A firefighter pauses on a bench as he works in lower Manhattan at the scene of the World
Trade Center terrorist attack, Sept. 11, 2001 (AP).

Bottling up Your Feelings May Be a Bonus

June 05, 2008 08:03 AM
by Rachel Balik
Americans who talked about their feelings after September 11 suffered longer than those who kept silent, making some psychologists wonder if silence is the best medicine.

30-Second Summary

Of 2,000 people polled in an online survey on September 11, 2001, and at intervals for the next two years, those who expressed their feelings did not heal as well as those who kept silent. The leader of the study, Mark Seery from the psychology department at the University of Buffalo concedes, “the people who were talking were probably more distressed by the event,” but says his findings are still significant.

After watching psychologists respond to the Virginia Tech shooting, he was unnerved by their insistence that everyone had to talk about their feelings. “It’s important to remember that not everyone copes with events in the same way, and in the immediate aftermath of a collective trauma, it is perfectly healthy to not want to express one's thoughts and feelings,” he said. However, trauma expert Nina K. Thomas warns that experiencing collective trauma is different than experiencing an individual one, and the people in Seery’s group may not have had a vivid enough experience of the event to provide sound results.

Some previous studies indicate that verbal processing of upsetting events can help the mind and body to cope, while others suggest that talking about a trauma has a long-term negative effect on a person’s ability to deal with it.

Headline Links: ‘Let’s Not Talk About It’

Opinion & Analysis: Pros and cons of holding your tongue

Reference: Posttraumatic stress disorder


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