Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Feelings. (whoa-whoa-whoa Fee-Lings)

So, according to a University of Buffalo study, it might be better to bottle up your feelings after a traumatic event than to go the trauma/grief counselling route.

The study followed 2,138 people who were closely affected by 9/11. About two thirds chose to talk about their trauma, while the rest didn’t. Turns out the ones who didn’t talk about it were much better off years later, while I guess the others were still talking about it.

This whole trauma counselling thing is relatively new. Every time there’s a school shooting or tragedy befalls someone in a community, counsellors are rushed to the scene.

I’ve often wondered if this was entirely healthy. I’ve found that children, (and a lot of men) don’t want to talk about stuff. They might have a couple of questions, but their natural instinct is just to get on with things. Maybe they have the right idea?

Language is a rational/cerebral medium. It’s great for expressing thoughts, beliefs, knowledge, but not so great for expressing feelings. And, the more intense the feelings, the less adequate language is to express them. Feelings are physical/emotional and can really only be expressed physically or emotionally.

So, you suffer a great trauma and spend years talking about it, but only become frustrated because nothing you or anyone else says can express (in all senses of the word) those feelings. The trauma takes on greater and more disturbing dimensions. Meanwhile the person who just let himself feel soon works through it in non-language directed ways.
Case Study #1: Sally’s home has been burglarized. She could:
a) Go to a support group and try to work through her feelings of anger, violation and fear; or
b) Hunt the bastard down and smack him upside the head with baseball bat when he least expects it.

Case Study #2: Jane is very attracted to Jim. She could:
a) Text Jim saying: im hot 4 U; or,
b) Invite him over and answer the door by tearing off her clothes and clutching him in a naked, four-limbed embrace whilst using her tongue in expressive and imaginative ways.


Jazz said...

I tend to go the guy route on this one. I don't like spilling my guts to every Tom Dick and Harry and it works well for me.

Just "getting on with things already" is the best therapy for me. I can't let it go if I talk about it constantly and nurture the hurt or trauma or whatever.

And I've never sunk into depression because of it, nor have I turned into a psychotic serial killer - so I guess I'm doing something right.

Hunters Glory said...

I would express my feelings on this read but it probably is not healthy.

We have always been told that talking about it is best. But I am not so sure (either) that it is. I think in time it may help, but you have to follow your heart and process things in your mind before verbally expressing or seeking answers.

Great read!

Anonymous said...

I like Case Study #2 and the second option. But then again, I have a warped mind sometimes.

JB said...

I think it's an 'individual' thing, which is why having counselling available could be a good thing, but forcing people into it wouldn't be.

Many years ago, I ended up hospitalized with some serious health problems - after a bad marriage and horrible job situation - all of which I kept 'bottled up'.

As you're only too aware, I rarely keep anything bottled up these days, but still only manage to stay out of the hospital by taking a series of very powerful drugs.

...Kidding about that last part.

Long story short - I don't believe in therapy for those who aren't seeking it.

XUP said...

Jazz – I’m with you. I think sometimes talking about things, getting input from others really does, as you say, “nurture” the pain/trauma, causing it to grow and morph into something that gets more and more difficult to deal with – because it’s really not even the original pain/trauma anymore. I’d be interested to know first hand if anyone has every really benefited from talking about a major issue.

Hunter – My point was that you can’t process feelings in your mind. Feelings, especially intense feelings, are visceral – they don’t translate into language and therefore cannot be processed by the mind by thinking or talking them through or writing them down. Intense feelings, I think, can only be processed physically/emotionally. If you can recall a time when you experienced intense feelings – even if you are a very skilled wordsmith, could you put those feelings into words? Words that come anywhere near to doing justice to those feelings? Wouldn’t something like primal scream or physical expression express those feelings more accurately? And by express, I mean not so much “describe” as expel or exorcise.

Chris – It’s a CASE STUDY, not a gift option!

JB – Interesting. I think you’re right that allowing your body to absorb all your psychic trauma isn’t healthy either. There has to be a better way of letting go of it than talking about it. As I keep saying, I don’t think talking is adequate. It must work for some people though, or they’d stop producing therapists, right?

Newsguy Bob said...

To hell with Jim! Can I have Jane's address?

Seriously, different strokes for different folks. When I have something bothering me, I write about it -- sometime on my blog, but I save the big, private ones for my own writing. It's not intended for anyone to ever read, but I find it very therapeutic.

That also works for big POSITIVE things in my life, that can't wait to be shared with another set of ears.

But that's just me.

JB said...

Actually, I often wondered who the therapists go to see after they've had a particularly gruelling day but then The Sopranos answered that one for me.
Peter Bogdanovich.

XUP said...

Bob - That's also what cats are for. They listen. They judge you harshly. Then they forget about it and lick their genitals.

JB - Other therapists, I think. There's no one nuttier than a therapist -- in my experience

Pearl said...

fabulous. the very study-type I was wondering if I could track down. thank you agent XUP.

A Happy Downtowner said...

Great post, food for thought. I'm of two minds about this and I think it really depends on the individual. I also think that "getting on with things/moving on" can only happen is one is ready to move on. Doesn't matter if you talk about it or not. But many people like to hide behind the bad stuff that happened to them because it's safe.

I talk about my feelings, and yes, sometimes I will rehash things and it might annoy my friends. But they don't show it too much and I love them for it. Strangely though, the HUGE stuff doesn't get talked about.

But really, who knows if you're moving on... you may seem like you still function (very easy to do) but deep down... right? And some guys can be as emotional, they just hide it better.

I'm a contradiction I know... and I like scenario #1 lol

XUP said...

Pearl – I’m intrigued. What are you working on?

HD – Yes, I like to think of my blog as “junk food for thought”. And, “the HUGE stuff doesn't get talked about” – which proves my point very nicely, I think. It’s very difficult to translate huge stuff into language.