Putting feelings into words makes sadness and anger less intense, U.S. brain researchers said in a finding that explains why talking to a therapist — or even a sympathetic bartender — often makes people feel better. Researchers scanned the brains of people who were shown pictures of faces expressing strong emotions and asked to categorize the feelings using words like “sad” or “angry”. They were also asked to match the face to one of two gender-specific names like “Sally” or “Harry”.
The findings showed that when people attached a word like “angry” to an angry-looking face, the response in the amygdala portion of the brain that handles fear, panic and other strong emotions decreased. This seems to dampen down the response in these basic emotional circuits in the brain — in this case the amygdala. What lights up instead is the right ventrolateral prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that controls impulses.
So rather than talking about feelings leading to new insights, and that understanding being what transforms you, it may be that simply naming an emotion allows you to move on from it.
Source: Psychological Science