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To Move Forward Emotionally, Step Back

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  • medit8ionsociety
    From Medicalnewstoday: To Move Forward Emotionally, Step Back When you re upset or depressed, should you analyze your feelings to figure out what s wrong? Or
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 24, 2008
      From Medicalnewstoday:
      To Move Forward Emotionally, Step Back
      When you're upset or depressed, should you
      analyze your feelings to figure out what's
      wrong? Or should you just forget about it and move on?

      New research suggests a solution to these
      questions and to a related psychological
      paradox: Pocessing emotions is supposed to
      facilitate coping, but attempts to understand
      painful feelings often backfire and perpetuate
      or strengthen negative moods and emotions.

      The solution is not denial or distraction.
      According to University of Michigan psychologist
      Ethan Kross, the best way to move ahead emotionally
      is to analyze one's feelings from a psychologically
      distanced perspective.

      With University of California, Berkeley, colleague
      Ozlem Ayduk, Kross has conducted a series of studies
      that provide the first experimental evidence of the
      benefits of analyzing depressive feelings from
      a psychologically distanced perspective. The studies
      were supported by funding from the National
      Institutes of Health.

      "We aren't very good at trying to analyze our
      feelings to make ourselves feel better," said
      Kross, a faculty associate at the U-M Institute
      for Social Research (ISR) and an assistant
      professor of psychology. "It's an invaluable
      human ability to think about what we do, but
      reviewing our mistakes over and over, re-experiencing
      the same negative emotions we felt the first time
      around, tends to keep us stuck in negativity. It can
      be very helpful to take a sort of mental time-out,
      to sit back and try to review the situation from a distance."

      This approach is widely associated with eastern
      philosophies such as Buddhism and Taoism, and with
      practices like Transcendental Meditation. But
      according to Kross, anyone can do it with a little practice.

      "Using a thermostat metaphor is helpful to many people.
      When negative emotions become overwhelming, simply
      dial the emotional temperature down a bit in order
      to think about the problem rationally and clearly," he said.

      Kross, who is teaching a class on self-control this
      fall at U-M, has published two papers on the topic
      this year. One provides experimental evidence that
      self-distancing techniques improve cardiovascular
      recovery from negative emotions. Another shows that
      the technique helps protect against depression.

      In the July 2008 issue of Personality and Social
      Psychology Bulletin, Kross and Ayduk randomly
      assigned 141 participants to one of three groups
      that required them to focus (or not focus) on their
      feelings using different strategies in a guided
      imagery exercise that led them to recall an experience
      that made them feel overwhelmed by sadness and depression.

      In the immersed-analysis condition, participants
      were told, "Go back to the time and place of the
      experience, and relive the situation as if it were
      happening to you all over again…try to understand
      the emotions that you felt as the experience unfolded…
      why did you have those feelings? What were the
      underlying causes and reasons?"

      In the distanced-analysis condition, they were told,
      "Go back to the time and place of the experience…take
      a few steps back and move away from your experience…
      watch the experience unfold as if it were happening
      all over again to the distant you… try to understand
      the emotions that the distant you felt as the
      experience unfolded…why did he (she) have those
      feelings? What were the underlying causes and reasons?"

      In the distraction condition, participants were
      asked to think about a series of non-emotional
      facts that were unrelated to their recalled
      depression experience. Among the statements:
      "Pencils are made with graphite" and "Scotland
      is north of England."

      After the experience, participants completed a
      questionnaire asking how they felt at the moment,
      and wrote a stream-of-thought essay about their
      thoughts during the memory recall phase of the experiment.

      Immediately after the session those who used the
      distanced-analysis approach reported lower levels
      of depression than those who used immersed-analysis,
      but not distraction. Thus distraction and distanced-analysis
      were found to be equally effective in the short-term.
      Participants then returned to the lab either one day
      or one week later. At that time, they were asked to
      think about the same sad or depressing experience, and
      their mood was reassessed.

      Those who had used the distanced-analysis approach
      continued to show lower levels of depression than those
      who had used self-immersed analysis and distraction,
      providing evidence to support the hypothesis that
      distanced-analysis not only helps people cope with
      intense feelings adaptively in the short-term, but
      critically also helps people work-through negative
      experiences over time.

      In a related study, published earlier this year in
      Psychological Science, Ayduk and Kross showed that
      participants who adopted a self-distanced perspective
      while analyzing feelings surrounding a time when they
      were angry showed smaller increases in blood pressure
      than those who used a self-immersed approach.

      In future research, Kross plans to investigate whether
      self-distancing is helpful in coping with other types
      of emotions, including anxiety, and the best ways of
      teaching people how to engage in self-distanced analysis
      as they proceed with their lives, not just when they
      are asked to recall negative experiences in a laboratory setting.

      Article adapted by Medical News Today from original press release.

      Established in 1948, the University of Michigan Institute for Social
      Research (ISR) is among the world's oldest academic survey research
      organizations, and a world leader in the development and application
      of social science methodology. ISR conducts some of the most widely-
      cited studies in the nation, including the Reuters/University of
      Michigan Surveys of Consumers, the American National Election
      Studies, the Monitoring the Future Study, the Panel Study of Income
      Dynamics, the Health and Retirement Study, and the National Survey of
      Black Americans. ISR researchers also collaborate with social
      scientists in more than 60 nations on the World Values Surveys and
      other projects, and the Institute has established formal ties with
      universities in Poland, China and South Africa. ISR is also home to
      the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research
      (ICPSR), the world's largest computerized social science data
      archive. Visit the ISR web site at http://www.isr.umich.edu/ for more
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