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Opening Up: The Healing Power Of Expressing Emotions Paperback – 13 Oct 1997

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Guilford Press; Rep Sub edition (13 Oct. 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1572302380
  • ISBN-13: 978-1572302389
  • Product Dimensions: 22.6 x 15 x 1.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 366,359 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

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Product Description


"So talk about it, and if it seems no one is listening, then write it down. It's such a relief!" --Kathryn LaBarbera, "Booklist" ..".There is something freeing about getting things off one's chest.'...According to Pennebaker's book however, confession is good not only for one's soul but for one's blood pressure, insomnia, psychological well-being, and immune function. In "Opening Up: The Healing Power of Confiding in Others," Pennebaker summarizes findings from his 10 year research program on the consequences of confiding one's secrets and offers advice regarding how to use confession to enhance psychological and physical health...Pennebaker buttresses conclusions based on his extensive research with case studies, which include not only cases of individuals but of entire cities....I found them to be engaging and useful...He does an exemplary job of walking the fine line between a professional volume and a trade book...Pennebaker's research has already made a valuable contribution to the study of psychological processes in health, and this book pulls together his findings and speculations about this fascinating line of work. "Opening Up" is an engaging, provocative book that will be of interest to lay readers, behavioral researchers, and therapists alike." --Mark R. Leary, "Contemporary Psychology" .."Superb book." --Henry Dreher, "Natural Health" "Written more for general consumption, Pennebaker gives a gripping look at how psychological science is best done. He makes his results relevant and exciting, but the science seems solid. Pennebaker provides substantial empirical support for significant mental and physical health effects arising from religious practices such as confession, reconciliation, and forgiveness."--Robert J. Lovinger, PhD, Professor of Psychology, Central Michigan University "Dr. Pennebaker has demonstrated that expressing emotions appears to protect the body against damaging internal stresses and seems to have long-term health benefits." --Daniel Goleman, in "The New York Times" "This book is the very best that scientific psychology has to offer. Pennebaker has made remarkable discoveries that show how disclosing our deepest secrets can make us well...throws open new doors of understanding and offers new hope for gaining control of our lives." --Daniel M. Wegner, author of "White Bears and Other Unwanted Thoughts" "Some of the most important findings published in psychology in the past decade. This work, if followed, would change the lives of millions of people." --Robert Ornstein, PhD, co-author of "Healthy Pleasures"

About the Author

James W. Pennebaker, PhD, is Professor of Psychology at the University of Texas at Austin. His research on stress, emotion, and health has been funded by the National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health, and has resulted in the publication of over 100 articles and 7 books. Since receiving his doctoral degree in 1977, Pennebaker has taught at the University of Virginia and Southern Methodist University. His recent honors include an Honorary Doctorate degree from the University of Louvain (Belgium), the Pavlov Award, and the Hilgard Visiting Professorship at Stanford University. He lives in Austin with his wife, Ruth (a writer), and two children.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Long before the Spanish conquered the New World, the natives of what is now North and South America had elaborate confession rituals wherein tribe members disclosed their transgressions to others. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 20 May 2001
Format: Paperback
This is one of the most thoughtful books I have read. It is a mix of science and compassion. After reading it, I now have a much better sense of writing and its effects on health.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By KayT on 24 Oct. 2010
Format: Paperback
I bought this book because I had PTSD and the commonly associated traumatic flashbacks. The author is a well respected academic who advocates the practice of writing to help alleviate trauma and improve general health. Quite amazingly, just reading the book seemed to do the trick for me. I feel better because I learned from this book what I was struggling with and why. Maybe that was enough for me. I totally recommend this book for anyone still suffering from past traumas that they feel they can't talk to anyone about or for mental health practitioners who want to know more about the benefits of writing and health.
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10 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 29 April 2000
Format: Paperback
The reviews of this book are outstanding, I was led to believe that there were new insights and discoveries that had been made through the expressive power of writing. This was simply not the case. The book is NOT a work book offering help in a guided way but rather one of those well put together 'touch on the subject' pop psychology books. Pennebaker has made an entertaining read out of the same message. That is, opening up appears to be good for you. Disappointing! :|
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Margaret Doust on 15 Mar. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It was just okay really. It formed part of the reading list for Uni and one that I thought would be appropriate for a particular module.I'm not a big fan of American self help books which this is.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 22 reviews
106 of 109 people found the following review helpful
Confirmation of the Benefits of Self-Expression 27 Oct. 2003
By S. Hill - Published on
Format: Paperback
In Opening Up Dr. Pennebaker discusses his research into the mind-body connection, and about how mental and physical health can be affected by how people express their deepest feelings about important life experiences. He describes the many studies he has taken part in and the case histories of individuals he has observed in the course of his career.
The bulk of Opening Up deals with the way in which writing (or verbalizing) the details of and emotions surrounding people's most traumatic (and occasionally most positive) life experiences can affect well-being. It is fascinating to learn how interconnected the mind and body actually are, and how effective the act of putting one's experiences into words can improve people's quality of life, or conversely how expressing the wrong kinds of feelings or expressing them inappropriately can do just the opposite. This book makes a quick yet intriguing read as Dr. Pennebaker expresses his observations in a way easy for the layperson follow and confines his notes to the end of the book so the reader is not distracted from the flow of the text.
That said, I have to add that the final chapter, "Beyond Traumas: Writing and Well-Being", seems superfluous. Diverse topics such as the use of in-class writing, note-taking, and the teaching of reading and writing to pre-school children are brought into the discussion and seem to have nothing but a tenuous connection to the rest of the book. These topics may have been better left out rather than brought up at the last minute and not really discussed at enough length to warrant their inclusion.
While the conclusion takes away from the book, I would still encourage anyone who is interested in psychology in general or the mind-body connection in particular to pick this book up.

