This Sunday NYTimes Magazine has an interesting article suggesting that this tell-all, go back and dredge up all your traumatic memories, form of psycotherapy may actually not only not be helpful but may even be damaging. Which is not to say that its never good to talk about stuff, of course, but i think it’s a really good article. And score one for the Yankee grit mentality. :)
Repressors, others posit, may be protected by their presuppositions regarding -- and subsequent perceptions of -- stressful events, meaning that where you see a conflagration, they see a campfire, where you see a downpour, they see a drizzle. Still other researchers suggest that repressors are good at repressing because they can manipulate their attention, swiveling it away from the burned body or the hurting heart, and if that fails, they believe that they can cope with what befalls them. They think they're competent, those with the buttoned-up backs. Whether they really are or are not competent is not the issue; repressors, Ginzburg suggests, think they are, and anyone who has ever read ''The Little Engine That Could'' knows the power of thinking positively when it comes to making it over the mountain.I also really like Dusty Miller’s psychotherapy, that focus on developing skills and strengths and moving forward with your life instead of dwelling on the past.
Girvani Leerer of Arbour-H.R.I. Hospital in Brookline, Mass., doesn't necessarily agree with my lock-and-key longings. ''Facing and talking about trauma is one of the major ways people learn to cope with it. They learn to understand their feelings and their experiences and to move out, beyond the event.''
And yet clinicians still resist the relevance of the Ginzburg findings. Bononno says, ''We just don't want to admit they could be true,'' and that's true. The repression results appear to insult more than challenge us, and this feeling of insult is almost, if not more, interesting than the findings themselves. We are offended. Why?
Alexis de Tocqueville might know. In 1831, when he came to this country, he observed as perhaps no one has since its essential character. Tocqueville saw our narcissism, our puritanism, but he also saw the romanticism that lies at the core of this country. We believe that the human spirit is at its best when it expresses; the individualism that Tocqueville described in his book ''Democracy in America'' rests on the right, if not the need, to articulate your unique internal state. Repression, therefore, would be considered anti-American, antediluvian, anti-art and terribly Teutonic. At its very American best, the self is revealed through pen and paint and talk. Tocqueville saw that this was the case. So did Emerson and Thoreau and of course Whitman, who upheld the ideas of transcendentalism, singing the soul, letting it all out.
But the resistance to repression goes back even further than the 19th century. Expression as healing and, consequently, repression as damaging can be found as far back as the second century, when the physician and writer Galen extended Hippocrates's theory that the body is a balance of four critical humors: black bile, yellow bile, phlegm and blood. Disease, especially emotional disease, Galen suggested, is the result of an internal imbalance among these humors, and healing takes place when the physician can drain the body, and soul, of its excess liquid weight. Toward this end, purging, emetics and leeches were used. Wellness was catharsis; catharsis was expression. It's easy to see our current-day talking cures and trauma cures as Galenic spinoffs, notions so deeply rooted in Western culture that to abandon them would be to abandon, in some senses, the philosophical foundations on which medicine and religion rest.