Bottling up emotions may be good for you, research says
Hmmm...I wonder what they mean by better off?
Being the strong, silent type who bottles up feelings after a traumatic experience may be beneficial in the long run, suggests new research.
A study to appear in the June issue of the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology looked at the reactions of people after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the U.S.
The study subjects did not lose friends or relatives in the attacks.
Researchers at the University of Buffalo interviewed people on how they dealt with a large-scale traumatic event. They found those who didn't express their feelings were better off than the subjects who articulated their thoughts and expressed emotions.
The researchers say the findings contradict the popular view of many psychologists, that venting after a trauma is critical in coping with the event.
"This perfectly exemplifies the assumption in popular culture, and even in clinical practice, that people need to talk in order to overcome a collective trauma," said Mark Seery, lead author of the study, in a release.
"Instead, we should be telling people there is likely nothing wrong if they do not want to express their thoughts and feelings after experiencing a collective trauma. In fact, they can cope quite successfully and, according to our results, are likely to be better off than someone who does want to express his or her feelings."
Closing down not always good
The authors caution that the study in no way suggests all people should suppress their emotions after a stressful event. They say that for many individuals, articulating their feelings is therapeutic.
Instead, they emphasize that the findings point more to the absence of a need to force traumatized people to open up, when in fact their silence can be just as beneficial.
"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 said.