in the end; a woman who used cybernetic implants to share sensation and emotion fell in love with him and was able to partially restore him after they were married. Everyone but her still found him rather cold, though.
    • In Rebel Force there's an Imperial who's developed brainwashing techniques to similarly create assassins, though without surgery, and it's repeatedly said that these assassins are without any emotion at all, though they can convincingly fake any while infiltrating on the way to a target. The best of them, X-7, finds while tracking Luke Skywalker that anger is returning to him.
  • In one of the early Shadowrun novels, the protagonist seeks help from a criminal she'd been involved with a few years before. He reveals he's been taking an Emotion Suppression drug non-stop ever since she dumped him; as he's been on it so long, he doesn't dare stop taking it because several years' suppressed feelings all at once would be too painful to catch up on.
  • Real Quick Flash Fic has a story where a murderer is using meditation to try to supress his emotions; not with the greatest of success.
  • A spell in the Night Watch 'verse has a temporary effect like this. Known as the Bureaucratic Rat, the spell creates a construct that seeks out the target (like a real rodent) and bites it. The bite temporarily disconnects the person from all emotions. Since the Others' magic is tied directly to their emotions, the bitten is unable to use magic for about an hour, until the effect wears off. As a side effect, the person also tends to indulge in Spock Speak, hence the "bureaucratic" part of the name.
  • Doc Savage: The primary weapon of the villain in The Men Who Smiled No More is a drug that prevents its victims from feeling emotion. This makes the victim's very suggestable, and also capable of committing casual murder as they cannot see anything wrong with the act.
  • In The Pillars of Reality, the Mages teach their people to suppress all emotion (and indeed, that everything to which someone might emotionally react is just an irrelevant illusion anyway). Alain starts to lose this when he's forced to interact with someone outside his Guild, though he still remains The Stoic.
  • In Borderline by Mishell Baker, one magic-practicing character casts a spell to create a temporary familiar made up of all her cast-off emotions, that usually takes the form of a small, ghostly dragon-shaped spirit. When she does so, she becomes an Emotionless Girl, but all her feelings return when the spell ends. This makes it easier to do her job and cope with a variety of stressful situations, since she has PTSD from some very bad things that happened in her childhood, but the spell is very draining and makes it difficult for her to perform any other kind of magic while it is active. Nearly everyone in this book would benefit from it, since all the main characters have some kind of mental illness and a history of traumatic events in their pasts, and the protagonist, who has borderline personality disorder, is both awed and deeply envious when she sees the other character cast a spell to temporarily split off her emotions from the reasoning part of her mind.

    Live Action TV 
  • Star Trek': The Vulcan culture has Emotion Suppression at its core.
  • In Farscape, Crichton spends the first half of season 4 taking drugs which are intended to suppress his love for Aeryn. She's... not happy when she finds out.
  • Vampires in The Vampire Diaries have the ability to turn off their emotions, presumably to stop things like guilt getting in the way of their hunting. Apparently, this ability fades after a few centuries. In the first season finale Jeremy attempts to become a vampire so he can shut off his grief. In the third season Klaus compels Stefan into turning his off so he'll stop resisting his orders.
  • In Doctor Who The Cybermen have no emotions because they have them removed when they get changed; in the past series, this was due to being subsumed by the Cyberman Hive Mind system practiced by Cyber-Controllers and Cyber-Planners, and in the new, it is done through emotion-nulling firmware. Breaking them out of this ends with the Cyberman writhing in horrific pain as everything they've ever denied rushes into them.

    Tabletop RPG 

    Video Games 
  • Pokémon Diamond and Pearl: Cyrus, leader of the Team Galactic, is trying to create a universe with no emotions so that there would be no conflicts.
  • Digital Devil Saga has Gale, who stubbornly tries to remain an Emotionless Guy even though he keeps having intense hallucinations wracked with emotions he can't explain. When he finally explodes, the results are not pretty.
  • Tatsuya's scenario in Persona 2: Eternal Punishment reveals Izanami, in the Kadath Mandala, wears a mask that crushes her emotions. When questioned, she reveals that though her fury at being abandoned by Izanagi in Yomutsu Hirakasa has faded, her sorrow has not, and thus she keeps the mask on until she can be with Izanagi once more.
  • World of Warcraft has an odd case where a character does this to himself. According to legend, Emperor Shaohao expelled his negative emotions from his body (thus creating the Sha) in order to save Pandaria from the Shattering.
  • Koishi Komeiji was tired of being a Satori, a race of Youkai with extremely powerful mind-reading abilities, so she shut close her third eye. This thankfully sealed her mind-reading, but had the unforeseen side effect of shutting down her ability to read her own mind as well, taking her personality and emotions with it.

    Western Animation 
  • Teen Titans: Raven has to constantly suppress her emotions lest she lose control of her powers completely. Hence the meditation.