Thursday, June 20, 2013

Feeling, Talking, Healing

Notes from Chapter 1 - Emotion, Disclosure, and Health:  An Overview
  • Traumatic experiences provoke mental and physical health problems
  • Talking about these experiences is beneficial
  • An important feature of therapy is that it allows individuals to translate their experiences into words
  • Writing about traumatic experiences produces improvements in immune function, drops in physician visits for illness, and better performance at school and work
  • Failure to talk or acknowledge significant experiences is associated with increased health problems, autonomic activity, and ruminations
  • Traumatic experiences affect basic cognitive and memory processes and the abilities to construct coherent narratives
  • The reason that we ruminate about events is because we are trying not to ruminate about them
  • Future-oriented worry may disrupt health, disclosure about the past may reduce worrying and improve health
  • One idea is that translating experiences into words forces some kind of structure to the experiences themselves
  • Through language individuals are able to organize, structure, and ultimately assimilate both their emotional experiences and the events that may have provoked the emotions
  • Talking about an event accomplishes two important goals:  1) Talking both reflects and reduces anxiety. 2) Repeated disclosure over time gradually promotes assimilation of the upsetting event.
  • Writing or talking about emotional events...in the laboratory...brings about striking reductions in blood pressure, muscle tension, and skin conductance during or immediately after the disclosure.  These biological effects are most apparent among participants who express emotion.
  • Inhibited emotional expressiveness in various parts of the body is linked to headache and back pain
  • The repression or inhibition of emotion is central to an understanding of disclosure.  In theory, individuals who attempt to confront traumatic experiences without acknowledging emotions should not benefit and could, perhaps, suffer from disclosure.
  • Whereas talking about a trauma may make the discloser feel better, it can make the listener feel worse
  • An overwhelming majority of people share most of their emotional experiences with others.  This natural tendency, however, is most likely to be blocked for the emotions of shame...social sharing is powerful in reducing anxiety and psychological distress with a variety of populations.
  • Many but not all cultures look favorably on the sharing of emotions.  In addition, the types of emotions and the modes of expression vary considerably.
  • Within Western culture, the disclosure of traumatic and emotional experiences can promote physical and psychological health.  The underlying mechanisms for this phenomenon are cognitive, emotional, biological, and social.
Pennebaker, J.W. (1995)  Emotion, Disclosure, & Health. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.

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