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 not-sad, not-angry, you know, emotionless.
- 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 ½ 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 (2012) 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.
- Similar examples to the above happen in Skeleton Knight In Another World:
- The titular character, Arc, wakes up in the form of his game character, an elf that has been customized to look like a skeleton knight, and finds that he doesn't feel emotions as intensely as he used to when he was human. When he bathes in the water of the Holy Crown, he temporarily regains the elf form his character originally had, and the return of a month's worth of emotions causes him to pass out for a while.
- Similarly, the pontiff of the Holy Hilk Kingdom is revealed to have been a skeleton for several years, similar to Arc, and the return of his emotions caused by Arc dousing him with water from the Holy Crown causes him to age rapidly and then crumble into dust.
- In Angel Beats! Heaven's Door, Yusa voluntarily undergoes this.
- Mob from Mob Psycho 100 suppresses his emotions to prevent his Psychic Powers from going haywire and hurting the people around him. When he first met Dimple, the latter mocked him for his stunted emotions until he couldn't hold back his Rage any longer and, well...
- In One Piece, Sanji's brothers Ichiji, Niji and Yonji had their ability to feel and understand empathy surgically removed by their Abusive Parent Judge while in utero, so he could weaponize them. Their mother, Sora, took a gene modification-reversing drug to save her sons, but for some reason, the drug only worked on Sanji. The other three have just a tiny shred of humanity left, which up until now has only showed once: when the three guys freaked out over Big Mom's "living library".
- In the Blackest Night event, the focal characters use this to avoid the Black Lanterns, who pursue characters with strong emotions (before triggering them and ripping out their hearts).
- To deal with her life, Maika from Monstress appears to experience no emotions besides hunger and rage. It's unclear - even to her - whether her other emotions are gone or just suppressed.
- In Runaways, Nico once magically stripped Klara of her emotions in an attempt to rein in her powers, which were going haywire as the result of Klara suffering a panic attack. in the short term, this worked out sort of okay, but in the long term, it turned Klara into even more of a nervous wreck.
- One arc of the "threeboot" Legion Of Superheroes saw several of the Legionnaires trying to lead a Ragtag Bunch of Misfits against a well-organized team of supervillains. In an effort to boost their chances, Saturn Girl used her powers to suppress the misfits' ability to feel fear.
- The Guardians of the Universe, when preparing plans for their new Internal Affairs officers, decided to include protocols to this effect as part of the cyborg conversion, represented by a permanent link to the Book of Oa, intended to make them perfect, impartial and logic-driven, since by then they'd begun to fear all emotions except willpower and they felt restricting them would only improve the officers they envisioned. To no one's surprise, the conversion wound up creating idiotic martinets without any emotions to back up their willpower, with the added downside of making them extremely vulnerable to Demonic Possession and even common hacking.
- In some continuities this is how Kryptonian culture is depicted. They've Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions but also everything else not related to cold rational science, sometimes to the point of replacing sex with artificial reproduction. Jor-El for his part is a cultural rebel and one of the motivations for sending his son to Earth is that humans are like what Kryptonians used to be instead of what they are now.
- Child of the Storm has the tragic example of Maddie Pryor, who was raised to be a Tyke Bomb by Essex, a cold, unfeeling, and obedient Human Weapon without anything in the way of a normal moral compass - the fic even notes how traditional fairytales were given a Hard Truth Aesop to reinforce the 'human terminator' mentality. The level of control reaches More Than Mind Control levels; even after months, if not years, of Gambit working every wile and charm he has on her to encourage her to embrace the fact that she is a person, not just a weapon, it takes a while to get through to her that she is more than just a weapon. Even after her epiphany and HeelFace Turn, she's very reserved, quite shy, and has a lot of trouble dealing with her newfound emotions. All of this, when contrasted with Jean Grey (her twin sister, who she was stolen from at birth), is played as tragically as possible.
- Enforced upon all Psyches in Psychelia (including Empath) in Empath: The Luckiest Smurf. Even information about emotions is suppressed.
- Advice and Trust: Rei has been unwittingly doing this to herself with various pharmaceuticals until Asuka and Shinji find out and convince her to stop.
- Shigeko Kageyama AKA Mob Reigen, after he develops empathy powers as a consequence of borrowing Mob's powers during the 7th Division arc, has to control his emotions of he'll write them to other people. Instead of learning emotional control his actually regresses as it's easier to hide in Mob's aura. This comes back to bite him in the separation arc as without having Mob to hide within he then drinks to suppress his emotions.
- Equilibrium takes place in a society where people have to use 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. It did not end well: the entire race almost died out because of no desire to love and procreate.
- Project Itoh: Genocidal Organ. The Super Soldiers have B.E.A.R (Battle Emotion Adaptive Regulation) enabling them to stay calm in combat conditions and kill without remorse. The plot involves the soldiers hunting a linguistic expert who's developed a language of genocide that he claims works in a similar manner to B.E.A.R by repressing the conscience, enabling ordinary people to commit atrocities.
