It is a common delusion that you make things better by talking about them. — Dame Rose Macaulay
Is this true? I need to know.
I’ve always believed that talking things out is the right thing to do, but I am doubting, doubting, doubting these days. And here’s this dame (a novelist and travel writer) telling me my belief is delusional.
But I need explanations. Is nothing made better by talking, or are some things made better and some worse? And which are made worse and which better? And are we talking about talking between affected parties, or talking to someone else?
Research is finding that, contrary to popular assumption, insisting people talk about trauma immediately after it occurs actually increases the risk of PTSD.
But what about run-of-the-mill problems? Fights with friends? Marital difficulties? Problems at work? Sometimes it seems like venting to friends just makes a problem feel worse and worse. Like talking after a trauma, venting sometimes makes the problem calcify in my brain, as I build arguments and build arguments and build arguments and justify and justify and justify until I have walled myself into the problem with what feels like no way out.
Talking about things feels good to me. It lets a breath of fresh air into my rumination, and sometimes I can talk my way to insight. Sometimes the person I’m talking to has useful things to say. Sometimes just venting releases enough pressure to allow a problem to dissipate.
But other times, my feels-good talking is the other person’s feels-bad talking, and what started as my problem then turns into the other person’s problem. Or the talking itself creates its own new problem. And then I don’t know if I should talk about that problem, the talking problem, or just shut up for once.
You see my problem. What’s the answer? Can we talk about it?
Photo of man with tape over mouth available from Shutterstock.