"You'll feel better if you talk about it." Really?

“You’ll feel better if you talk about it.” I imbibed this sentiment from the air I breathed growing up. It is certainly significant that my mom is a therapist, but this idea definitely didn’t come just from her, it was everywhere, school, books, TV.

I assumed this was true like I assumed the sky was blue.

But the thing is…I really don’t. Feel better if I talk about it. I hit a really serious depression in college, I dropped out. I started seeing a therapist…briefly…I found talking to the therapist made me almost non-functional for a whole day afterwards. I won’t bore you with how I did get better, but talking about my feelings turned out to be a big mistake.

Since then I’ve had some pretty lousy events in my life, death of a child, death of a sibling, my husband had a heart attack. And you know what? Talking about it, about my feelings just made them worse. I don’t mind telling people about these things, I like for my friends to know the important facts of my life, but any conversations about the bad feelings caused by these things is yuck.

Am I weird? Do you feel better if you talk about it?

I don’t know. I’ve never talked about “it”. With anyone.

Did you tell the therapist this? I would suspect that you are not the only one and that they have other methodologies that might help. I’m not a therapist but my father is and he told me once that he doesn’t care about why. Why a person is hurting, especially in relation to past events is not info he needs. His goal is to help the patient develop strategies and coping mechanisms to deal with the problems they face now. Why something hurts is a question for the neuropsychologists.

I agree with you after having the same experience with therapy. I guess holding things back is a bad idea, but somehow conventional wisdom believes that it follows that talking something to death will help. It just doesn’t.

I had one good experience with a cognitive behavioral therapist. She was really good, and we were done in three months. I hate to hear about people who have been in therapy for 10 years and seem to be worse off for it.

For the people who’ve been in therapy for years upon years, it’s likely the problem is with them and not the therapist. The therapist can only show you new and different methods to help you cope with your problems. If you go home and never actually make a conscious effort to change your behavior, how is anything going to get fixed?

I feel the same way about crying, usually. It’s like my brain gets stuck when I start crying, and it takes forever to feel better.

The problem with talking about it is that it requires you to recreate and thus reexperience those emotions. This is a good thing, if you haven’t dealt with those emotions. But, if you have, all you are doing is making yourself feel bad again for no reason.

The grieving process is different for everyone. Some people reexperience things at a much higher rate than others. And, ultimately, the point of going to therapist is to feel better, not to be some perfect person who is completely in touch with their feelings. It’s a cost benefits analysis.

Hope that made sense. I’m too lazy to go back and proofread.

My mother is a talker. A few years ago I was able to convince her that when any of her three children are refusing to talk, it’s for a good reason. All three of us belong to the “needs to calm down before being able to talk” group rather than to the “needs to burn people’s ears off in order to calm down” group.

For some people, talking helps, for some it doesn’t - or at least, it doesn’t help as the first step.

I also can’t stand being touched when I’m angry /anxious/ nervous /whatever; if I’m already anxious, being hugged makes me feel trapped (I mean hugs from most people, there are exceptions but it’s not linked to being family or anything like that). The huggers can’t understand that one at all.
Covered in Bees!, not all schools of therapy “teach people how to change their behavior”.

If I’m angry, bitching for a few minutes will generally get it off my chest…

But if I’m upset/hurt/etc., talking about it just makes it worse. My mind goes into overdrive and I start getting wound up over it. Depending on how serious the issue was, I can talk about it calmly within a few minutes/hours/days but there are certain things I just don’t ever like talking about, period, because it’s just going to make me all upset all over again for no actual reason.

My way of “letting go” of certain things in that category is just not to touch on them at all if I can help it. Can’t change them. Can’t make them go away. But I can certainly avoid them.

Is this “emotionally healthy?” I have no idea. Maybe, maybe not. But I don’t see the point of dredging up a bunch of stuff I can’t change, fix, or resolve. It’s just going to put me there all over again.

I know some people certainly do.

I don’t. Talking to someone can cheer me up when I really am having a crappy day, but what helps me is to know that they know I’m having a bad time and then talk about something else.

Right now, I’m in a weird place. My life is a complete mess. We’ve stopped treatment for my dad’s cancer and are waiting for the inevitable right now. And because God hates atheists like me, my mom has lost her job. On top of that, I’m overwhelmed at school and taking classes I hate in order to get them over with. I’ve pretty well completely boarded the train back to eating-disorder-ville and my own brain and body are totally out of control. And, I have a few friends and some acquaintances who just constantly want something from me. Constantly.

And none of my friends know about any of this other than that I hate my classes this semester. A few observant ones know I’ve lost weight, but nobody talks about it.

The problem is, it’s this whole chunk of my life that I don’t talk about. I didn’t tell anyone when my dad got sick. And as time went on, it just got bigger and more complicated and has become sort of this giant secret for no good reason. Like I don’t care if people find out, but I don’t tell people because I don’t want to talk about it. No, really. I really, really, don’t. I’m not being coy. I’m not trying to get you to beg me or reassure me that you want to hear what’s going on in my life. I really just don’t want to. At this point, I get panic attacks 70% of the time I do, so I don’t want to.

