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Stiff upper lip, counselling and ‘trauma’

  • June 5th, 2008

Today’s NZ Herald reprints a UK Telegraph column deploring the softening of the British stiff upper lip. Drawing on a report of US research into the relative resilience of 9/11 survivors the Telegraph column summarised the message “Not speaking about one’s worries is a reliable way of getting over them; while the culture of Yak Yak Yak has done the opposite…”

Signs of a revisionist revival of a lost tradition? 

There’s never been more than opinion behind the view that letting it all hang out is “natural”, and the stiff upper lip was unhealthy repression.

This needs more study. If there is truly little evidence of benefits in counselling after traumatic events, if recounting the events can just cement memories into victims, then we could save a lot of humiliation (and money) by respecting the instincts of those who do not want to  wallow in the unkindness of fate.

Probably there are many best ways to deal with tragedy, depending on the individual. I suspect that counselling and yak yak yak is best for a small minority, and the rest of us can fairly treat the industry with some suspicion, however well-meaning its practitioners.



It’s got nothing to do with the victims; it’s all about making the do-gooders feel better and self-righteous: “Look how we’re helping”. And it becomes a self perpetuating fraud: “How dare you say it’s not necessary, you unfeeling bounder! Give us more money so we can expand this valuable service”. Just like food banks.


I wonder how much PC is responsible for the “culture of yak,yak,yak.” At the very time when feelings are most intense, and many would choose to keep them private, people are told how they should be feeling or coping or to share their grief with the rest of the world. Note how public funerals have become. It makes me shudder. And Grumbleton is on the money.

  • jcuknz
  • June 6th, 2008
  • 10:07 pm

It disturbs me the amount of weeping and wailing that is portrayed on television ‘news’ bulletins … how TV has changed … way back Head of TV News said I had done right not to stick my camera up under the nose* of a grieving widow as the news was broken to her that her husband and son had been found drowned by SAR following an afternoon walk in the bush. The journo on the job was very unhappy with me becuase I didn’t think it was appropriate to film her.
*or even film from a distance.

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