How to get over a breakup? Journaling? Does it make hurt feelings worse or better? Psychologist James W. Pennebaker feels that when people are given the opportunity to write about emotional upheavals, they often experience improved health.’’ Talking about it? Ms. Larson and Dr. Sbarra performed a few exercises. The speaking exercise helped people because ‘‘it improved their sense of self-independent of their former partner. Dr. Sbarra explained, ‘‘and so you touch on it, you think about it, you put it out there, you reflect, and then you sort of create some distance.
Read an excerpt from the article written by Anna North:
Writing about your feelings, a practice long embraced by teenagers and folk singers, is now attracting attention as a path to good health. And a recent study suggests that reflecting on your emotions could help you get over a breakup. But, one of its authors says, journaling can have its downsides. Is structured self-reflection, as some suggest, a healthy tuneup for the heart and head — or can it make hurt feelings worse? For a study published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, Grace M. Larson, a graduate student at Northwestern University, and David A. Sbarra, a psychology professor at the University of Arizona, Tucson, looked at self-reflection through a speaking exercise. They recruited 210 young people (they ranged in age from 17 to 29) who had recently broken up with their partners, and then split this brokenhearted sample into two groups. One filled out a questionnaire on how they were feeling, then completed a four-minute assignment in which they were asked to talk into a recording device, free-associating in response to questions like, ‘‘When did you first realize you and your partner were headed toward breaking up?’’ This group repeated the same exercise three, six and nine weeks later. The second group filled out the questionnaire only at the beginning and at the end of the nine-week study period (they also did the speaking exercise, but only after filling out their final questionnaires). Ms. Larson and Dr. Sbarra found that the breakup sufferers in the first group experienced greater improvements in ‘‘self-concept clarity’’ than those in the second. Dr. Sbarra defines self-concept clarity as ‘‘the degree to which you understand yourself as a person.’’ He and Ms. Larson measured it by asking subjects how much they agreed with statements like ‘‘I do not feel like myself anymore’’ or ‘‘I have regained my identity.’’ Much of our understanding of ourselves can be bound up in our relationships with our partners, Dr. Sbarra explained. And the speaking exercise helped people because ‘‘it improved their sense of self independent of their former partner.’’ That improved sense of self, in turn, led to reductions in loneliness and ‘‘emotional intrusion.’’ ...Read more