Tag Archives: David Brooks

Brooks on journaling about emotions

Friend Jeff McMullen pointed out a recent David Brooks op ed in the New York Times. (Read it here). While I’m not sure I agree fully with his journaling/not journaling point he says something very important about the timing of writing one’s emotions after a traumatic event. He says,

When people examine themselves from too close, they often end up ruminating or oversimplifying. Rumination is like that middle-of-the-night thinking — when the rest of the world is hidden by darkness and the mind descends into a spiral of endless reaction to itself. People have repetitive thoughts, but don’t take action. Depressed ruminators end up making themselves more depressed.

Then later, this important distinction between immediate processing of emotions and later processing,

We are better self-perceivers if we can create distance and see the general contours of our emergent system selves — rather than trying to unpack constituent parts. This can be done in several ways.

First, you can distance yourself by time. A program called Critical Incident Stress Debriefing had victims of trauma write down their emotions right after the event. (The idea was they shouldn’t bottle up their feelings.) But people who did so suffered more post-traumatic stress and were more depressed in the ensuing weeks. Their intimate reflections impeded healing and froze the pain. But people who write about trauma later on can place a broader perspective on things. Their lives are improved by the exercise.

David points to some research that exists that suggest CISD is unhelpful for some participants. Some are made worse. Yet, narrating one’s trauma in the broader context of a life tend to see a reduction of symptoms. The difference seems to be whether the focus in on life or mostly on the trauma. Trauma in perspective is the goal. Just reviewing trauma may in fact strengthen the traumatic reaction rather than weaken it.

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Filed under Abuse, counseling, counseling science, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Psychology, ptsd

David Brooks on Suffering

Over at the BTS faculty blog, I’ve written a short post pointing to David Brook’s recent Op Ed pieces on suffering. He has been writing quite a bit on the topic lately. I think you will find his nuanced thinking quite useful and theologically rich.

You can read my post here.

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Filed under Great Quotes, suffering

How to love someone with trauma

If you know someone grieving or going through a life altering trauma, then this article by David Brooks is for you. It gives you just a few pieces of advice as to how to relate well and to avoid some common pit-falls. Consider some of his examples:

1. Know the difference between the role of “firefighter” and “builder” and why trauma victims need “builders” for the long haul.

2. Bring soup.

3. Don’t try to make it make sense.


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Filed under counseling skills, suffering, trauma