“Explanations allow us to understand how and why an event happened, which immediately allows us to see how and why it might happen again.”

Explanations allow us to make full use of our experiences, but they also change the nature of those experiences. As we have seen, when experiences are unpleasant, we quickly move to explain them in ways that make us feel better (“I didn’t get the job because the judge was biased against people who barf on Ferris wheels”). And indeed, studies show that the mere act of explaining an unpleasant event can help to defang it. For example, simply writing about a trauma — such as the death of a loved one or a physical assault — can lead to surprising improvements in both subjective well-being and physical health (e.g., fewer visits to the physician and improved production of viral anti-bodies). What’s more, the people who experience the greatest benefit from these writing exercises are those whose writing contains an explanation of the trauma.

I’ve always been better at writing than speaking.