Speaking sense: why a stiff higher lip can by no means be good for our psychological well being | Lucy Cavendish


A research out this week will most likely have the therapeutic neighborhood in a spin. In accordance with this report, speaking about our feelings might not be good for us. Greater than that, apparently stoicism – deploying the normal stiff higher lip – yielded higher outcomes than speaking therapies when it got here to “curing” melancholy.

I’m a therapist, and this made me suppose deeply. First, the research was performed on a really small pattern of individuals, so I puzzled how related it could possibly be. Nonetheless, it’s additionally true that it virtually shocked me to suppose that perhaps not speaking about our feelings was more healthy than speaking about them.

Did these researchers have a degree, I requested myself. Might it presumably be true that partaking a stiff higher lip may truly be a greater method ahead when it comes to our emotional and psychological well being than sitting in a therapist’s chair?

Like most therapists, I feel we will settle for that remedy has moved on since Freud. We at the moment are way more proactive within the remedy room. Lately it’s all about group work and somatic remedy (the concept of feelings being held and felt in our our bodies). We use eye motion desensitisation and reprocessing (EMDR), emotional freedom method (EFT, additionally referred to as psychological acupressure) and, quickly, psychedelic visioning.

Remedy has at all times been thrilling and doubtlessly revolutionary. Up to now we’ve lurched from Wilhelm Reich, who explored theories round “muscular armour”, via Lacan’s principle of unconscious want and Melanie Klein along with her “good breast, unhealthy breast” idea via to Carl Rogers, father of person-centred remedy, and Fritz Perls together with his Gestalt psychology.

For this reason remedy is so compelling. It strikes. It adapts. It modifications. And that’s what makes it completely fascinating and, hopefully, related. It’s a dynamic apply. Or at the very least it may be.

It has additionally moved on from the period of the stiff higher lip, which most likely got here in to play when it was useful in encouraging males to go in to battle, five-year-olds to go off to boarding faculty, ladies to present beginning with no ache reduction, or Boers to trek throughout South Africa carrying head-to toe black wool in temperatures within the excessive 30s.

Perhaps simply getting on with it uncomplainingly when you find yourself instructed to cross enemy traces and get gunned down was essential again then – or at the very least sure individuals thought it was. You don’t construct empires by speaking about your emotions.

However we don’t try this any extra. We’re empathic, feeling creatures who take our feelings – starting from distress to pleasure and every thing in between – with way more seriousness and a spotlight. We give beginning listening to whale music. Males get to speak about their emotions with out being ridiculed. This can be a good factor.

For, if we suppress our emotions, the place do all of them go? In his ebook When The Physique Says No, trauma specialist Dr Gabor Maté talks of the best way many sicknesses happen in individuals who have suppressed their emotions. “Dangerous” issues occur, he writes, when feelings usually are not expressed and traumas usually are not labored via. In his expertise a sure “kind” of particular person will get most cancers and fibromyalgia and plenty of different bodily ailments.

Maté believes these may stem from unexplored and denied hostile childhood experiences (ACE). Many medical individuals have loads of time for these theories – the concept that an individual with again ache who has completely no rationalization for it might nicely truly be emotionally traumatised and this ache resides of their physique. If we cover it behind a stiff higher lip, how will we launch that ache?

That is mirrored in movies and tv. Offended individuals in on-screen dramas are sometimes depicted as obese and red-faced – and everyone knows what this means.

I’ve additionally had many purchasers struggling physique ache who inform me they’ve been to physician after physician and nobody can discover out what’s incorrect with them. Typically, after a course of remedy, their ache is alleviated. I’m no doctor, and I’m actually not claiming to be, however I can see that remedy can work to assist our bodily malaise.

For instance, one man who had skilled the tragic lack of his beloved spouse however couldn’t cry, persistently had styes in his eyes. They “magically” cleared up as soon as his tear ducts have been opened in remedy and his ache flooded out.

Nonetheless, I additionally imagine that sitting in childhood ache for years on finish doesn’t truly assist. If we spend hours, days and years going again and again and over our ache, how can we alleviate it? We don’t. We simply keep in it, with the therapist following the shopper’s lead like some type of passive spectre witnessing one other’s ache however not truly serving to heal or remodel it.

Remedy ought to be greater than therapeutic. It must be transformational. To ensure that this to occur, there must be motion, intention, a way of a constructive future.

Not having a stiff higher lip doesn’t imply to say we evacuate our feelings each time we select. Whereas it might really feel good, simply splurging our interior selves throughout everybody doesn’t truly assist, as a result of it hasn’t moved wherever. The emotions simply circle spherical and again we go in to our melancholy and nervousness. We have to interact with this melancholy and nervousness as a legitimate a part of us that wants consideration. If we ignore it and push it away, it simply takes up residence someplace. But when we turn into overly invested in it, it additionally takes up residence someplace.

The bottom line is to inform ourselves a distinct story. We have to strengthen our constructive neural pathways (the ability of constructive considering, in a nutshell) and weaken those who inform us unhealthy issues about ourselves.

A stiff higher lip does none of these items. It simply tells us to “man up”, which, in itself, is a time period so old school nobody makes use of it any extra. What we actually want is to melt, to have interaction, to study acceptance after which to move in direction of a brighter future the place emotions are accepted however not overindulged.




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