- Voyage of the Rock Aliens: Everyone from the aliens' home planet has to go through an emolectomy, a procedure that removes their ability to feel emotions. It makes life much simpler, especially when they're doing taxes. It does have to be refreshed after charged experiences, like a romance with an earthling.
- The Black Witch Chronicles: Light Mage reveals that the Alfsigr give every child a pendant, the Zalyn'or, at the age of 12 that has this effect. Anyone who refuses to wear it is either exiled or imprisoned.
- 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.
- Nezumi in Broken Gate has done a very extreme version of this, as she disregarded anything not related to guarding the gate, in which case, she cut off her own thoughts and feelings, emotions included, turning her into an Emotionless Girl who could no longer feel nor express them.
- 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, rendering him emotionless and logical.
- 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.
- The ability to suppress or control one's emotions is a common ability in the Dune series, often as a result of training and meditation. The most famous example is the Litany Against Fear, a Survival Mantra whose associated mental exercises are used by the Bene Gesserit order to suppress fear.
- 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 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.
- Journey to Chaos: Ordercrafters face this as an occupational hazard because the source of their power, Order, is a god without emotion. The longer they are ordercrafters and the more they use their power, the more their emotions are suppressed until they can't feel anything at all. They have ways of managing this, such as aid from a chaotic deity.
- 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.
- 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.
- A spell in the Night Watch (Series) '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.
- 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 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 the Tamora Pierce series Protector of the Small, Kel keeps her emotions under tight control at all times, reciting mantras in her mind to keep her face blank even in the face of the harshest bullying. She learned this from the Japan-like Yamani culture in which she was raised, and though the boys training for knighthood alongside her nickname her "the Yamani Lump " for it, it constantly works to her advantage, as she keeps a cool, practical head in battle and never lets her enemies or other detractors see any vulnerability to use against her.
- 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.
- 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.
- The society of the Grey Men from the The Stainless Steel Rat series by Harry Harrison includes indoctrinating their youth into being totally emotionless. In The Stainless Steel Rat Wants You!, the hero finds the home planet of the Grey Men; he describes an eerily quiet classroom full of schoolchildren (no smiling, no laughter, no gum-chewing), with two posters on the wall reading "DO NOT SMILE" and "DO NOT FROWN".
- Star Wars Legends:
- Jedi 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.
- "Dissociation" in Strata is a type of meditation with this effect.
- 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.
- We Are Legion (We Are Bob): Since most strong emotions come from glands, which are simulated for the replicants anyway, replicants are fitted with an endocrine suppressor program to keep them from feeling much more than "deep concern". Bob removes it soon after he leaves Sol, but turns it back on for battles.
- The Witchlands: In Nomatsi culture, a proper Threadwitch is supposed to do this, called "stasis". Iseult constantly strives for this because, as she can't do everything a Threadwitch is supposed to do, she sees herself as a failure.
- The Chuck episode "Chuck vs the Tic Tac" revolves around an emotion-suppressing pill called the Laudenol, which military soldiers used to take to be stronger warriors in battle. Casey was blackmailed into delivering it to his former commanding offer to save the life of his ex-fiancée. Towards the end of the episode, Chuck swallows the pill and it unleashes the full power of the Intersect (due to Chuck's feelings always getting in the way) allowing him to dispatch an entire army of goons in less than a few seconds.
- 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.
- 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.
- The Magicians: Battle magic requires cold focus to be used reliably—without excessive training, it comes in fits and starts. However, hedge witches sometimes use a loophole: They literally bottle up their emotions, turning themselves into deadpan automatons but allowing them to easily use battle magic. The problem is that when you stop bottling up your emotions, you get hit with all of them at once, and it hits hard. The main characters end up collapsed in their rooms crying for hours.
- Star Trek: The Vulcan culture has Emotion Suppression at its core. While it's widely believed in-universe that Vulcans are emotionless, and they're generally fine with letting others believe that, the reality is that Vulcans are innately more emotional than humans and most other intelligent species. After having experienced centuries of warfare in which they descended into savagery, Vulcan society became focused on strictly controlling their emotions in order to keep the peace.
- 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.
- Call of Cthulhu supplement The Asylum and Other Tales, adventure "The Asylum". One of the drugs Doctor Freygan has developed is called Mood Flattener. It temporarily suppresses all emotion in the recipient, whether positive or negative.
- Warhammer 40,000: Many factions. The Space Marines and the Death Corps of Krieg actually have cybernetic augments that pump emotion-dulling drugs through their bloodstream. The Craftworld Eldar do this through training alone, and they need to otherwise their souls will be claimed by Slaanesh.
- 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.
- In Creepy Castle, Darking intend to use a device called the Heartbreaker which removes emotions to achieve world peace.
- 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.
