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The Status of Freud’s Legacy on Emotional Processing: Contemporary Revisions
Social Work Faculty Publications
  • Jill Littrell, Georgia State University
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This paper evaluates, in light of current empirical data, several of the assumptions contributed to our field by Freud about how emotions operate. The idea that expression of emotions dissipates these emotions is evaluated. The idea that bottling up emotion results is ill health is reviewed. The idea that pain of trauma and loss needs to be confronted will be examined. Additionally, the assumption that traumatic events invariably result in distress will be discussed. It is argued that empirical findings reject the Freudian model of emotion as energy that must be discharged. Empirical findings also support the view that revisiting painful emotion can be helpful when the result is to find a new perspective on painful events. Thus, empirical literature rejects Freudian rationale for confronting prior trauma and loss, while offering new perspectives for how to handle distress resulting from trauma and loss.

The Version of Scholarly Record of this article is published in the Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment (2008), available online at: DOI:10.1080/10911350802487245.

The author's pre-print (pre-refereed) article is posted here with the permission of the author.

Citation Information
Littrell, J. (2008). The status of Freud's legacy on emotional processing: Contemporary revisions. Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 18(4), 477-499. doi:10.1080/10911350802487245