Closure is Bad for You

Uploaded 9/3/2021, approx. 16 minute read

I am noticing a sharp increase in both the IQ and the sanity of the remaining subscribers.

Let me venture a guess. All the conspiracy theories have finally left us alone. Thank God for that, even though I am not a believer.

So today we are going to slaughter another holy cow, and the holy cow is Closure. Is Closure good for you? Everyone and his dog will tell you, yes, Closure is great for you. You should pursue Closure. You should even try to communicate with your abuser to obtain Closure.

Regrettably, like most information online, this is nonsense. Nonsense long debunked by psychological studies. This is the channel where you are exposed to real psychology in the making and not to, you know, media hype or self-styled experts.

So today we are going to tear apart Closure, its adherents, its proponents and its promoters.

Let's start by asking where did the idea of Closure come from? Whereas it came from Gestalt therapy or Gestalt psychology.

In Gestalt psychology, in the early writings of Gestalt theories, they suggested that the mind perceives images and processes them in a highly specific way. One of the main Gestalt principles is that the mind seeks Closure.

So if you see an image of a circle and the circle is incomplete, the mind will still perceive it as a circle. It will close the circle. It will generate Closure.

So Closure in original Gestalt psychology had to do with image processing, nothing to do with relationships.

And then a group of self-styled self-proclaimed experts, self-styled self-proclaimed gurus, borrowed this principle from Gestalt psychology and corrupted it beyond recognition.

Now these people said that we process life the same way that we process images. When we have something that is not closed, for example, an unresolved trauma from the past, we need to close it. We need to resolve it in order to properly process it and to be able to move on.

So inappropriately, the principle of image closure in Gestalt psychology was expanded upon and extrapolated to include trauma, relationships and everything else under the sun, frankly, political processes, you name it.

And of course, immediately based on that, there was a cottage industry. People started to make money exactly as happened in narcissism. When all kinds of people discovered narcissism, they declared themselves experts in order to make money off the gullible.

So the same happened with Closure. There were therapeutic techniques which attended to Closure and ensured Closure, although no one had defined Closure actually to this very day. No one knows what the heck is Closure, but everyone is talking about it with great assurance and authoritativeness.

And so there's the technique of the empty chair. It's when the participants imagine the source of the frustration, the source of the unresolved trauma, for example, an abusive parent, a departed lover, an ex spouse and so on and so forth. So you imagine this person sitting in an empty chair opposite you and you speak to the chair as though it were that missing person.

So this is the empty chair technique. I have a whole video dedicated to it.

Now the technique itself is very interesting and elicits healing in some ways and to a limited extent, but it does not generate Closure. Anyone who tells you otherwise is a con artist.

So the empty chair technique provides temporary release.

We have multiple studies that show that the empty chair technique has no long-term emotional effects, no long-term emotional release and no effect on processing trauma.

The pain remains and is reawakened usually after a few hours.

So that's an example of a therapeutic technique borrowed from Gestalt, by the way, which had been abused to actually promise the gullible outcomes, which can never ever materialize, which are not embedded in the technique itself.

This is false advertising and Cold to a large degree is hype coupled with false advertising.

There's a happy ending narrative, which is essentially Hollywoodian. It's a Hollywood thing. It's not in psychology. It's not happy ending in psychology. There's no ending in psychology.

Actually, we don't recognize endpoints in psychology. Everything is in flux. Everything is a process. Everything leads to something else and every something else leads to another thing.

So they are not endpoints and the methods of Gestalt are very controversial. Although some of them do produce results like the empty chair, they're very controversial because Gestalt does promise the equivalent of Closure or the equivalent of a happy ending.

So popular culture and pop psychology and self-styled artists who are basically hacks and con artists and so on jumped on the bandwagon and are promising you all this.

And now in talk shows, you see all kinds of lovers or spouses or parents with children and so on and so forth, they're on stage, they confront each other and then they burst out crying and disintegrate on stage and then they reunite and hug and all is well and they exit left happily ever after. It's addictive to see this. It's very appealing.

We want to believe in happy endings. We want to believe that the world holds in store some promise, but nothing is more pernicious than hope. I've been saying it for two years now. Hope is the worst invention ever.

And so Cold is closely allied with the concept of hope. What is the truth, you ask? What is the truth about Cold?

Well, start with the psychotherapist Ashley Davis Bush. She wrote the book Hope and Healing for Transcending Loss. She argues that the pop psychology brand of Closure is actually not achievable and even to some extent nonproductive.

She says the thing about pain, the idea that we can completely end emotional pain is false. You can ease the pain. You can learn how to cope better. You can temporarily forget about the pain.

But in reality, it's not that the pain ends, but it changes over time.

