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Repression Never Ends Well

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Everyone needs a chance to release, to let everything out and vent. However, oftentimes people either can't or won't for a multitude of reasons. In these cases, characters might end up as Stepford Smilers as they try to pretend everything is fine, only to lash out later on.

What exactly the person is repressing varies from case to case, but the end result will always be a large outburst, albeit with different repercussions. If it's emotional, the person might finally snap and start screaming; if it's supernatural, the person might suddenly start unleashing Personality Powers uncontrollably.

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Exactly why a character would hide something about themselves similarly varies, it could simply be chalked up to embarrassment, or in a more extreme case, they may very well be killed. Occasionally, in more lighthearted situations, characters will repress things, usually anger, only for others to force them to vent in order to avoid worse consequences. However, it's also possible for the character to have some kind of limit to how much they can repress, sometimes leading to a Rant-Inducing Slight or Did You Think I Can't Feel? moment.

Compare and contrast Rage Breaking Point where a normally calm character is provoked enough to become enraged. However, to qualify for this particular trope the character does not necessarily need to be angered, they can be terrified, grief-stricken, etc. Might overlap with Beware the Nice Ones or Beware the Quiet Ones if the character is usually pretty friendly or silent, Pent-Up Power Peril if superpowers happen to come out as well, or Angst Nuke in the case that the backlash is extremely destructive. Can also result in an Anguished Outburst. Can lead to Cathartic Crying.

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Examples:

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Retsuko does this on a regular basis in Aggretsuko. She's an Extreme Doormat who constantly tries to keep her coworkers, whom she can't stand, happy. This causes her to lash out very angrily through death metal.
  • Beastars: Riz the brown bear suffers horrible migraines as a result of medicine he takes to keep his strength in check. He keeps this in check using honey, but the migraines do exacerbate Riz's aggressive nature, something he fights to keep in control. Unfortunately, a slip-up with his medication left him unprepared for rejection by his friend Tam the alpaca, resulting in Riz devouring the other student before the story began.
  • My Hero Academia: Himiko's quirk, Transform, allows her to shapeshift into people whose blood she's consumed, giving her an intense fixation with blood. As a child, her parents were disturbed by her and forced Himiko to suppress her urges, putting pressure on her to be normal. However, in middle school she witnessed a boy (who was also her crush) get bloody in a fight, at which point she could no longer contain her bloodlust and killed him before drinking his blood. Not long after, she left home and became a villain.
  • Promare: Discussed by Galo and Lio. Galo asks why the Burnish can't just try to control their urge to burn things, but Lio explains it's not that simple and it's something the Burnish can't hold back. Kray actively represses his link to the Promare and thinks he's inherently better than the other Burnish because of this, but it seems to have had major psychological consequences for him. As a college student, he wasn't able to get it under control and accidentally set fire to a building.
  • Shimoneta: Anna Nishikinomiya's parents made it a mission to shelter her from any and all sexual obscenities, unaware that their actions were causing severe damage to their daughter's mental and emotional health. When Tanukichi Okuma accidentally kisses her, he inadvertently unleashes all the repressed urges within Anna, turning her into a psychotic and violent sexual predator with eyes only for him.

    Comic Books 
  • Astonishing X-Men: Cyclops copes with his childhood trauma by voluntarily choosing to let his powers run wild, thus giving himself something to constantly focus on and try to control in a moment when his life is falling apart due to events beyond his understanding. When Emma Frost forcibly makes Cyclops remember his decision and exposes him to all his repressed fears and insecurities, he sheds a Single Tear before falling into a catatonic state.
  • Professor X, founder of the X-Men, has a rather nasty and repeated habit of trying to suppress every bad thought and feeling he ever had until it ultimately forms an evil split personality. Cases of this include the lead-up to the original Phoenix Saga (when he was haunted by visions of what'd turn out to be Lilandra calling for help), where it formed mental constructs of the original X-Men to combat the then-current team; the X-Men vs. Micronauts miniseries, where it was the Big Bad; and the Onslaught crossover as the titular Big Bad (only with influence from Magneto's mind).
  • Young Avengers: Loki is guilt-ridden over having manipulated events so he could take advantage of his young, previous self and kill him. It causes him to hallucinate his previous self taunting him before things take a turn for the worse and his guilt causes him to unconsciously use his magic to create constructs of the Young Avengers' exes which attack everyone until Loki finally fesses up.
  • Parodied in Knight and Squire #4, in which Knight's repressed emotions take control of his armour and attack Shrike, a sort-of-villain who is dating Squire. Being British, Knight defeats the armour by repressing these feelings further, despite his American butler's advice to the contrary.

