Talking sense: why a stiff upper lip can never be good for our mental health | Lucy Cavendish

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A examine out this week will most likely have the therapeutic group in a spin. Based on this report, speaking about our feelings is probably not 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 examine was carried out on a really small pattern of individuals, so I questioned how related it may very well be. Nevertheless, it’s additionally true that it nearly shocked me to suppose that possibly not speaking about our feelings was more healthy than speaking about them.

Did these researchers have a degree, I requested myself. May it presumably be true that partaking a stiff higher lip may really be a greater approach ahead by way of our emotional and psychological well being than sitting in a therapist’s chair?

Like most therapists, I believe we will settle for that remedy has moved on since Freud. We at the moment are way more proactive within the remedy room. Nowadays 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 known 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”, by Lacan’s idea of unconscious want and Melanie Klein along with her “good breast, unhealthy breast” idea by to Carl Rogers, father of person-centred remedy, and Fritz Perls together with his Gestalt psychology.

That is why remedy is so compelling. It strikes. It adapts. It adjustments. And that’s what makes it completely fascinating and, hopefully, related. It’s a dynamic apply. Or not less than 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 provide start 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 if you end up advised to cross enemy strains and get gunned down was obligatory again then – or not less than 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 part in between – with way more seriousness and a focus. We give start 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 guide When The Physique Says No, trauma specialist Dr Gabor Maté talks of the way in which many sicknesses happen in individuals who have suppressed their emotions. “Unhealthy” issues occur, he writes, when feelings should not expressed and traumas should not labored by. In his expertise a sure “sort” of individual will get most cancers and fibromyalgia and plenty of different bodily illnesses.

Maté believes these might stem from unexplored and denied opposed childhood experiences (ACE). Many medical individuals have lots of time for these theories – the concept an individual with again ache who has completely no clarification for it could properly really 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 consumers struggling physique ache who inform me they’ve been to physician after physician and nobody can discover out what’s mistaken with them. Usually, 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, constantly had styes in his eyes. They “magically” cleared up as soon as his tear ducts had been opened in remedy and his ache flooded out.

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

Remedy must be greater than therapeutic. It needs to be transformational. To ensure that this to occur, there needs to 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 could really feel good, simply splurging our internal selves throughout everybody doesn’t really assist, as a result of it hasn’t moved anyplace. The sentiments simply circle spherical and again we go in to our melancholy and nervousness. We have to have interaction with this melancholy and nervousness as a sound 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 out to be overly invested in it, it additionally takes up residence someplace.

The hot button 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 this stuff. 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 go in direction of a brighter future the place emotions are accepted however not overindulged.

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