People who choose not to express their feelings after any traumatic experience, may be better off than those who do talk about their feelings, according to University of Buffalo, New York psychologist Mark Seery, lead author of the study to appear in the June edition of Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.
The study investigated the mental and physical effects of collective traumas on people who are exposed to a tragedy but do not experience the direct loss of a friend or family member. It focused on people’s responses to the September 11 terror attack.
Not all agree with the findings though. Dr Roma Kumar, clinical psychologist at Shri Ganga Ram Hospital says the best way to relieve tension after collective trauma is to share it with your close ones.
“I can’t comment on the authenticity of the study but as far as I know, the best way to calm yourself after witnessing a collective trauma is to talk about it with your loved ones. I tell my patients not to keep feelings inside. After some point of time it can create problems like high blood pressure, depression or mood-disorders,” Ms Kumar said.
Seery says the results should not be interpreted to mean that expressing one’s 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 feelings,” he says.
For the study, Seery and co-researchers tested people’s responses to 9/11, immediately after the event and continued for the next two years.