    Fan Works 
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    Films — Animation 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Chronicle: Andrew spends the entirety of the movie bottling up his anger and anxieties from being abused by his father and being bullied at school, all the while refusing to seek help with his issues. Andrew's breaking point is when he is hospitalized and his dad appears to berate and try to hurt him over his mother's death, with Andrew going from trying to kill his father to going on a rampage through the city with his powers.
  • X-Men Film Series: Upon realizing Jean's limitless potential, Xavier grows afraid that she might one day be consumed by her powers and represses them by placing her under several psychic barriers. However, this has the side-effect of creating the Phoenix, a Split Personality who embodies her rage and lust, but lays dormant within Jean's subconscious for several years. Once the psychic locks are shattered, the Phoenix manifests itself as a murderous force of nature who furiously blames Xavier for messing with her head.

    Literature 
  • Harry Potter: Obscurials are wizards who consciously repressed their powers as a result of abuse or prejudice. During moments of distress, their pent-up power causes them to involuntarily transform into a highly destructive magical force that embodies their fury and despair.
  • Discussed in the Junie B. Jones book "And Some Sneaky Peeky Spying". Junie B. catches her teacher (known only as "Mrs.") secretly eating a grape from the store without paying. Not wanting Mrs. to get in trouble, she keeps this to herself, but Lucille warns her that if she keeps a secret, her head will explode.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Jake and Boyle arrogantly believe they can manage an eight-day stakeout without a relief team. Unfortunately, they quickly realize how hellish it really is, but in order to prove themselves right, they pretend everything is fine and formulate a No-No List to ban potentially annoying behaviors. This only make things worse and eventually results in a massive fight between the two as they are unable to keep it together any longer.
  • In Curon, anytime someone tries to completely repress their "inner self," it rises from the lake as an Evil Twin that tries to Kill and Replace them to live the life they tried to deny it.
  • The Odd Couple episode "Sleepwalker", Oscar's girlfriend, Dr. Nancy Cunningham, talks him into trying to exercise more patience with Felix, in the interest of decreasing his own stress. Oscar suppresses his desire to lash out at his roommate when he annoys him. However, the hostility comes to the fore while he sleeps, leading to him sleepwalking and hitting Felix with a newspaper nightly.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series:
    • In Star Trek, Vulcans suffer from an intense mating drive, coupled with a total loss of control, every seven years. While this might appear to be just Bizarre Alien Biology, Dr. McCoy theorizes during "Amok Time" that the race pays for their complete repression the rest of the decade with this madness. Given that Romulans (Vulcans who split off from the planet when emotional repression became the norm) are never mentioned as suffering from ponn farr, he may have a point.
    • In "Plato's Stepchildren", Kirk and McCoy are trying to help Spock recover from the trauma of being controlled by the Platonians. When McCoy says that releasing emotions helps keep one emotionally healthy, Spock just answers that it's often unhealthy for people nearby.
  • An episode of Superstore has Amy forced to come into work directly after having a baby. She tries her best to keep it together despite having barely slept for several days and being severely enraged over her circumstances. It all comes to a head when Glenn mistakenly believes a bath bomb will solve her problems and she finally screams at him to commit suicide.
  • The Umbrella Academy: Vanya's emotions have been repressed via drugs since she was a child. The result? When she goes off her meds and realizes she has superpowers, which have also been repressed by her sister Allison's Compelling Voice, she is furious and lashes out with them, nearly killing Allison.

