Learn English – Are there metaphoric expressions to express the frustration you feel when you are not allowed to speak up before people


In Japan we have a saying, “もの言わぬは腹膨るる業 – You feel like your stomach swelling, when you are not allowed to speak up (in public).”
The origin of this phrase can be traced back to “Tsurezuregusa – Essays in Idleness” written in 1330 – 31 by Buddhist hermit, Kenko Yoshida who was forced out of public activity in his early life, and still being in popular currency.

The phrase can be applied to the frustration people, particularly journalists, novelists, and poets in despotic countries feel as well .

Are there similar metaphoric phrases to express frustration you feel when you are silenced by someone else, say your teacher, boss in your office, political authorities, (or even close votes of the forum, ha, ha)? Or there’s no such expression in the countries where everyone can enjoy freedom of speech?

Best Answer

In English, we use several metaphors to express this feeling which arises from being forbidden to speak.

  • pent-up anger, trapped like an animal in a pen
  • bottled up anger, trapped like a fluid in a sealed container
  • stifled or smothered anger, stopped from healthy flow like a person who is suffocating

Bridle? Maybe. Literally, bridle, n., is the device for controlling a horse's head. Bridle, v., can mean to control a person or to control one's own visible reactions, as a rider controls a horse using a bridle (trans.). Or, it can mean to react with anger (not necessarily hidden) when one's will is interfered with (intrans.). The problem, then, is that bridled anger may be misunderstood to mean the act of bottling up an emotion, when what you meant was the resulting feeling.

Responding to the follow-up question about where we locate stifled anger: emotional reactions are located in the stomach not because of a cultural metaphor but because of a physical cause. Release of the stress hormone cortisol stimulates the body's “fight or flight” systems and disrupts other systems which might compete for resources, notably digestion. Extreme ongoing emotion can even cause evacuation of the digestive tract and bladder (the person may vomit, urinate, and defecate uncontrollably). This is thought to be an adaptation which enhances survival when one's life is threatened by an attacker.

In English, we often describe the experience of cortisol's effects as a visceral feeling, butterflies in the stomach, knot in the stomach, or sinking feeling in the pit of the stomach.

Several emotions can trigger the stress reaction, such as fear, anger, worry, and excitement. In the case of pent-up anger, the stress is continuous because the situation is unresolved, so we are likely to feel a knot in the stomach.