Is writing a therapy to heal us of our pain?

Posted on March 21, 2015

Photo: flickr

When in face of a painful experience, we might choose to ruminate over it, or to distract ourselves with work. Those that brood might think that distractors are avoiding their problems, while the distractors thinks that these brooders are troubled and tiresome.

A team of researchers in Australia found that instead of brooding or distracting, there might be a better way, which is to have “self-compassion”.

The researchers found that distraction could help to reduce negative emotions without creating positive ones. While, brooding could result in “getting worse”.

Odou and Brinker, the researchers, gotten the participants to write for 10 minutes about a painful event. In order to get a lower baseline for mood, the participants listened to a story at half-speed and read depressing statements. Individuals were separated into two groups, one is to be self-compassionate and have an objective stance, while the other was to dive into their emotions.

Like how they predicted, the brooders did not do as well as those who are compassionate in writing. The writing exercise made them feel worse than before.

The other part of the experiment was how compassionate fare against distraction. Instead of having half the group writing about how they feel, they were given a distraction task to do. The results showed that distraction did not increase the “positive affect” whereas self-compassion did, even though distraction and self-compassion both experience a similar reduction in “negative affect”.

Therefore, introspective approach might be dangerous for ruminators if there is lack of stress on compassion.


Source material from British Psychological Society