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Amaryllis Fox
Former CIA Clandestine Operative
Chris Hadfield
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It Sounds Ridiculous, But Sometimes You Should Write Yourself a Letter

You can manufacture a cathartic experience by writing out what you’re feeling.

So, if you’re like a lot of people, some of the emotional habits that you have in our life are that sometimes you get upset and you feel like you can’t control it.  Right?  This is particularly an issue for people at work.  Something bad will happen, someone will snap at them or criticize them and they react emotionally. 

All of a sudden, you feel like you’re on the verge of tears and you can’t cry at work because that’s totally unprofessional.  That’s the same habit.  Right?  There’s something about, we know what the cue is, someone just snapped at you or they criticized you, and we know what the routine is, that these tears kind of spring to your eyes, that you’re suddenly knocked back on your heels.  And so the question becomes, so what reward is there?  Why do you feel like crying?  And what we know from studies is that probably the reason you feel like crying is because it’s an emotionally cathartic activity.  Right?  Like, after you have a good cry, you usually feel better.  You’re able to sort of process this emotion through an activity.  

And so what you need to do is, if you don’t want to cry at work, if you don’t want to have this emotional reaction, you need to find something else to channel that need, that craving for the catharsis into.  

And so actually what studies tell us is that if you feel like, if you’re at work and you’re having this emotional reaction and you want to cry, the best thing to do is actually sit down and sort of start typing a letter to yourself.  Right?  It seems like totally ridiculous, nobody ever types letters to themselves.  But in study after study, they have shown that this works.  That if you sit down, you can sort of manufacture this sort of cathartic experience by writing out what you’re feeling.  And that way, you don’t burst into tears in the middle of a workplace.  

In Their Own Words is recorded in Big Think's studio.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

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