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What about daily hassles? Do they need to be processed in the same way a traumatic experience would? Freud suggested that the same principles would apply to a minor argument as a more serious life event. He thought that if even a slight irritation was not expressed, the energy (cathexis) might be re-expressed at a later time. (Is it possible to bottle up emotions?) Does the idea that ‘time heals’ fit well with daily upsets and hassles or does it only apply to a major hurt?
Irritation or upset experienced in an argument with a family member at breakfast can often be forgotten during the course of the working day. Upon returning home it is not ‘the big issue’ it was at breakfast. ‘Counting to ten’ carries this idea that emotions such as anger have a short time course. The idea is that the bodily tension and various chemicals and neurotransmitters involved in the feeling of stress or aggravation naturally dissipate throughout the day. Guinagh (1987) and Nichols and Zax (1977) argue that unpleasant emotional feelings cannot be stored in the body, as if in a big container, but memories can be stored and replayed at a later time, eliciting the original emotional feelings. So the issue of what happens to daily hassles would be whether the noxious event was significant enough to occupy much space in long term memory.
It is possible that there is an emotional threshold beyond which unresolved emotional hurt must pass to give it enough priority for permanent memory storage. The memory of the unresolved emotional hurt would create dissonance until it is properly processed. Alternatively, it might be that all emotional events are stored in memory and require varying degrees of emotional processing depending on the emotional significance attributed to the event. This relates to the question of whether positive and negative emotional events are stored in the same way. Is emotional processing all negative?
The study by Rimé et al (1995) in which they got participants to ‘over rehearse’ yesterday’s main daily hassle for three consecutive weeks shows that it is certainly possible to make a hassle into a trauma if you try hard enough!