Sunday, March 22, 2009

Not expressing your emotions makes them stronger

Science digest reports that people who don't show feelings in their face have a much more difficult time getting rid of these feelings. Thus, people who have botox injections that paralyze their face muscles may have the unexpected side effect that they become sadder and more negative in outlook. Wow.

‘At the cognitive level, they [people who did not physically express signs of disgust] began to think about disgusting things much more often and also felt much more negatively about other issues. The same phenomenon occurs in a situation where you are not allowed to think of something, say a white bear. Precisely because you are trying to suppress that thought, it becomes hyperaccessible’.

It is interesting that this negative spiral is evident with both conscious and unconscious suppression. ‘We asked some subjects to hold a pen between their lips without telling them the reason. The pen specifically inhibited the facial muscles that people use to express disgust. The same pattern of effects was found in these subjects as in the subjects who suppressed their emotions consciously’. The negative consequences of suppression are thus attributable to suppressed muscles and not to suppressed thoughts.

1 comment:

kerfuffler said...

I know I read a long time ago that smiling is not just a symptom of happiness. It is a contributing (causal)factor as well. Smiling makes you feel happier!

I suspect that the results of the study you refer to in your post only hold true for negative emotions that can be bottled up. I've never heard of people miserably milling around with too much pent up happiness inside.