Self-consciousness and emotional expression

Date of Award




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Committee Member

Edward Murray, Committee Chair


A written cathartic procedure was examined with regard to emotional processes, outcome and individual differences. Subjects were asked to write about a traumatic event from their past on four consecutive days. Results indicated that this group showed improvement as compared to a control group. Writing about a traumatic event resulted in high levels of reported and rated negative emotion, which moderated over time, as well as higher levels of reported and rated adaptive cognitive and behavioral changes. Subjects high in private self-consciousness showed more negative emotion but also more positive outcomes than those low in self-consciousness. Examination of subsidiary individual difference variables suggested that emotional expression was important in generating good feelings, that cognitive changes were necessary for long-term adjustment, and that emotional catharsis may have positive effects on health. These findings suggest that writing about traumatic events may be a useful adjunct to or preparation for traditional psychotherapy.


Psychology, Clinical

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