Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Hazards of Talking About Your Problems

I haven't read the original study discussed in this article but it doesn't strike me as news.

The latest issue of the journal Developmental Psychology published a paper suggesting that for adolescent girls, discussing one's problems amongst themselves ad nauseam can actually increase the likelihood of depression.

I particularly love the researchers' evocative term for this phenomenon, "co-ruminate" which connotes digesting the same stuff over and over again.

Although I can imagine numerous methodological problems associated with this kind of study, its results resonate with me. Pundits frequently suggest that men need to get more in touch with their feminine side; to be more demonstrative and discuss their problems more fully...like women do. While I recognize that there may be some benefit, on the balance this is more likely to fill a desire for gossip than a need for therapy.

Perhaps denial, suppression and just getting "over it" has gotten an undeservedly bad rap? Is it possible that in this instance, the girls might have something to learn from the boys? Maybe the endless co-ruminating fostered by many psychologists, social workers and school counselors will one day be seen, at least in part, as counter-productive. I hope so.

In the politically problematic song Why Can't a Woman be More Like a Man?, Henry Higgins asks:
"Would you be slighted if I didn't speak for hours?"
Sounds like he was onto something!


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