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Is talking all it's cracked up to be?

When things are tough, we're encouraged to talk about it.  Got a problem?  Open up.  Feeling rubbish?  Call a friend.  Struggling with life? See a therapist.

Question is, does it help?  Well, depends on who you talk to - but often the answer is based on someone's own experience.

In 2020, The New York Times ran a series of articles on the theme of talk.  Here is section from one of them.

'When you are feeling very intense feelings — especially fear, aggression or anxiety — your amygdala is running the show. This is the part of the brain that, among other things, handles your fight or flight response. It is the job of the amygdala, and your limbic system as a whole, to figure out if something is a threat, devise a response to that threat if necessary, and store the information in your memory so you can recognise the threat later. When you get stressed or overwhelmed, this part of your brain can take control and even override more logical thought processes.'

Research from UCLA (Lieberman et al 2007) indicates that putting feelings into words can help lessen the response of your brain when you encounter things that are upsetting.  This might enable us to become less stressed about things that previously have been things that trouble us.  For example, having a terrible experience on a plane might make us adverse to ever getting on a plane again.  But by talking through the experience, over time, we could get back on the plane and take that trip we really want.

Other work (Pennebaker et al, 1988), along similar lines, also indicates that talking can help tackle the horrible feelings difficult situations or events might create within us.  If we have negative feelings anyway, then repressing them means we spend even more energy and time, both physically and mentally, thus making us feel even worse than if we confronted and talked about our feelings.

What does this mean at Pilgrims'?  I want out boys to feel that talking and being open is a good thing - it helps.  I don't want them to fall into stereotypes of 'boys don't cry' or 'stiff upper lip'.  I also want them to be have the emotional literacy to actually understand and express themselves coherently, meaningfully and in ways that help them grow personally, make and sustain good relationships, and to be fundamentally happy.

I certainly miss having a beer and talking with my mates and I look forward to being able to share how I feel.

Mr Shroff

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