• Majken Skjølstrup
  • Rikke Nynne Clauber
4. semester, Psykologi, Kandidat (Kandidatuddannelse)
How are you feeling today? Have you talked to somebody about this? You do know that you should always remember to talk to someone about your emotions in order for them not to eat you up from inside?

We seem to live in a society that takes emotions very seriously. We are told to listen to our inner feelings and express these to other people around us. So consequently we often hear about other people’s emotions and we often engage in communication about our own emotions. Human beings apparently display a common need to share their emotions with someone shortly after they have experienced something stressful or emotional arousing. Commonsense thus seems to adopt a view that verbalizing an emotional experience can transform it and that after verbalization this emotional memory would lose a significant part of its emotional load. On this basis there seems to exist a common held belief that expressing emotions is good and inhibiting them is bad.

Hence both popular culture and clinical lore endorse the belief that people must express their emotions or something ‘bad’ will happen to them, physically or psychologically. Moreover this seems to indicate that if we do not articulate our emotions we will suffer. But why is this? Are the relation between verbalizing our emotions and health really this simple? We are puzzled by the fact that a doctrine about the importance of talking about emotions seems to be a belief that goes largely unquestioned in our modern western societies. It seems to be an assumption we take for granted and so widely accepted that we never reflect upon it – and consequently it is left unchallenged.

So in this explorative theoretical thesis we try to examine and scrutinize this common held belief about the importance of talking about our emotions. We seek to go beneath the surface of this doctrine and we want to broaden the understanding about what this entails and the possible implications that potentially comes along with this.

We suggest that we live in a psychologized, therapeutized and most importantly emotionalized society where it is a matter of fact that it is both outmost important and very beneficial for the individual to express his/hers emotions to others. But why should we talk about our emotions? What are the theoretical perspectives and foundations behind this assumption? On which ground does this claim stand?

We put forward that this statement can be seen among other perspectives as stemming from theoretical beliefs about the advantageous benefits of venting your emotions and that this can be connected with some sort of cathartic effect. Additionally the beneficial effects of expressing emotions are often connected to the potentially negative consequences of non-expression and inhibition. Beside this, verbalizing your emotions to others can give you a number of social and relational advantages. In addition theoretical and empirical perspectives suggest that articulating your emotions can bring you self-understanding, further your insight and regulate your arousal and thereby alleviate your emotional distress.

So to recapitulate, expressing your emotions to others can indeed be beneficial for you and your well-being. But there seems to be more to it than that, we suggest that emotion communication can have implications a part from these positive functions. These implications are seldom reflected upon. But in this thesis we try to shed some light upon this and suggest that the doctrine is too simplistic, unequivocal and one-sided. Furthermore we suggest that a societal claim about talking about emotions do affect us – and this in many ways. For instance listening to another person’s emotions can take a toll on the listener and compromise his or her well-being. Furthermore we discuss how this imperative of talk can change our understanding about ourselves and our capabilities for coping with emotional experiences, and this in various directions. Additionally the demand for expressing and articulating emotions has penetrated several of our everyday practices and now plays an important role in different arenas and this seems to have wide-reaching implications for the individual. In the workplace, for instance, this is manifested in staff development interviews, self-development seminars and generally boundaries become blurred and indistinct.

These implications are rarely scrutinised and that seems fairly problematic. We do find it beneficial to express our emotions to others – sometimes, but not always and not at all costs. We endorse a belief that it is important to sometimes challenge and scrutinize common held assumptions and by doing so we have sought to draw attention to potential implications of blindly accepting and endorsing a doctrine about the importance of expressing emotions.
Udgivelsesdato31 maj 2012
ID: 63454671