    Music 
  • This trope is the entire foundation behind Pink Floyd's The Wall. The Anti-Hero protagonist, aptly named Pink Floyd (meant to be an expy of both Syd Barrett and Roger Waters), has faced trauma ever since he was born and his father was killed in World War II. Since childhood, he's been building a metaphorical wall brick-by-brick to shield him from the world's strife, and come his adulthood as a famed rockstar and the news of his wife cheating on him, he completes his wall to utter radio silence. As he sinks deeper and deeper into isolation, he reflects on everything that brought him to this point, only to be intervened by a doctor that his manager hired to get him into shape for an upcoming concert. This throws Pink over the edge, and he becomes a manifestation of the very thing that kickstarted his trauma in the first place, a raging neo-Nazi. At this point, Pink has a Heel Realization of becoming a monster from his pent-up frustrations through his isolation, and through a metaphorical court trial, he relents and tears down his wall once and for all.

    Video Games 
  • Genshin Impact: In the webcomic, after befriending Amber, Collei is guilt-ridden for causing the Black Fire Incident but is unable to tell her friend which, along with her self-loathing and Demonic Possession, becomes too much for the girl to bear. Eventually, unable to deal with shame and being overwhelmed by the creatures inside her, Collei tells Kaeya to kill her. Luckily, Amber does not allow this to happen.
  • In Night in the Woods, as a teenager Mae started suffering from some form of disassociation disorder, which went untreated and eventually caused her to put another kid in hospital during a softball game. The local doctor was pretty much the only avenue of treatment her parents had for her, and since he wasn't a psychiatrist, he didn't do much aside from having Mae write a journal and "suppress her anger". As a result, when she left for university while she didn't have another attack, she couldn't function in this new environment, and basically spent two years crying in her room, before coming home at the start of the game.
  • Persona 4: The nature of the cognitive world embodies this trope; any human who stays in that world for too long risks everything that they're ashamed of manifesting in the form of a doppelganger, or rather, a Shadow. These Shadows are hostile to their other selves, happily proclaiming everything that they keep locked in the darkness of their hearts, such as Kanji's 'unmanly' interests and Naoto's real gender and her fears of never being taken seriously as a detective. It comes to a head when—not if, when their other selves deny that the Shadows are part of them, at which point the Shadows go berserk and turn into monsters; the only way to pacify the Shadows is for the owners to accept them as parts of themselves, which is how they turn into Personas.
  • Persona 5:
    • The Awakenings of the characters in a nutshell. The whole theme of the game is rebellion, as the protagonist and the other party members are repressed in various ways by society and their peers, and they cannot express themselves and their desires in order to fit the mold - which they cannot do anyway. Therefore, their Personas represent their "rebellious spirit", and they awaken when they finally have enough of the repression they suffered. It also always overlaps with Rage Breaking Point, as said Awakenings are also triggered by anger:
      Ryuji: Stop lookin' down on me with that STUPID SMILE ON YOUR FACE!
      Ann: You've pissed me off, you son of a bitch!
      Yusuke: My eyes were truly blind...blind, and unable to see the true self behind this one horrible man!
      Makoto: Shut your damn mouth, you money-grubbing asshole!
      Futaba: I'LL NEVER FORGIVE THEM!
      Haru: I am no longer your subservient puppet!
    • A few Confidants in the game also suffer from this. Moon Confidant Yuuki Mishima has an entirely different problem. He was one of Kamoshida's favorite victims, so when the Phantom Thieves formed and brought him down, he became one of their biggest fans and supporters. And while he was helpful throughout the game with providing less-major targets, he was still insecure in and of himself, eventually manifesting a Shadow. Fortunately, it doesn't take much to stir his conscience and make him more self-confident.
    • Hanged Man Confidant Munehisa Iwai is a former Yakuza member who entered that life because his own parents were less than adequate. He quit the life of crime and became a legitimate (if shady) businessman when he adopted a baby boy, but the problems from his own parents made him unwilling to tell his son the truth about his past for risk of putting him through the same kind of hell. This ignorance is what gets Kaoru involved when Iwai's past comes back to bite him.

