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J Pers Soc Psychol. 1995 Nov;69(5):975-89.

When avoiding unpleasant emotions might not be such a bad thing: verbal-autonomic response dissociation and midlife conjugal bereavement.

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  • 1Department of Psychology, Catholic University of America, Washington, DC 20064, USA.

Abstract

It has been widely assumed that emotional avoidance during bereavement leads to either prolonged grief, delayed grief, or delayed somatic symptoms. To test this view, as well as a contrasting adaptive hypothesis, emotional avoidance was measured 6 months after a conjugal loss as negative verbal-autonomic response dissociation (low self-rated negative emotion coupled with heightened cardiovascular activity) and compared with grief measured at 6 and 14 months. The negative dissociation score evidenced reliability and validity but did not evidence the assumed link to severe grief. Rather, consistent with the adaptive hypothesis, negative dissociation at 6 months was associated with minimal grief symptoms across 14 months. Negative dissociation scores were also linked to initially high levels of somatic symptoms, which dropped to a low level by 14 months. Possible explanations for the initial cost and long-term adaptive quality of emotional avoidance during bereavement, as well as implications and limitations of the findings, are discussed.

PMID:
7473042
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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