Choice Selection

Running head: Inhibition and Confession: A Way to a Healthier Life


Inhibition and Confession: A Way to a Healthier Life

Miranda Galindo

California State University, Monterey Bay


Author’s Note: This paper was prepared for CHHS 125 taught by David Calloway & Natasha Oehlman.


Miranda Galindo

CHHS 125

David Calloway & Natasha Oehlman

11 May 2014

Inhibition and Confession: A Way to a Healthier Life

The process of inhibition and confession allows individuals to form a healthier psyche. James Pennebaker explores different methods of inhibition and confession in different observations and experiments. Louise DeSalvo explains how severalrenounced authors began writing through their trauma life experiences and let it out through their writing. Audre Lorde describes the pain and confusion she felt when she discovered that she had breast cancer. bell hooks wanted to write an autobiography to get a better understanding of who she is and move on in her life. These authors, each in their own way, discover the ties between inhibition and confession and how it enhanced many individuals’ life.

In the book, “Opening Up”, James Pennebaker claims the power of confession and inhibition will allow individuals to live a more healthy life than those who do not discuss the hardships in their life. Pennebaker supports his evidence through several observations and experiments. For example, Pennebaker discovered that, “Over time, the work of inhibition gradually undermines the body’s defenses.”(Pennebaker 1997) Many individuals do not see the connection between inhibiting their thoughts and the healthy benefits of confessing that will bring them. “[…] revealing pent-up thoughts and feelings can be liberating”, (Pennebaker 1997) but people will never know until they try. Pennebaker observed as one man confessed while hooked to a polygraph and soon his physiological levels lowered. A physical reaction occurs once an individual recognizes that they have confessed an event or situation that bothered them. Overall, “[..] seeing the cause-effect relationship is beneficial [because] it makes the health problems more predictable and, hence, controllable.”

In addition, Pennebaker continued his research, Confession in the Laboratory to see how psychology and confession affect people in their daily lives, so that people can become aware of the ability to heal themselves. Pennebaker has noticed that “profound changes often occur in their speech and writing styles as well as their psychological level” (Pennebaker 1997). The participants in the experiment change their attitudes about the event they are talking about without even realizing that they are progressing. Pennebaker categorizes his participants into two groups: those who hold back and those who confess events in great detail. The author “[…] found that high disclosures showed significant drops in blood pressure from before the 6 weeks after the experiment compared to low disclosures” (Pennebaker 1997). The disclosures experienced physical and physiological improvement. Pennebaker concludes that “when disclosing deeply personal experiences, there are immediate changes in brain-wave patterns, skin conductance levels, and overt behavioral correlates of the letting- go experience” (Pennebaker 1997). Improvements in the body are happening when individuals confess something that has been on their mind. As these individuals let go of the past they were allowed to move on in their life. They confessed what was on their mind for a long period of time and now they can live a healthier life.

In Writing as a Way of Healing, Louise DeSalvo explains how the process of writing can help individuals explore traumatic experiences. DeSalvo believes that there should not be a process to writing about a traumatic event; individuals need to let the words flow out of them and onto paper. Writing is powerful, because it allows individuals to release their deepest secrets that they do not need to share with anyone, but their journal. The author states, that “[…] not writing will eventually begin to erase who you are” (DeSalvo 1997). Writing allows the individual to express who they are at that moment in time. Next, DeSalvo uses other authors’ life stories as evidence on how writing has helped them cope with life. Isabel Allende had to deal with the death of her grandfather and later, her daughter.  Allende defines her writing as “therapy” (DeSalvo 1997).Writing allowed her to release any unwanted feelings that later manifested themselves into novels. Allende contemplate committing suicide, but her writing helped her deal with what she was going through at the time.  DeSalvo reflects upon the other authors’ stories and notices a common factor among them – loss. DeSalvo states, “for loss is a universal human experience, something we all must learn to deal with” (DeSalvo 1997). The healthy way to deal with loss is to confront it and acknowledge what happened. By comforting that knowledge they are allowing themselves to move forward in life with no strings attached.

In The Cancer Journals, Audre Lorde, a breast cancer survivor, explains her struggle with receiving the news that she has breast cancer. Lorde supports her explanation by keeping a journal, then reflecting on who she is, and finally discovering that cancer does not define who she is. Lorde states, “I must let this pain flow through me and pass on. […] it will detonate inside me, shatter me, […]” (Lorde 1997). Lorde struggles to find an even balance between the life before and after she discovered that she had cancer. She must let her feelings about cancer flow out of her or else it will consume her. Keeping a journal of her daily life helped Lorde get through the next stage of her life and move on. Later, Lorde states, “I realize that if I wait until I am no longer afraid to act, speak, be, I’ll be sending messages on a Ouija board, cryptic compliant from the other side” (Lorde 1997). If Lorde does not get out how she feels in this lifetime then she will have to during her after life. It is critical for her to write about what she is going through or her psyche will suffer. Lorde’s daughter commented to her mother ‘“tell them about how you’re never really a whole person if you remain silent, because there’s always that one little piece inside of you that wants to be spoken out […]” (Lorde 1997). The way individuals confess their inhibitions is not as important as long as they get out. The past can haunt you if you do not discuss it, or write it. The act of confession allowed Lorde to move on in a healthy manner. Lorde published her private journal, confessing to the world how she feels, which allowed her to move on and cope with life in a healthy way.

bell hooks wanted to get a better understanding of who she is, so she looked back at her past in order to move on in her future. bell hooks wanted to know who she is and states that, “the past that had a hold on me, that kept me from the present” (hooks 2009). She was unable to proceed with her life, because she felt that her past was holding her back. She sought out the truth by any means necessary.  She even found herself in an unlikely situation as she describes, “I had met a young black man. We were having an affair” (hooks 2009).  She wanted to know her past, but she felt like the only way she could do that is by crossing a few lines. It was important that this young man was black, because along with his scent he brought back memories she had of her uncle. It was a slow and long process, but she wanted to know her past. She wanted to be able to confess to herself what she has been hiding from herself all these years. By finding the truth and gaining that knowledge hooks was able to confess to herself and others her past. These actions helped hooks live a healthier life.

Inhibition and confession go hand and hand. If an individual is constantly thinking about something then they need to share. It is not healthy to keep your feelings locked up inside, because Pennebaker has witnessed the physical and psychological effects of inhibition. DeSalvo allows individuals to know that writing can be a therapeutic when individuals confess and that they can write for themselves. Lorde went further to demonstrate to the world that every voice needs to be heard, because we have a voice and should let it be free in this life time rather than the afterlife.  hooks wanted to write an autobiography and the actions towards confessing her past led her to be able to move on in her future. Let go and confess; confessing is good for your psyche.


DeSalvo, L. (1999).  Writing as a Way of Healing”; Why write?, Boston, Massachusetts. 02108-2892. Beacon Press

Lorde, A. (1997) The cancer journals. San Francisco, California: aunt lute books.

Pennebaker, J.W., (1997). “Opening up”; The Healing Power of Exposing Emotions. New York,             NY 10012. The Guilford Press.

hooks, b. (2009). Attutudes. Essays on Writing (). : Longmail .


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