    Visual Novels 
  • Ace Attorney: A culprit's defeat is signaled by a special cutscene in which all their fear, rage, or guilt culminates in an over-the-top, dramatic breakdown. In Kristoph Gavin's case, his repressed anger towards Phoenix Wright reaches its climax when his stoic appearance shatters and he loudly screams the protagonist's surname, before his remaining sanity is lost and he starts laughing uncontrollably.
  • Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair: Mikan acts submissive and timid, allowing everyone to walk all over her as a result of the bullying she endures. In Chapter 3, in her panic upon being discovered as the Blackened, Mikan turns into a shrieking mess, lashing out angrily at everyone for picking on her and demanding forgiveness. She even gets Nagito to shut up with an Armor-Piercing Response, which is quite the feat.
  • Hanako from Katawa Shoujo is indeed aware that Hisao and Lilly pity her for her timidity, and she is not pleased about it. However, she doesn't really call either of them out for this, until her Bad Ending, when she snaps at Hisao and yells at him to get out of her room (and by extension, her life). Hisao feels terrible about it, and as for Hanako after that outburst, she has tears in her eyes, implying that she feels bad about exploding at him, too.

    Web Animation 
  • Epithet Erased: Subverted. Molly puts up with her dad and sister's neglect while running the toy store all by herself, and constantly keeps a calm facade while letting them walk all over her. Word of God is Giovanni, who teaches her to do what she wants and to speak her mind, is the only thing preventing Molly from lashing out violently in a few years.

    Web Comics 
  • The Glass Scientists: Featured heavily regarding Jekyll and Hyde. Jekyll heavily represses the aspects of his personality he deems 'wrong' to play the part of a perfect gentleman and benefit the Society. Unfortunately, this makes him miserable, and unable to cope with the stress any longer, he creates Hyde- a separate personality containing all of his worst traits. However, it's later revealed that Hyde isn't really pure evil and only lacks Jekyll's inhibitions, causing him to act on the doctor's repressed desires, making him immensely impulsive and destructive.
  • Paranatural:
    • Implied to be the case with Mr. Spender and the shadow spirit. He and Lucifer try to contain the spirit possessing him, but he refuses to seek outside help even when it's clear he can't hold it back forever and when it comes out, it's not going to be pretty.
    • Isabel has a lot of anger towards her grandfather for holding her to an impossibly high standard for a child and berating her whenever she can't meet his expectations. When Ed doesn't stick up for her on top of losing Eightfold in chapter four, she decides to bottle up her problems for the majority of chapter five. She finally starts releasing them when she confronts Isaac who is on a similarly impossible path of getting everything out, and wails on Hijack.
  • In Schlock Mercenary Petey, the AI for the Post-Dated Check Loan is ordered into repression and denial of the four centuries he spent locked out of his own systems ruminating on the noises in his plumbing that sounded like the ghosts of his dead crew. When the Ob'enn Empire recaptures him the orders Tagon gave him are canceled and he self-destructs after giving his new captain just enough time for an Oh, Crap! moment.

