What Should We Do with Our Feelings?

A little psychological distance goes a long way…

Sep 29, 2008

We all have feelings, but what should we do with them, especially when we're upset? Should we analyze them, or should we ignore them?

According to University of Michigan psychologist Ethan Kross, the best way to move ahead emotionally is to analyze our feelings, and apparently the best way to analyze them is by stepping back a ways and getting a little perspective on the matter.  

With University of California, Berkeley, colleague Ozlem Ayduk, Kross did a series of studies that show the benefits of analyzing depressive feelings from a "psychologically distanced perspective." 

Kross, a faculty associate at the U-M Institute for Social Research (ISR) and an assistant professor of psychology, said that humans have the ability to review their mistakes, but that doing so repeatedly tends to be a dead-end to negativity. "It can be very helpful to take a mental time-out, to sit back and try to review the situation from a distance," said Kross. Buddhists, transcendental meditators, and others have been doing this since time began, but we can all learn to do it, he said. 

"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 second study, the researchers randomly assigned 141 participants to one of three groups ("immersed-analysis," "distraction," and "distanced-analysis"). Each group used a different strategy to cope with a guided imagery exercise during which they recalled an experience that made them feel overwhelmed by sadness and depression.

Participants returned to the lab either one day or one week later. The "immersed-analysis" and the "distraction" participants didn't do nearly as well in the long term as the "distanced-analysis" participants.  Distraction and distanced-analysis were equally effective in the short term, but the long-term results were different. 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.

These findings support the researchers' hypothesis that distanced-analysis not only helps people cope with intense feelings in the short term, but also helps people work through negative experiences over time.

Listen to a podcast with researcher Ethan Kross 

Click Here To View Or Post Comments

Categories: Psychology


Take the Diabetes Health Pump Survey
See What's Inside
Read this FREE issue now
For healthcare professionals only
  • What's on the Horizon with Diabetes Research and Therapy
See the entire table of contents here!

You can view the current or previous issues of Diabetes Health online, in their entirety, anytime you want.
Click Here To View

See if you qualify for our free healthcare professional magazines. Click here to start your application for Pre-Diabetes Health, Diabetes Health Pharmacist and Diabetes Health Professional.

Learn More About the Professional Subscription

Free Diabetes Health e-Newsletter

Latest
Popular
Top Rated
Print | Email | Share | Comments (1)

You May Also Be Interested In...


Click Here To View Or Post Comments

Sep 29, 2008

©1991-2014 Diabetes Health | Home | Privacy | Press | Advertising | Help | Contact Us | Donate | Sitemap

Diabetes Health Medical Disclaimer

The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and information, contained on or available through this website is for general information purposes only. Opinions expressed here are the opinions of writers, contributors, and commentators, and are not necessarily those of Diabetes Health. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking medical treatment because of something you have read on or accessed through this website.