Expressive Writing to Cope with Hate Speech: Assessing Psychobiological Stress Recovery and Forgiveness Promotion for LGBQ Victims of Hate Speech
Crowley, John Patrick
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Research has linked hate speech and discrimination to numerous negative physiological and psychological health outcomes (e.g., Williams, Neighbors, & Jackson, 2003; Williams & Mohammed, 2009). Scholars have identified hate speech as a traumatic event for recipients (Jay, 2009), yet few studies have identified successful emotional-coping methods for treating the negative health effects associated with such speech. Research on forgiveness suggests that ruminating and holding grudges can also have negative health effects, whereas increasing forgiveness generally improves physical and psychological health (Witvliet, Ludwig, & Vander Laan, 2001). Because holding grudges and ruminating requires active suppression of negative affect, emotional expression may mobilize forgiving feelings and healthy outcomes for recipients of hate speech (Romero, 2008). The present study examined whether an expressive writing design could help lesbian, gay, bisexual, or queer (LGBQ) hate speech victims (a) increase forgiveness for offenders, and (b) allay the physiological stress resulting from a recall discussion task in which victims described a hate speech experience in detail. Participants (N = 46) were assigned to a benefit-finding, traumatic disclosure writing, or control condition. The findings indicate that expressive writing increased forgiveness and accelerated cortisol recovery. Specifically, benefit-finding helped participants' forgiveness and reduced cortisol levels, whereas traumatic disclosure writing only accelerated cortisol recovery. Analyses of the linguistic features of victims' narratives revealed that the amount of emotion-related words related to cortisol recovery, whereas the greater use of cognitive words was related with forgiveness. Implications for theory, methodological comparison, and future research are discussed.
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