I do have one caveat to make and it is directed to those who are under the impression that this book is a self-help book. While the subtitle, The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions, leads to potential reader to think that this book will show them how to use writing to heal themselves, this is not the case. If you are looking for a book to direct you I would recommend something like Louise deSalvo's Writing as a Way of Healing as a companion to this volume. deSalvo's book is largely based on Dr. Pennebaker's research but offers concrete advice on how someone looking to begin a writing practice could start out, providing exercises and checklists to ensure that the writing experience is beneficial to the writer.
74 of 81 people found the following review helpful
Open Up "Opening Up"! 15 Jan. 1998
By J. W. Bush - Published on
Format: Paperback
Expression of one's deepest thoughts and feelings has long been a staple of psychotherapy. Yet until Dr. James Pennebaker of the University of Texas published the results of his decades-long research program, little was known by the general public about the specific effects of self-disclosure. Dr. Pennebaker shows how writing down your thoughts and feelings (or dictating them into a tape recorder) can improve your physical as well as your mental health. In other words, it is not always necessary to confide in another person to obtain at least some of the benefits of self-expression. However, as the author makes clear, not all forms of self-disclosure are beneficial, and he gives specific guidance on what to do and what to avoid.
42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
Scientific validation for the benefits of journaling 26 Oct. 2000
By Joan Mazza - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Pennebaker's studies of people who wrote about their deepest traumas and hurts demonstrate that expressing feelings is helpful and healing. People who participated in the studies showed improved immune function as measured by doctor visits compared to controls groups who didn't journal or who journaled about daily events and omitted their feelings.
If you've kept a journal and written about what troubles you, you know how much this unloading can improve your mood. It's nice to have someone listen to you, or to have the compassionate attention of a paid therapist who can help you see your patterns. But it's also comforting to know that science has shown that journaling can be a way for you to be your own therapist. In this book, the author shares stories of people and their writing. This is a good book to point to if anyone thinks journaling is just narcissistic scribbling.
~~Joan Mazza, psychotherapist and author of DREAM BACK YOUR LIFE; DREAMING YOUR REAL SELF; WHO'S CRAZY ANYWAY? and 3 books in The Guided Journal Series with Writer's Digest Books/Walking Stick Press.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Readable, fun detective story 6 Sept. 2005
By J&R Harjes - Published on
Format: Paperback
If you are a scientist you may enjoy the story of how James Pennebaker pieced together his theories as much as you enjoy the theories themselves. Once he validated the worth of writing about emotional events that you had not previously talked about, he explored many other variations of disclosure. Two big surprises I found: 1) we need to write about happy things, too, and 2) by writing about an emotion, you diminish its passion -- as in love letters.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
The Science of Confession 26 Sept. 2010
By W. A. Carpenter - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Dr. Pennebaker's Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions presents the results of his psychological research on writing, confession, and the links between emotional and physical health.

I appreciated the intellectual honesty of this book. Yes, writing about your deepest emotions can help your health, but so can psychotherapy and talking with friends. The author makes modest claims for his work and shows how his ideas about the subject have changed over time and as the result of experiments with college students and others.

A particularly interesting chapter talks about the value of note taking, especially in class room settings. This was done years before the introduction of "smart pens" that tie audio recordings to notes; his work could provide a theoretical framework for studying the effectiveness of such pens for classroom lectures.
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