What happens when we tell our story?

Counseling psychology Florence – Doctor Cristina Di Loreto office counseling psychology in Florence, Tuscany, Italy

Life is like a white page that we can write with a marking ink, often is full of sorrows, dark and fraught, other times it begins with the flavors of a tragedy to become a story painted by the happy colors of a joyful life.

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How many times we listened at friend’s and relative’s stories, how many times we felt the need to tell about our selves and describe circumstances, dates, cryings , unexpected moments or strong emotions to our lovers?

Have you ever ask you self what happens when you tell your story?

What happens to your memory, to your thinking process, to your self opinion, to your health?

Pennebaker (1984) was a real pioneer in that and the first to set an experiment in order to answer that questions. He separated volunteers in three groups:

– one group had to describe the room in which the experiment took place;

– another group had to tell about a trauma and the facts and details of the trauma itself;

– the last group had to describe not only the facts of a trauma but also the emotions referring to that special moment.

The students had to follow these instructions for three consecutive days and writing without removing the pen from the paper for 15 minutes per day.

Outcomes were surprising: who wrote about details and emotions reported a real drop in the number of medical visits and a great improvement of humor and attitude towards life in general.

Few years later (Pennebaker, Kiecolt-Glaser, & Glaser, 1988) this improvement was investigated in another experiment that revealed that by telling our story:

– T-Helper cells, lymphocytes made by the Thyme, increase;

– There is a production of antibodies for the Virus of Epistein-Barr, Virus of the Herpesvirus’ Family responsible for mononucleosi and of some tumors and lymphoma;

– and also a production of antibodies similar to the anti Epatite B vaccino.

The positive effects of opening process can product can be suggested also from other considerations:

– inhibition implies a physical work caused by the effort of not thinking, not saying, not doing something;

– inhibition causes short term changes on health and can influent the long term health too. Short terms changes can be: increasing of sweating, increasing of heartbeat and related increasing of possibility to have physical stress issues;

-inhibition affects thinking skills, with more trouble in understanding and elaborating the traumatic fact;

-confrontation decreases the consequences of inhibition causing a decreasing of stress and its consequences;

– confrontation obliges to reconsidering the events, helping the person in a  better understanding and assimilation.

(Pennebaker, 1997, p.23-24).

These are only few aspects of the effects of autobiographical recounting, Elizabeth Loftus (1993), remembers how the story telling can modify the content of a memory itself. We can understand how this process could be relevant on our lives, to construct our self and the meaning we give to the most important events of our story.

Pennebakers’ experiments were the first in history referring to expressive writing. This autobiographical writing method represents a very important therapeutic instrument.

If you wrote a diary you will get easy how important this instrument could be in difficult moments.

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