Inher article “Repressyourself,”Lauren Slater finds the current methods employed to deal withpsychological trauma to be ineffective. She terms talk therapy asuseless. At the beginning of her article, Slater gives a scenario ofhow talk therapy takes the patients to where they started instead ofhelping them recover from their situation. Relating the currentmethods of repression, she claims that some individuals with traumaare better off repressing than being in a talk therapy. She arguesthat if one is scared or stuck it would be better if they forget andavoid talking.
Inan attempt to prove that talk therapy is ineffective she discussedthe following research based on September 11 attack, studied how thetherapists flocked New York City to help the victims cope with thetrauma. They encouraged the victims to talk about their experiences,which according to Slater caused more harm to some people. Theseparticular people were re-traumatized, and the intervention did nothelp them one single bit. She quotes Richard Gist, a psychologist andtrauma researcher who was not surprised that talk therapy wasineffective as he compared it to pushing people to the edge of acliff. Based on the September 11 research, fear is engraved in thevictims’ brains more deeply if they are encouraged to talkstraightaway after experiencing a trauma.
ResearchersKarni, Zahava, and Avi carried out another study to determine whetherthose who repressed fared well in the long and if they cope, bettercompared to these who engaged in talk therapy. The researchersfollowed 116 heart attack patients assessing their coping mechanisms.Based on their reassertion they found out that patients with highanxiety levels and who preferred to talk about their worries had apoorer outcome compared to those who preferred to suppress theirfears and not talk about them. In this study, the researchershypothesized that repression might work as a coping mechanism asthose who repress have an adaptive perception such as easing theseriousness of the situation, for example, seeing a drizzle whenothers are seeing a downpour making them believe they can cope withwhatever they are experiencing.
SigmundFreud used the analogy of an iceberg to describe the structure andfunction of the mind he claimed the mind has three levels, theconsciousness, preconscious, and the unconscious. He viewedrepression as forcing uncomfortable thoughts to be unconscious andpreventing them from being conscious. Individuals repress to avoidremembrance of painful experiences, according to Freud theunconscious thoughts do not stay down as conflicts arise fromrepressed memories. As a result, the individuals are forced toreinforce their initial repression, which results in high anxiety andbehavioral problems. Slater’s view of repression is not consistentwith that of Freud’s. In her article, she clearly supportsrepression as a coping mechanism for individuals with psychologicaltrauma. She supports it and does not discuss the consequences ofrepressing thoughts. According to Freud, repression is not along-term solution as repressed thoughts and memories will at somepoint manifest in individual behavior, as he believed the unconsciousmind governed an individual’s mind to a higher level. Repressingthoughts does not make them go away instead it consumes the lifeenergy of that person. According to Freud, the energy can be releasedif the repressed thoughts are re-admitted to the conscious mind.
IfSlater feels that there are instances where a person would be betteroff with repression, then one can achieve it by diverting andavoiding revising the painful memories. She also acknowledges thatthere are individuals who need to express themselves to cope. Slaterurges that people try to understand the healthy and unhealthy aspectsof repression. She views repression as a mechanism that can be usedin cases where talk therapy has not succeeded. I do not agree withher conclusion I believe that talk therapy is efficient and useful.I believe that repression is only a short-term solution that willaffect the individuals negatively be it their behavior or health.Incases where talk therapy is seen to be slow or inactive, I suggestthat the therapists encourage their patients to integrate theirtreatment with healthy living. Being healthy will increase theeffectiveness of the sessions by enabling the patient’s ability tocope with the stress brought about by the trauma. Healthy livingshould be practiced by getting enough sleep, eating a balanced diet,avoiding drugs and alcohol, and exercising.
Itis possible that what Slater is labeling as repression will beunderstood as a different defense mechanism. Slater’s definition ofrepression can be seen as denial where people refuse to accept or actas if they have not experienced painful events in their lives.Individuals use denial to avoid dealing with the painful memories andfeelings. Denial can also be a defense mechanism where one channelsunwanted memories and feelings into more pleasant ones such asrefusing to attend therapy for it reminds one of the experiencesreplacing it with an activity that makes the person happy.
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