OPENING UP: The Healing Power of Confiding in Others by James W. Pennebaker

OPENING UP: The Healing Power of Confiding in Others

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Inhibition is bad for your health. Confiding deepest secrets and disclosing hidden traumas not only relieves mental stress but also fosters physical well-being, to such an extent that criminals who break down and confess during polygraph tests often feel an acute gratitude toward the person administering the test, the perceived agent of their liberation. These are some of the conclusions that Pennebaker (Psychology/ Southern Methodist University in Dallas) has drawn from his studies and research experiments. Pennebaker's research has included an intensive series of interviews with Holocaust survivors, many experiments with S.M.U. students, and even a study of residents who lived in two towns near Mt. St. Helens after its eruption (suggesting to him that entire cities can be inhibited, not just individuals). The book's subtitle is somewhat inexact because it is not so much the confiding to others that is the key to the stress relief and long-term health benefits that ""high disclosers"" enjoy; it is rather the act of finding the language to contain and structure and finally master the traumatic event. Consequently, writing for just oneself can be therapeutic. ""Our thought processes can heal,"" as Pennebaker puts it. More evidence, in sum, supporting the mind/body connection and advancing a new understanding of the power of language. Pennebaker's scrupulousness as a researcher sometimes undercuts the drama of his assertions: he is at pains to point out the many variables that might have skewed results or that might limit the applicability of his conclusions. But: intelligent and provocative, and leavened with a refreshing wit.

Pub Date: Sept. 25th, 1990
Publisher: Morrow