Coping: The Psychology of What Works

By C. R. Snyder | Go to book overview

4
Sharing One's Story Translating Emotional Experiences into Words as a Coping Tool

Joshua M. Smyth James W. Pennebaker


The Basic Paradigm and Results

Within the domains of psychosomatic medicine and health psychology there are two major treatment approaches that have been found to benefit health: Relaxation and talk therapies. Relaxation approaches, including hypnosis, biofeedback, meditation, yoga, and the relaxation response, have consistently been found to improve mood, immune function, and physical health (1, 2, 3). Similarly, basically all forms of talk therapy--from psychoanalysis to cognitive/behavioral therapies--have been shown to reduce psychological distress and promote both physical and mental well-being (4, 5). Most therapies include the labeling of the problem and a discussion of its causes and consequences as part of the therapeutic process. Participating in therapy also presupposes that the individual recognizes a problem exists and discusses it with another. We will argue that the act of disclosure itself is a powerful therapeutic agent that may account for much of the healing process.

When people put their emotional upheavals into words their physical and mental health seems to improve markedly. Systematic investigation of this phenomenon started over a decade ago, when college students were asked to write their deepest thoughts and feelings about traumatic experiences as part of a psychology laboratory experiment. Much more happened than just their writing about traumatic experiences, however. The writing exercise often changed their lives. There was something remarkable about their expressing themselves in words.

The basic technique was quite straightforward. Students were brought into the laboratory and told that they would be participating in a study, wherein they would write about an assigned topic for four consecutive days for 15 minutes each day. They were assured that their writing would be

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Coping: The Psychology of What Works
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Foreword vii
  • References ix
  • Preface xi
  • Contents xiii
  • Contributors xv
  • 1: Coping Where Have You Been? 3
  • References 14
  • 2: Reality Negotiation and Coping the Social Construction of Adaptive Outcomes 20
  • References 39
  • 3: Coping and Ego Depletion Recovery After the Coping Process 50
  • References 65
  • 4: Sharing One's Story Translating Emotional Experiences into Words as a Coping Tool 70
  • References 86
  • 5: Focusing on Emotion an Adaptive Coping Strategy? 90
  • References 111
  • 6: Personality, Affectivity, and Coping 119
  • References 136
  • 7: Coping Intelligently Emotional Intelligence and the Coping Process 141
  • References 160
  • 8: Learned Optimism in Children 165
  • References 178
  • 9: Optimism 182
  • Concluding Comment 200
  • References 201
  • 10: Hoping 205
  • References 222
  • Appendix A: the Children's Hope Scale 228
  • Appendix B: the Adult Trait Hope Scale 230
  • 11: Mastery-Oriented Thinking 232
  • References 250
  • 12: Coping with Catastrophes and Catastrophizing 252
  • References 273
  • 13: Finding Benefits in Adversity 279
  • References 298
  • References 320
  • 15: Coping Where Are You Going? 324
  • References 333
  • Index 335
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