Many experts today and all psychological, all real psychologists, they would tell you that Closure is a myth and not only a myth, but a pernicious counterproductive myth, destructive in some cases.

Now, Closure provides hope. The idea of Closure provides hope and provides comfort. It says you can turn off the pain. You can return to life as usual. You can move on.

And all you have to do is a single act. Confront your abuser, for example.

So had you experienced a tragic loss? Had you undergone a traumatic breakup?

Closure is the solution for you. That's a piece of advice that family, friends, popular media will give you. The whole movie is based on Closure. When we mourn, when we go to a funeral, it's a form of Closure. It's a ritual of heartbreak, a ritual of pain.

But death is final. Death does provide an end point.

Not so with traumatic breakups, for example, because your ex is still alive and well and dating others and so on. So it's nice to believe. It's malignant optimism. It's pernicious hope to believe that there's some series of steps you can take and there are not too many.

And you can achieve this magical state. Your pain will vanish, bad memories will evaporate and so on and so forth and you'll be happy ever after.

And this is seriously dangerous. It leads you astray.

The real focus should be on other things.

When you attempt to move on, that's not easy.

And if you disperse the scarce energy that you do have, you are depleted after a trauma or a breakup and so on. You have very little energy.

And if you misuse this energy, if you allocate this energy wrongly, you're left without any energy to do the real work, what you really must do.

So the advice is get rid of things, objects, remove physical reminders that trigger you.

I don't know your lover's possessions, your ex-spouses things, get rid of them, write a goodbye letter, scatter the ashes, find forgiveness in your heart, get answers from your abuser, etc, etc.

These are all closure techniques and they are premised on the main message of Western civilisation.

Everything has a solution and if we only put our minds to it, everything ends happily.

Well, as COVID-19 is teaching us, some things don't have a solution and many things do not end happily.

Life is not clean-cut, there's no finality and there is no foreseeable end to pain. Life is about suffering and loss. Suffering and loss are the main and probably exclusive engines of personal growth and development.

We evolve through suffering, we progress through loss and the absence of these or when we try to shunt them aside, shunt them and hide them and avoid them, we never grow, we never evolve and that guarantees a constant victimhood stance and a pain that cannot be mitigated or ameliorated, it just transforms and shapeshifts so the pain can become anxiety or the pain can become depression.

We need to confirm the pain head-on, accept it, embrace it, live with it.

There's a belief that you have to take action, you have to initiate, you have to make sure that you obtain closure, it's all in your hands and of course this puts an enormous, honest and enormous pressure on the victim for example of abuse or the survivor of trauma.

It's like, what's wrong with you? Move on, confront your abuser, do this, do that and if you're not doing this thing, something's wrong with you.

But this provides an illusion of control. We're in a situation where there's actually no control and it depletes further the exhausted victim or survivor.

Marianna Butzkawa had written in Psychology Today that closure in breakups is about finding answers. She says through closure we can restructure our past, present and future in a healthy way through understanding what's wrong and reconfiguring our story accordingly.

I beg to differ. Not one word of this paragraph is substantiated by research or studies and most of what she had said is starkly contradicted by everything we had learned in the last 20 years.

Additionally, it's a very tall order.

Even again, you can restructure your past, present and future in a healthy way.

This is asking too much. This is adding to the stress and the pressure. This is not helpful at all.

Getting answers has nothing to do with your pain. No matter how many answers you get, it's not going to ameliorate your pain, mitigate it.

If you find out the true reason for a breakup, this reason is not going to lessen your pain or take care of it.

On the contrary, by the way, the majority of cases is going to increase your pain. It could be even more traumatizing depending on what the reason is, of course.

Ending pain is a myth. It's an unattainable goal. No serious psychologist is trying to accomplish this.

Paying for a permanent closure to emotional pain closes you off to healthier ways of processing grief and sadness, the Kubler-Ross cycle.

You must not close the door on growth and positive growth. Remember, suffering, loss and pain are the engines that drive your car, your life scar, your revolution, your progress, your growth, your development.

It's an essential part of life to experience the full range of sadness, dysphoria, pain, agony, suffering. These are honest emotions. They are necessary. You can't experience joy and happiness if you have had no experience of the other negative affectivity emotions.

So, when you're experiencing pain, to some extent, you need to wallow in it. You need to immerse yourself in your pain, to let go in the pain, to become friends with the pain, to make friends with the pain, to accommodate and accept the pain as an inevitable part of who you are and of your life, and to let the pain teach you how to grow out of it and into a better person.

Also, pain teaches you lessons. Pain is a great, great educator. The idea of closure is harmful.

Clinical social worker Bob Livingston wrote that the pressure to achieve closure and its inevitable failure in the long run can worsen the feeling of loss.

Repressing your emotions, she says, is dangerous and unsustainable.