But, I do wish people could just know. So it wouldn’t have to be this secret that keeps growing. And sometimes, so that maybe they’d treat me a little more gently if they knew (not like with kid gloves or anything, just maybe not expect quite so much out of me and be a little more understanding and not throw guilt parties when I tell them I can’t go with them to their dentist appointment for moral support or whatever it is this week).

But I’m with you- I don’t want to talk about it. That’s why I don’t tell people- they’ll want to talk about it and I don’t want to. It doesn’t help, it just makes it worse.

Over the last ten years there have been plenty of studies showing that ventilation, debriefing and other techniques designed to encourage people to discuss events, particularly traumatic events, often increase and lengthen the distress of the patient/client.

There has been a bit of study recently which shows you to be bang on the money.

See here for example. I’ve always wondered about this. Partly it’s from having family members who bottle everything up and family members who want to drag up past trauma endlessly and go on about it, and it’s the former who are happier.

I’m not a psychologist or therapist or anything, but most of that stuff seems like bullshit to me. Paying some perfect stranger to patronize me while I bitch about my life doesn’t seem particularly effective.

It’s because the later never move on with their lives. My mom’s side of our family is like that. Never anything positive. Just constantly rehashing decades of bullshit. Here’s a thought. Go find a hobby or some friends to hang out with or something. People need to fill their lives with stuff and if you have nothing positive to fill it with, all you do is focus on the crap.

I couldn’t have put it better.

I’m very much like the OP. I’ve seen two different therapists in my lifetime.

One was a ‘let’s talk about your childhood’ type and I would feel absolutely emotionally drained for a day or two after each session.

I then went to see a CBT therapist who wanted to talk about the issues I was having ‘now’ and to come up with strategies for dealing with them. I left those sessions feeling hopeful and excited.

I think it depends on how you’re talking about it and what happens as a result. If your talk therapy gets you to the point where you admit unproductive/self-blaming thoughts, and the therapist helps you break out of the patterns as a result, that’s good. If all you do is go over and over past hurts, to the point where you’re ruminating on those feelings constantly, then it’s definitely not helpful.

I found that it was difficult for me at first because I’d been trying to bury the trauma, but digging up those feelings and laying them out in the open, along with discussions about why I said/felt certain things and what that led to, eventually did help quite a lot.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be helpful because it’s specifically focused on fixing those feelings/thoughts/actions that are causing you pain, rather than lots of talk talk talk about how you’re feeling and about your past.

And How! I’d be much “happier” by spending the money on a new set of tires or a nice Sushi lunch.

There’s a bit of scientific rationale behind talk therapy. Obviously it works for some people. Basically, every time someone accesses a memory, it changes, gaining or losing associations with other memories and emotions. In various sorts of talk therapies, the patient gets to re-live some past horrible memory in a safe environment. Ideally this leads to replacing the traumatic associations with positive associations – the safety, comfort, calm, etc you’re supposed to feel when talking to a therapist.

Obviously your mileage may vary. It won’t work for everyone. For some, I’m sure that discussing the memory is traumatic enough, so there’s little to be gained by “talking about it”. And prying, nosy, interfering friends and relatives can definitely make it worse.

Personally? I do find it cathartic to rant about the petty details in my life to close friends and family. Or to share something that’s been bugging me with my SO. But I’m pretty introverted, and I don’t like to tell strangers the details of my life. I’ve visited a therapist a handful of times, and my response has pretty much been “well thanks for telling me what I already know”. In the future, if I ever have the need, I think CBT may work for me. It appeals to the excessively rational problem solver in me (which is usually fighting against the impulse to put things off for as long as possible).

Speaking of putting things off…

Yes, I think bottling things up is bad for you and your body. I don’t think the way most people do so it helps me to talk to someone I RESPECT that will give me a straight answer. Therapy is kind of a black hole to me because you are basically paying someone listen to you rant. Drinking and drugs is another bad way to bury your feelings and does not work because you resolve nothing.

I honestly have learned a lot from someone just coming out and giving me the truth. It hurts but I need to hear it. Bam, Crap, Ok time to change.

A doctor once told me all you need to change is “everything”. I guess I was pretty messed up in my thinking. Turns out it was not so bad learning to feel, deal and heal, in that order. I was stuck on feel and feelings are not facts. I had to get down to root causes and conditions and fix that and also learn how to forgive and love unconditionally.

Talking helps to relieve the pressure but changing helps to remove it for good.

Hmm. It depends. I don’t often feel the need to talk about most bad feelings. When I do feel the need (usually because I need some sort of input to solve a problem), I do so, and it does help.

If you are an emotionally reserved person, ‘letting it out’ will often make you feel worse because you’re used to being able to compartmentalize those negative feelings, and actually discussing them makes you feel them more acutely - plus it’s weird to expose yourself in front of other people in that way, when you’re not used to it.

I did cognitive therapy because I had depression and anxiety (and a shitty home life), and found it extremely helpful, but very intense and uncomfortable at first. Too many people give up on cognitive therapy far too soon. If you push through the initial discomfort and overwhelming feelings, nearly everyone who sticks with it sees benefits (according to studies). I have much less faith in other types of therapy… and they seem much less useful according to statistics.

But anyway. Unless you’re having serious issues, I think it’s perfectly healthy to be one of those people who prefers to deal with their feelings privately most of the time. I also think it’s important to have some people in your life that you could go to and share these feelings with, even if you prefer not to.