Keeping a journal about your feelings after a divorce or separation can do more harm than good, according to a press release from the Association for Psychological Science (Nov. 29). Researchers found writing down how you feel can make you feel more emotionally distraught months later, lingering the healing process.
The researchers wanted to evaluate if the newly divorced partners who practiced narrative expressive writing in a journal would experience greater healing benefits, as opposed to those who just jotted down how they felt or wrote in a journal about daily activities without emotions (non-expressive writing).
Narrative expressive writing is a technique for writing in a format of having a “beginning, a middle and an end” to the story. The participants wrote for 20 minutes a day for three days. Eight months later, an assessment of their emotional state was re-evaluated.
Results suggest expressive writing of any kind can actually thwart an emotional recovery. Subsequently, non-expressive writing (or controlled writing) might be a more effective intervention for newly separated partners.
Redefine yourself after a divorce
After understanding the dynamics of this study, it appears expressive writing may contribute to brooding over a failed relationship. Brooding over the divorce includes self-blame and searching for answers, among other negative feelings.
While journaling is proven to be an effective form of intervention for numerous stressful life situations, it may not be the suggested treatment for all individuals wanting to recover from a divorce or separation.
The expressive tactic in the form of writing may influence the negative emotions and keep people from ‘moving on’ with their lives. This task of bringing up ‘how we feel’ for journaling may keep the negativity fresh in the mind, slowing down the healing process.
The findings will be published in the upcoming journal, Clinical Psychological Science.
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Post-Divorce Journaling May Hinder Healing for Some