We've all heard the story that if we have a traumatic emotional experience we need to vent, preferably to a therapist or psychologist. The accepted norm psychological counseling in the aftermath of traumatic events, can bring back peace of mind and normalcy.
The most popular and widely used technique by professionals is called "Critical Incident Stress Debriefing". The theory behind the treatment is that it reassures trauma sufferers that their emotional reaction is normal. This technique is viewed as a way to help victims reduce the chances of post traumatic stress (PTS), generally characterized by experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event.
The principle of the technique predicates itself on the "hydraulic theory" – which states that emotions can build up inside and must be released from time to time. It's also been conceived that people who choose not to let off steam are labeled to be in denial, and denial is often categorized as pathological behavior.
Arguably, a stream of intense emotions during our Christian meditation effort would not be conducive to the peace we seek. So what are we to do? Admittedly, getting wise counsel from a professional is the most advisable way to proceed, however, in recent years the hydraulic theory has been seriously questioned.
New studies are beginning to emerge "Critical Incident Stress Debriefing" may actually be harmful. Findings, published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, shows that venting, or talking, about a traumatic experience may not help. Worse yet, it may be psychologically damaging (Seery et al., 2008).
In this study, which was conducted to observe witnesses of the September 11th 2001 catastrophe, people were selected nationally as the representative sample of participants.
They were simply asked if they wanted to share any thoughts or emotions about the current events - 1,559 chose to respond while 579 remained silent. Two years after 9/11 researchers followed up to see how participants coped with the collective trauma.
The results surprised everyone.
What they discovered was that expressing one's feelings about a traumatic event was a significant predictor of suffering PTS. Another interesting fact gathered from the study was the correlation between longer response and the greater the level of subsequent PTS.
The findings suggest that the "hydraulic theory" of expressing thoughts and emotions as a way to – ‘let off steam’ or ‘vent’ – might actually predict a worse psychological outcome. The results were so unexpected that exploration continues.
In another study conducted in 2002, researchers found that police officers who responded to a disastrous plane crash and underwent physiological debriefing treatment, exhibited significantly higher hyperarousal symptoms 18 months later than those who did not receive treatment.
The therapeutic effects of the hydraulic theory is seriously being questioned today. It appears that the findings to the fact that sharing feelings after an emotional event, does not promote recovery.
This observation is also backed by previous work conducted by Professor Bernard Rime at the Universite Catholique de Louvain, who discovered the same thing in 2011.
Silence - The One Step To Better Meditation
We've heard the term "Strong silent type", usually applied to someone of strong character who speaks few words. It appears that the label has some merit. Mounting evidence shows that people who do not verbally express emotions are simply more resilient and not in a state of pathological denial, and scripture affirms the scientific evidence.
"The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered." Proverbs 17:27
Proverbs 17:27 states that if people restrain their words they will be "even-tempered", not in a state of PTS.
"[There is ] a time to be silent and a time to speak" Ecclesiastes 3:7
Ecclesiastes states that we must be wise about what we share and why we share.
"My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry," James 1:19
James 1:19 actually equates the release of the tongue to higher emotional states, in this case anger.
The list goes on!
If you've been reading this blog for a while, you are used to the fact that there doesn't seem to be anything researchers discover about the human mind and body that hasn't already been disclosed by Scripture. This only asserts the origin of the Word and its preeminent source and serves as our greatest guide.
The Bible recommends silence as the one thing we should do in order to experience good mental health. I suppose this is for the simple fact that when we verbalize we mentally reenact painful situations.
This begs the questions, if a situation was painful the first time why would we want to reenact it over and over? Wouldn't it be more effective to internally observe the situation from a psychology shaped by God's word and then rest in God? Wouldn't that be more healing?
The Bible says, "yes", but scientists can only say that silence is truly better. We do not advise that a person should totally disregard the advise of a professional, rather we should look at all information and ask questions.
As the healing begins, and emotions are toned down we will have a much better meditation experience with Jesus, our Father, and the Holy Spirit.
I hope this article has helped you to regain control over your emotions so you can truly benefit from the art of Christian meditation. God bless you. See you in the kingdom.