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Breakup diaries may be hazardous to your health

It has long been a stable tenet of popular psychology that when in the throes of grief over a separation, a divorce or a break up, keeping a journal of one’s feeling helps to heal the pain.

However new research seems to indicate, that at least for some, probing memories and raw feelings quite so intensively in the direct aftermath of a split could in fact be doing more harm than good.

In a study of 90 recently divorced or separated individuals, psychological scientist David Sbarra of the University of Arizona and his research team found that writing about one's feelings can actually leave some people feeling far more emotionally bruised for much longer, particularly those individuals who may be seeking a deeper meaning for their failed relationship.

Ironically, the findings came as a complete surprise to Sbarra who had initially set out to compare the effectiveness of two different types of emotional writing. However in pursuing that study, it began to emerge that for many, the whole process is fundamentally damaging.

This may not come as any massive surprise to the layman though it has to be said. There are generally two schools of thought on how to handle a breakup. One is to agonise over where it all went wrong and amplify the feeling of hurt, loss and one’s own mistakes into a form of redemption. The other is to move on as swiftly as possible and focus more on the immediate future – getting out and about, reconnecting with friends, possibly having a couple of short term relationships.

It is perhaps not shocking that those in the therapeutic community have until now recommended engaging with one’s own feelings for better or for worse – taking the line that one can only move on when one has entirely reconciled their feelings with events and their own emotional balance. Your friends however, may have a few, very different suggestions on how to cope!!!

The study is to be published in Clinical Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

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