Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Step Back to Move Forward Emotionally

25.09.2008
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.

Audio podcast is available by contacting the source.

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.

Diane Swanbrow | Newswise Science News
Further information:
http://www.isr.umich.edu
http://www.umich.edu

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Win-win strategies for climate and food security
02.10.2017 | International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA)

nachricht The personality factor: How to foster the sharing of research data
06.09.2017 | ZBW – Leibniz-Informationszentrum Wirtschaft

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Neutron star merger directly observed for the first time

University of Maryland researchers contribute to historic detection of gravitational waves and light created by event

On August 17, 2017, at 12:41:04 UTC, scientists made the first direct observation of a merger between two neutron stars--the dense, collapsed cores that remain...

Im Focus: Breaking: the first light from two neutron stars merging

Seven new papers describe the first-ever detection of light from a gravitational wave source. The event, caused by two neutron stars colliding and merging together, was dubbed GW170817 because it sent ripples through space-time that reached Earth on 2017 August 17. Around the world, hundreds of excited astronomers mobilized quickly and were able to observe the event using numerous telescopes, providing a wealth of new data.

Previous detections of gravitational waves have all involved the merger of two black holes, a feat that won the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics earlier this month....

Im Focus: Smart sensors for efficient processes

Material defects in end products can quickly result in failures in many areas of industry, and have a massive impact on the safe use of their products. This is why, in the field of quality assurance, intelligent, nondestructive sensor systems play a key role. They allow testing components and parts in a rapid and cost-efficient manner without destroying the actual product or changing its surface. Experts from the Fraunhofer IZFP in Saarbrücken will be presenting two exhibits at the Blechexpo in Stuttgart from 7–10 November 2017 that allow fast, reliable, and automated characterization of materials and detection of defects (Hall 5, Booth 5306).

When quality testing uses time-consuming destructive test methods, it can result in enormous costs due to damaging or destroying the products. And given that...

Im Focus: Cold molecules on collision course

Using a new cooling technique MPQ scientists succeed at observing collisions in a dense beam of cold and slow dipolar molecules.

How do chemical reactions proceed at extremely low temperatures? The answer requires the investigation of molecular samples that are cold, dense, and slow at...

Im Focus: Shrinking the proton again!

Scientists from the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, using high precision laser spectroscopy of atomic hydrogen, confirm the surprisingly small value of the proton radius determined from muonic hydrogen.

It was one of the breakthroughs of the year 2010: Laser spectroscopy of muonic hydrogen resulted in a value for the proton charge radius that was significantly...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

ASEAN Member States discuss the future role of renewable energy

17.10.2017 | Event News

World Health Summit 2017: International experts set the course for the future of Global Health

10.10.2017 | Event News

Climate Engineering Conference 2017 Opens in Berlin

10.10.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Terahertz spectroscopy goes nano

20.10.2017 | Information Technology

Strange but true: Turning a material upside down can sometimes make it softer

20.10.2017 | Materials Sciences

NRL clarifies valley polarization for electronic and optoelectronic technologies

20.10.2017 | Interdisciplinary Research

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>