Study Confirms: Sharing Shared Feelings Reduces Stress

So, if you’re stressed about something in life—whether it’s an upcoming presentation or performance, or a trip to an unfamiliar territory, or a big party you’re responsible for planning—it may bring you significant relief to, you know, talk about it with someone who has either been there or is going through it with you.

This may seem like a given—like something that doesn’t necessarily require research to confirm. But in the moments when stress and anxiety creep in and become all-consuming, it can be difficult to remember what helps to alleviate them.

According to a study led by Sarah Townsend, an assistant professor at USC Marshall School of Business, it is the specific interaction with a person who genuinely understands your emotion and response, and ideally is also experiencing it at the same time, that will provide measurable relief from stress.

For the study, Townsend and colleagues paired up participants who displayed “emotional similarity” and instructed them to deliver a speech while being videotaped. Each pair was told to discuss their feelings leading up to the presentation with one another, and as this was all happening, their cortisol levels were measured and documented.

They found that within these pairs, the simple act of talking with one another acted as a buffer from experiencing the high levels of stress typically associated with preparing for a speech. The results, which were published in Social Psychological and Personality Science, send the message that finding an emotionally “similar” partner may be key to keeping calm and carrying on when faced with potentially stressful situations.

References:

  1. Townsend, S. S. M., Kim, H. S., and Mesquita, B. (2013, December). Are you feeling what I’m feeling? Emotional similarity buffers stress. Social Psychological and Personality Science. doi: 10.1177/1948550613511499. Abstract retrieved from http://spp.sagepub.com/content/early/2013/12/16/1948550613511499.abstract
  2. USC Marshall School of Business. (2014, January 29). Two stressed people equals less stress. Press Release. Retrieved from http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2014-01/umso-tsp012914.php

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  • Mikki

    February 5th, 2014 at 3:52 AM

    It’s always nice to find a like minded soul who has experienced some of the same things that you have. It’s very easy to talk and relate to others when you have a sense that they have gone through this and can understand a little more of the issues that you are going through. There are bound to be plenty of friends who want to be there for you and talk but until you meet someone who has known the same pain, those same feelings that you are experiencing then it can be hard to find that kindred soul. However when you do find that person who has those same shared experiences and feelings that you have, then it becomes a little easier to talk and share with someone who might have more advice on how you can move on and deal with the issues that you are living.

  • jenn cole

    February 5th, 2014 at 3:58 PM

    Really? I have never conformed to the adage that misery loves company. Somehow I am looking for people in my life to bring me up, and sometimes those shared feelings are not what I need.
    What I need is someone who can listen and understand but not necessarily have all of the same baggage as me.
    I have enough of that in my life already, I am looking for a little bit of a brighter sunshine in life.

  • flo

    February 6th, 2014 at 3:56 AM

    I can see the logic behind this, it lets you know that you are not the only person to have ever felt this, to have experienced this.

  • Phil

    February 8th, 2014 at 1:00 PM

    I always feel better when I have the sense that I am not in this alone. They may not have the same exact experiencess that I have had but generally it would be close enough that I would feel like they get it, they get me, and we have this connection that may not be possible for me and someone who doesn’t get it quite the same way.

  • Gaynor Challingsworth

    February 8th, 2014 at 6:55 PM

    Although good to share feelings emotions and similarities from experiences, it is good also to remember that even though it feels comfortable, we are not moving out of our comfort zone in order to move forward and overcome these feelings. Over sharing and re living these feelings can actually make you remain stuck in the same fears time and time again. To know someone understands and is there to listen when needed is great, but do not revolve around the same conversation. There needs to be a healthy balance.

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