CATHARSIS IN PSYCHOTHERAPY: AN ANALOG STUDY WITH COUPLES (ANGER, EMOTIONS, COMMUNICATION).
AuthorHAY, GAIL SCHMOOKLER.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractIn this study the controversial issue of whether to express or not to express anger was investigated. Three different approaches to dealing with anger in an experimental setting with couples were examined. The results support the notion presented by Holt (1970) and Deutsch (1969) that there may be constructive and destructive ways of dealing with anger in an interpersonal relationship, and argue against the conclusions of Berkowitz (1970) and Ellis, (1976) that the expression of anger is so dangerous that it should be avoided. Following role-play of vignettes of typical marital conflicts, subjects in one condition made I-Statements to their partners about their feelings, subjects in a second condition made You-Statements, and subjects in the No-Expression condition listened to a lecture. On outcome measures designed to tap anger, happiness, emotional closeness and distance from partner, liking for partner, other positive and negative feelings, and empathy for partner, I-Statement subjects consistently reported more positive change in their feelings than did You-Statement subjects, and rated their partners as having significantly more empathy in paraphrasing their positions, feelings, beliefs, and wishes. The No-Expression condition did not differ from the I-Statement on variables which measured feelings on anger, happiness, and other "good" and "bad" feelings. However, the No-Expression condition was more like the You-Statement condition in failing to decrease emotional distance or increase measures of empathy, agreement, and feeling understood. Neutral activity which involves time out from interaction with the partner may help to dissipate anger, but seems not to enhance "intimacy," as indicated by lack of change on the variables which involve mutuality and exchange. The I-Statement condition is viewed as superior to either the No-Expression condition or You-Statement condition in conflict resolution, as the I-Statement condition brings about both the dissipation of anger and the restoration of intimacy. It is concluded that there is no evidence from this study, which involves moderate emotional arousal, that avoiding expression of feeling in a conflict situation is superior to talking about the feelings engendered by the conflict. However, I-Statements lead to more constructive changes in feelings and in one's capacity to empathize than do You-Statements.