How should we approach traumatic loss?

Bush says that when she sees clients that grieve over a lost one or a loved one, she doesn't offer closure. She offers healing. She offers growth.

Surviving spouses, for example, they need to carry the painful memories because they're precious, but they need to learn to carry this pain in a positive way, not in a negative way, not in a growth retarding or growth stunting way, but in a growth promoting way. They need to live with a lost love. They need to embrace and accept loss.

Bush encourages her clients to keep the memories, not to get rid of them. You must learn how to let the memories fortify you instead of weigh you down, she says.

And so coming back full circle to the issue of death.

In Western civilization, we reject death. We try to avoid it. We're terrified by it. We hide it. We gray it out in media reports. There's no death. Our world is sanitized. When we come across a virus, we deny its existence because we don't want to confront the fact that we are mortal and we are all about to be gone. We're here temporarily.

And so this rejection of death has a lot to do with the concept of closure.

This closure is about rejecting emotional death.

Sociologist Nancy Burns argues that the popularity of the idea of closure among laws specifically is largely embedded in the commercial interests of funeral home directors and wrongful death attorneys who offered the appealing emotional state to their clients.

Closure in many ways keeps you stuck in the past.

If you try to obtain closure from your abuser, you are still in a relationship with your abuser. Never mind how limited. You're still communicating with your abuser. You still think your abuser has something to give you that you need, that you want. You actually believe that your abuser holds the key to your healing growth and development.

You adopt the perception that without your abuser, you're unable to move on.

Everyone worries about being stuck in the past and everyone advises against being stuck in the past.

But closure is the quintessential move of remaining stuck in the past.

So we must advocate against closure if we really promote moving forward.

Moving forward, remaining emotionally alive, experiencing all your feelings, however painful. You know, this is the way you fall in love again only when you had processed the pain of having lost a loved one.

Intense grief is the way our psychology copes with loss, pain, trauma, suffering. Deep feelings and memories attendant upon these emotions are treasures to be cherished.

You don't need to sacrifice these things. They're a gift.

Some elements of closure do exist, of course.

You sign divorce papers. You move out of an apartment that you had shared. Your ex picks up his things.

These are concrete ways which symbolize finality. But finality is not closure. It's not the same.

Closure implies finality without emotions. Finality is healthy, although not always obtainable.

Closure is not. Thingsnot.

Things get complicated. Our past relationships and experiences are always with us. No matter how hard you try to get rid of these memories and pains and suffering and torment, you can't. You just can't.

When you pursue closure, you are setting yourself up for failure. You are augmenting and enhancing your anxiety and depression in a much more productive way, is to deal with this negative affectivity, bad emotions, horrible memory to deal with them. And by dealing with them, you're honoring yourself and you're extracting wisdom from these things. They're supposed to teach you something.

So don't think about a relationship as a hotel room and the end of the relationship as a closing door or an ending chapter or the end of a movie. Think of it as a leg in your journey, as a layover, as a part of your path, as a process. You carry baggage with you. The baggage could be unpleasant and heavy and discomforting and huge, but you have to drive this package with you. And you have to drive it because you're on a journey. You're in a trip. And the only way to lighten the load is to integrate it with yourself.

When this baggage is no longer external, but part of who you are, you travel light or you travel lighter.

Research had demonstrated that writing is a good idea. Journaling is a good idea. It does not lead to closure. There's not such thing as closure, but it does help you to process your emotions and to put them to good use.

So journaling is a very good idea.

There are quite a few studies about journaling. And I just type journaling studies or journaling research and you will find numerous studies.

Generally in all these studies, we discovered that after a writing exercise or a journaling exercise, there was no increase in negative emotions among people who embraced the pain, who regarded it as a positive thing. There was even a boost in positive outcomes, including rise in confidence, self-esteem, empowerment, comfort, optimism, gratitude, wisdom.

So if you accept and embrace and integrate everything that had happened to you, good or bad, negative or positive, painful or not, you say, this is me. This is me. I'm going to write about it. I'm going to journal about it, but I'm going to do it in a positive way. I'm going to try to remember the positive aspects, even of the pain.

So pain is teaching me something or the pain is indicative that, you know, the relationship is over and I'm not going to experience more pain, etc.

So try to find the positive aspects. If you do, journaling and writing is useful.

But if you are journaling and writing just to vent or to carp or to complain or to whine, it's bad for you. It's going to drag you down.

Venting, by the way, is one of the worst possible things to do.

So I have a video about this.

So journaling should not be a form of written or codified venting. It should be about finding the positive.

Closure is not possible. It's not desirable. It's not necessary.

This is the consensus in psychology today. Anyone who tells you otherwise has no idea what they're talking about, which unfortunately makes the overwhelming vast majority of self-styled experts on this platform.

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