Sunday, January 11, 2009

There is a new study which has found that playing the video game tetris might minimize the number and intensity of post-traumatic stress "flashbacks."

First thoughts: It seems to me that the study is concluding what should have been, but regrettably is not, common sense. It concludes, in essence, that keeping one's mind occupied on other things helps decrease the severity of painful events. For the last twenty or so years, though, we have been told the opposite: that the best thing to do after a painful event is to talk about and obsess over the event. To do otherwise - to play tetris or read a magazine rather than think about the event - would be 'repression' and 'denial.'

I sincerely hope the study is widened to test whether other activities can help minimize the severity of painful memories - maybe playing a card game, reading a novel, or watching a comedy show. It seems self-evident to me that taking one's mind off of painful events would help to reduce their ability to cause pain and I'd be curious to see if other activities besides tetris have similar effects (and which do and don't).

The article also contains this interesting passage:

The Oxford University experiment works on the principle that it may be possible to modify the way in which the brain forms memories in the hours after an event.

In a way, this is a sad revelation because it just shows how wrong the "therapy culture's" current thinking is. We are told that the hours after a traumatic event are precisely the time where we need to talk about and relive the event the most. We are told that those who do not get "counseled" in the hours after a painful event are those most at risk to go through longer periods of denial (which is a stage to be gotten past as quickly as possible).

Christina Hoff Summers and Sally Satel have written a very good book called "One Nation Under Therapy" touching on this problem. Utilizing a strong dose of common sense, they suggest that there is a big gap between "denial" and "refusal to obsess" that psychologists and counselors often don't see. Instead, many psychologists mistake the latter for the former.

As examples of this silliness, the authors point to the flooding in of "grief counselors" to scenes of school-shootings, scenes of accidents and even the events of 9/11/01. These counselors serve one purpose: get people to talk about the event, their feelings about the event, and memories of the event, all in the name of "dealing withi" the event.

If this study is right, though - and I have a sneaking suspicion that it is on to something - the best thing counselors can do in the hours after traumatic events is to show people how to take their mind off the event (without engaging in prolonged repression).

If this article is right, the "therapizers" have been shown once again to be doing more harm than good. Again.

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