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This news item
supports a basic premise in this
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- that part of healthy grief is talking to empathic listeners about
reactions to significant losses (broken bonds). For more
perspective, see the comments after the article, and follow selected
reading further, pause and reflect - why are you reading this? What do
- Peter Gerlach, MSW
+ + +
Putting feelings into words makes sadness and
anger less intense, U.S. brain researchers said
on Wednesday, in a finding that explains why
talking to a therapist -- or even a sympathetic
bartender -- often makes people feel better.
They said talking about negative feelings
activates a part of the brain responsible for
impulse control. "This region of the brain seems
to be involved in putting on the brakes," said
University of California, Los Angeles researcher
Matthew Lieberman, whose study appears in the
journal Psychological Science.
He and colleagues scanned the brains of 30
people -- 18 women and 12 men between 18 and 36
-- who were shown pictures of faces expressing
They were asked to categorize the feelings in
words like sad or angry, or to choose between
two gender-specific names like "Sally or Harry"
that matched the face.
What they found is that when people attached
a word like angry to an angry-looking face, the
response in the amygdala portion of the brain
that handles fear, panic and other strong
emotions decreased. "This seems to dampen down
the response in these basic emotional circuits
in the brain -- in this case the amygdala,"
Lieberman said in a telephone interview.
What lights up instead is the right
ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, part of the
brain that controls impulses. "This is the only
region of the entire brain that is more active
when you choose an emotion word for the picture
than when you choose a name for the picture," he
He said the same region of the brain has been
found in prior studies to play a role in motor
control. "If you are driving along and you see a
yellow light, you have to inhibit one response
in order to step on the brake," he said. "This
same region helps to inhibit emotional responses
The results may alter the traditional view of
why talking about feelings helps.
"I think we all believe that by talking about
our feelings, we reach deep new insights, and
that understanding is what transforms us," he
"What we see is something that at first blush
is far more trivial. By simply putting the name
to an emotion, the person doesn't feel like
they've come to any new insight. And yet we see
this dampening response anyway."
while there likely are benefits to gaining
enhanced understanding, talking about feelings may do something more
basic. "It's not just the deep thoughts," he
said. "It's something about the way we are
Copyright © 2007 Reuters Limited. All
+ + +
From clinical research and therapeutic experience with
over 1,000 typical adults
and some kids since 1981,
I propose that
incomplete grief in adults and kids is one
of five major unrecognized
in typical troubled
U.S. families - specially in
biofamilies and average
lay or professional adults know the
incomplete grief or what to do about it.
in this site promotes healthy
for members of any family. It proposes seven
for healthy grieving. One requisite is the normal need to talk about
bonds), what they mean, and how the "loser" feels.
The brain-research summary above provides a factual explanation for the
idea that talking about our feelings helps to
reduce our emotional intensity ("feel better"). Note several things in this summary:
it focuses on emotions in general, not
just feelings related to mourning broken bonds (losses).
The summary suggests that "putting words
to feelings" alters brain function and moderates significant emotions
like sadness and anger. That implies that
repressing and withholding
feelings prolongs (and may amplify?) personal and family
An inference is that naming emotions out loud to another
person (vs. just thinking the words) promotes "impulse control."
This suggests the value of (a)
and being able to (b)
identify and (c) articulate (choose words to accurately describe)
various emotional responses. Implication: knowing many emotional
descriptors promotes "feeling better."
My clinical experience suggests that average adults and kids in
families often lack these three factors, which promotes the toxic
effects of incomplete ("complicated")
Unaware people who casually label emotions like rage, deep sadness,
guilt, shame, anger, hurt, frustration, and resentment as "negative" risk...
defensiveness, distrust, repression,
withholding, and denial of these reactions;
personal and family
that discourage healthy grief.
These lower family
which promotes psychological
- specially in minor kids.
An important implication: people who
want to give others the gifts of a stable two-person
nonjudgmentally to their current emotions can
increase their gifts by using accurate feeling words in their
summaries back to the speaker - e.g. "You're incredibly
hurt, frustrated, and
angered by your Aunt's gossiping about you!"
Also see this related
summary reporting that women
who chronically repress their thoughts and feelings in marital
conflicts are at significantly higher risk of
irritable bowel syndrome, and (premature) death.
Peter Gerlach, MSW
breathe, and reflect - why did you read this article? Did you get what you
needed? If not, what
you need? Who's
these questions - your
Lesson 3 /
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