How Does that Make You Feel, Chertoff?


Radley posted earlier today on Chertoff's very public, non-specific fretting about terrorism:

On Tuesday, Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told the editorial board of The Chicago Tribune that he had a "gut feeling" about a new period of increased risk….

"Summertime seems to be appealing to them," Chertoff said in his discussion with the newspaper about terrorists. "We worry that they are rebuilding their activities."

A new study from the current issue of Psychological Science[PDF] titled "Putting Feelings Into Words" sheds some light on what Chertoff is up to. He's got a tough job, you know. Emotions can run high. Maybe he's just trying to reduce his own stress:

"The prefrontal cortex seems to be involved in turning off emotional stuff," [psychologist Matthew D. Lieberman of the University of California, Los Angeles] said. So it puts the brakes on the emergency response alarm sent out by the amygdala, thus reducing stress.

It works, he suggests, "when people are explicitly making sense of their own feelings, usually by putting them into words."

The study found that emotional responses were diminished when subjects were asked to use words to identify feelings. Of course, in Chertoff's case, even if this mild form of talk therapy is helping him, there is the small matter of increasing the stress levels of everyone else in America.