It's okay to keep those feelings inside, new study suggestsFreudians promote the idea that repressing feelings causes them to smolder in the unconscious mind, causing neurosis many years ago. Research shows the opposite. The Freudian view is wrong.
Contrary to popular notions about what is normal or healthy, new research has found that it is okay not to express one's thoughts and feelings after experiencing a collective trauma, such as a school shooting or terrorist attack.
In fact, people who choose not to express their feelings after such an event may be better off than those who do talk about their feelings, according to University at Buffalo psychologist Mark Seery, Ph.D., lead author of a study to appear in the June issue of Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.
The study investigated the mental and physical effects of collective traumas on people who are exposed to a tragedy but who do not experience a direct loss of a friend or family member. It focused on people's responses to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but the results may generalize to include responses to other collective traumas.
If the assumption about the necessity of expression is correct -- that failing to express one's feelings indicates some harmful repression or other pathology -- then people who chose not to express should have been more likely to experience negative mental and physical health symptoms over time, the researchers point out.
"However, we found exactly the opposite: people who chose not to express were better off than people who did choose to express," Seery says.
Moreover, when the researchers looked only at people who chose to express their thoughts and feelings, and tested the length of their responses, they found a similar pattern. People who expressed more were worse off than people who expressed less.
Thursday, June 05, 2008
Better to repress feelings