We’ve all seen the occasional Dear Abby article or glanced at the column of a local love “expert,” in which writers send in their romance woes and are served a paragraph or two of opinion, sense, prejudice, or any number of slanted answers (with, of course, the occasional honest piece of advice). The dilemmas described in these pieces are often not so far removed from trials experienced by most people during the course of their love lives; concerns may include a suspected affair, feelings of guilt or inadequacy, disappointments in intimacy, and beyond, spanning the common conflicts that arise in romantic relationships. But while we might be able to relate to these concerns on a personal level, a new study shows that we tend to avoid such columns and articles when we’re feeling unlucky in love.
The study, a joint effort between researchers at the Ohio State University in the American Midwest, and the University of Erfurt and the Dresden University of Technology in Germany, sought to understand the ways in which people use and interact with media in times of personal distress. The idea that we tend to avoid touchy subjects may not seem very surprising, but the study uncovered a tendency to seek out advice selectively; while scorned lovers avoided romance advice, those enduring difficult financial periods embraced the help of related columns and articles.
Focusing on a group of just under three hundred college students, the study began with a survey to determine which, if any, major life areas were causing distress in the subjects. After being presented with papers that included pieces on stressful life areas, the subjects tended to show a disinterest in items that covered subjects such as love and family. Business, money, and other professional concerns, however, did not seem to provoke the same disinterest. Though approaches to seeking therapy may differ, the idea that we tend to avoid certain sticky subjects when in the throes of their emotional effects is important in understanding the human desire for help.
© Copyright 2009 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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