Magazine article USA TODAY

It's Okay to Keep Feelings Inside

Magazine article USA TODAY

It's Okay to Keep Feelings Inside

Article excerpt

Contrary to popular notions about what is normal or healthy, new research has found that it is okay not to express one's thoughts and feelings after experiencing a collective trauma, such as a school shooting or terrorist attack. In fact, people who choose not to express their feelings after such an event may be better off than those who do talk about their feelings, contends University at Buffalo (N.Y.) psychologist Mark Seery, whose study investigated the mental and physical effects of collective traumas on people who are exposed to a tragedy but who do not experience a direct loss of a friend or family member. It focused on people's responses to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, but the results may be generalized to include responses to other collective traumas.

The findings have important implications for expectations of how people should respond in the face of a collective trauma affecting a whole community or even an entire nation, indicates Seery, an assistant professor of psychology. He says the results should not be interpreted to mean that expressing one's thoughts and feelings is harmful or that if someone wants to express their emotions they should not do so. "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."

Seery points out that right after last year's tragic shootings at Virginia

Tech University, there were many "talking head" psychiatrists in the media describing how important it was to get all of the students expressing their feelings. …

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