- The Dragon Age series has "the Tranquil": mages who have been entirely cut off from the Fade in order to prevent demonic possession. However, this not only robs them of their use of magic but also renders them entirely emotionless. Tranquil retain their memories of their former selves, but they lack any form of emotional response whatsoever, not only those such as happiness or fear but even boredom. Nonetheless they remain independent thinkers, and can think logically (they will not simply let themselves be killed, for instance). Tranquil often adopt a placid smile as a default expression - not because they actually feel contentment, but because they know it puts others at ease and facilitates their work when interacting with others (many find the emotionally dead expression disconcerting). Reactions in-game are mixed. Some characters are horrified by the procedure. Others consider that if the alternatives were demonic possession or execution, becoming Tranquil was preferable. Asking the Tranquil themselves what they think gets the predictable response that they don't mind what they've become, but by definition the state they are in renders that answer meaningless. However the one Tranquil, who had temporarily regained his emotions due to proximity to a Fade spirit, begged to be killed before he became Tranquil again.
- 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.
- In Final Fantasy VI, Shadow tells Terra Branford that there are many people like him who have killed their emotions and warns her against forgetting that, implying that he thinks she'd be wise to not do the same.
- Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots has this as a central plot point, as the SOP system used by PMCs suppresses emotions like fear, sorrow, anger and happiness in order to keep control over them. When Liquid Ocelot's failed hack causes the System to go down, the soldiers' emotions return, causing them to react to everything they've done all at once. Needless to say, it's not pleasant.
- A positive example in RWBY. Ren's Semblance temporarily calms the negative emotions of himself and others. Since the Grimm are attracted to such emotions, they are unable to sense him while it is active, even if they're looking straight at him. This makes it an invaluable tool when it comes to protecting groups of unarmed civilians.
- Magus of El Goonish Shive has a "Calm" spell that suppresses emotions. He uses it to keep Ashley from panicking after he possesses Elliot and kidnaps her. Bluntness is a known side-effect.
- Girl Genius: Suppressing emotions that are dangerous distractions in the moment is part of a Smoke Knight's training, they have to do so consciously however and if the thing they were emotional about has lasting repercussions like the death of a friend they can be emotional about it later.
Varpa: Smoke feels nothing.
- Lines Uncrossed: Speedy implies that he uses Xanax to stop feeling everything.
- Violet from Monster Pulse is introduced as an Emotionless Girl, implied to be a product of the monsterization of her brain (as a picture from before shows her smiling). She later reveals she's actually forced to suppress her emotions because they are now amplified to unhealthy levels.
- Teen Titans: Raven has to constantly suppress her emotions lest she lose control of her powers completely. Hence the meditation.
- In an episode of Fairly OddParents, Timmy wishes to have emotions removed and stored in a box. This effectively makes him completely fearless and popular, until he realizes that it's not so great if you don't have any emotions to enjoy it with.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender:
- The page quote is about Mai, who appears unemotional because of her strict and controlling parents.
- In "The Serpent's Pass", Aang acts uncharacteristically emotionally withdrawn for the entire episode in response to losing Appa and his Heroic RRoD about it in the previous episode. He even agrees with the pass's warning about "Abandon hope", because being too optimistic will set you up for disappointment, right? In the climax, Katara tells him that it's okay to hurt and he should never stop caring, and He's Back when the characters-of-the-day give birth to a healthy baby girl.
- Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated: In one episode, Fred breaks down over the possibility that Daphne may have gotten hurt and scolds himself for caring too much, wishing he was as unfeeling and cold like his father. Daphne overhears and takes it the wrong way, causing a rift between them for the entire episode. Fred eventually realizes that he does care for Daphne and that it's okay, leading to them making amends by the end of the episode.
- My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: In the episode All Bottled Up, after Trixie accidentally teleports Twilights enchanted map table to who knows where and spends most of the episode making light of it despite the potential for it to get Starlight into a great deal of trouble, Starlight deals with her mounting anger with Trixie by magically siphoning off her negative emotions into a bottle whenever it seems like she might lose control. This works fine, until the bottle breaks.
- Elena of Avalor: In the episode "Dreamcatcher", Elena determines that the best way to control her new Emotional Powers, especially in light of Esteban's betrayal and the discovery of his role in the death of her parents, is to suppress her emotions. We even get a neat song to go with it, though the events of the episode show that this is Not Quite the Right Thing to do. An Aesop of the episode is delivered by Elena realizing that the real solution is to confront her issues about Esteban so that she can have proper closure.
The only thing to do to keep those around me safe
Is to lock my feelings up inside and make sure they don't escape!
I must hide all my emotion,
For they cause too much commotion
From now on, stay cool and calm,
No waves in this here ocean,
So get used to the notion,
Of this path that I have chosen:
Keep my feelings to myself,
They're better left unspoken.
- Care Bears In The Land Without Feelings is about a boy, Kevin, who feels so terrible about having to move that he decides he won't care about anything or anyone anymore.