Contrary to popular notions about what is normal or healthy, new research has found that it is okay NOT to express one’s thoughts and feelings after experiencing a trauma, such as a school shooting or terrorist attack. Counselors are always made available after these terrible events so people can talk about them, but people who “bottle it all up” recover just as well?in fact, they do even BETTER.

Psychologist Mark Seery studied the mental and physical effects of collective traumas on people who were exposed to a tragedy but did not experience a direct loss of a friend or family member, focusing on people’s responses to 911. Seery says, “It’s important to remember that not everyone copes with events in the same way, and in the immediate aftermath of a collective trauma, it is perfectly healthy to not want to express one’s thoughts and feelings.”

Seery points out that immediately after last year’s tragic shootings at Virginia Tech University there were many “talking head” psychiatrists in the media describing how important it is to get all the students expressing their feelings. He says, “This perfectly exemplifies the assumption in popular culture, and even in clinical practice, that people need to talk in order to overcome a collective trauma. Instead, we should be telling people there is likely nothing wrong if they do not want to express their thoughts and feelings after experiencing a collective trauma. In fact, they can cope quite successfully and, according to our results, are likely to be better off than someone who does want to express his or her feelings.”

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