    Western Animation 
  • American Dad!: Roger's alien species must act nastily, otherwise their "bitchiness turns into bile and poisons (them)". After he spends an entire episode repressing his evil impulses and making a genuine effort to be kind, he is bed-ridden and on the verge of death. To save himself, he delivers a massive, brutal "The Reason You Suck" Speech to Steve, which completely heals him.
  • In the Arthur episode "Meek for a Week", Francine is dared to be polite for a week. However, she has no idea how to express her emotions diplomatically and as a result, she stuffs her emotions. Her friends think this is unhealthy and will lead to her "popping".
  • Batman: The Animated Series: Two-face's origin is a result of Harvey Dent repressing his anger since childhood. This resulted in a Split Personality, "Big Bad Harv", that he mostly kept under control. It isn't until his disfigurement during Rupert Thorne's attempt at blackmailing him that the Two-Face personality takes control with Harvey Dent occasionally breaking through. Gets taken Up to Eleven in the episode "Judgement Day" where Two-Face repressing Harvey Dent for so long, especially his passion for justice, resulted in a third personality forming. The Judge, a Vigilante Man that treats all crimes as punishable by death.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • In "All Bottled Up", Starlight Glimmer tries to suppress her anger, but, being a unicorn, this anger turns into a cloud of magic. This magic eventually spreads to other people, making them mad.
    • In "Horse Play", Twilight invites Princess Celestia to take part in her play, only to realize that Celestia can't act at all. She tries to hide this from her mentor, on top of dealing with many other problems, until finally, she explodes and rants about how Celestia is "the worst actress in the history of Equestria" - with Celestia listening from behind the curtain.
  • Mysticons: The episode "Quest Of The Vexed" has Emerald secretly using a device called a Vex-Away canister designed to literally bottle up her anger, and unknowingly ends up stuffing it dangerously beyond capacity. Things go awry when Emerald loses the device and it starts leaking, infecting all animals and people within range with her suppressed anger, including the citizens of Drake City.
  • Regular Show: In "Think Positive", Pops tells Benson that he'll be fired if he yells at Mordecai and Rigby again, leading him to repress his anger at their antics. He eventually holds in so much rage, that he risks exploding and destroying everything, leaving Pops no choice but to allow him to lose it, resulting in an epic chewing-out that literally deafens Mordecai and Rigby.
  • She-Ra and the Princesses of Power: All her life, Catra was emotionally and physically abused by Shadow Weaver and kept in Adora's shadow, but pretended to be fine with being in Adora's shadow, who was completely oblivious to it. Unfortunately, when Adora leaves for the Rebellion, Catra sees it as a personal affront, with her best friend and crush abandoning and completely devaluing her, motivating Catra to lash out by attacking the Rebellion.
    Adora: You always said you didn't care about things like that.
    Catra: Well I was lying, obviously!
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "I Am Furious (Yellow)", Homer is offended by Bart's Internet cartoon based on his angry outbursts and decides to hold in his anger, causing lumps to develop on his neck. Eventually, one of Bart's pranks makes Homer rampage through town and cause millions of dollars in property damage, but it's soon revealed that the boils on his neck would have killed him had he not been set off.
    • Discussed by Lisa and Homer in "Whacking Day''.
      Homer: Just squeeze your rage into a bitter little ball and release it at an appropriate time. Like that day I hit the referee with a whiskey bottle. Remember that?
      Lisa: Yeah.
      Homer: When Daddy hit the referee?
      Lisa: Yeah.
    • "Hurricane Neddy" reveals that Ned Flanders used to be a brat until he was subjected to eight months of continuous spanking. This "treatment" made Ned unable to express anger, as any attempt would result in him subconsciously ending his sentences with nonsensical jabbering, namely his Verbal Tics "diddly" and "doodly". After being pushed too far, Ned erupts from years of suppressed rage and viciously berates his friends and neighbors, being committed to a mental hospital immediately afterward.
  • 6teen: In "One Quiet Day", the gang points out that Jen's biggest flaw is being too judgmental and makes a bet that she cannot go a day without criticizing their actions. For most of the episode, Jen struggles not to say anything as her friends deliberately perform irresponsible or reprehensible acts, before she finally gives in and breaks into a long, rambling speech about how prone they are to making poor decisions.
  • The storyline of Steven Universe: Future has Steven trying to hide his trauma from the original series and avoiding dealing with his problems. The episode "Everything's Fine" really drives the lesson home as Steven runs around trying to help people whilst in obvious psychological distress, with his powers eventually going out of control and transforming him into a monster.
  • Teen Titans: in the episode "Fear Itself" The titans watch a scary movie together, and Raven won't admit it frightened her. This becomes a problem when she loses control of her powers and the monsters from the movie come to life.

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