Updated: Oct 19, 2021
Well, here’s some good news for those of us who have something to feel sorry about-
It turns out that a fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) machine helped researchers look at and study the inner workings of our human brain as we are processing emotional topics.
So we know what parts of our brains are active when we are processing deeply emotional experiences, like a confession, or when thinking about particular topics.
Matthew Lieberman and his team at UCLA report that people who put their fears into words appeared to receive something Lieberman calls affect labeling—expressing negative emotions, such as fears, in words seems to reduce them, something therapeutic journal writers and educators have studied for years.
How does it work?
The prefrontal cortex is a part of the brain and the right prefrontal cortex acts in effortful control over our emotions.
When this part of the brain “turns on,” other parts of the brain that are related to strong negative emotions—such as the amygdala—are turned off. Creating a safe, nonjudgmental haven for disclosure. An empowering and powerful tool for reframing emotional pain and trauma.
Putting our deeply emotional experiences into language and words facilitates our brain’s capacity to help us manage our emotional states.
Brené Brown, in her 2012 book, Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead, argues that embracing our feelings, our own vulnerability, is at the core of overcoming shame and fear.
And overcoming shame allows us to be our authentic selves and find wholehearted and sustaining personal connections with others, she says.
Expressive writing, later called Therapeutic Journaling, does not replace a face-to-face therapeutic relationship if one is needed, but it is a facile tool of therapeutic value you can do on your own.