Teachers tend to encourage children to write their feelings “out.” The idea behind this exercise is that expressing one’s feelings in a constructive way will ultimately help to process them and allow the writer to move forward. However, the tried-and-true method of journaling may actually harm some individuals who are grappling with life after divorce.
Psychologists based at the University of Arizona at Tucson were recently intrigued by the idea that self-expression through journaling could help to heal those who have been strongly affected by their divorces. In order to determine just how successful such behavior could be, they created a study in which they asked one group of recently divorced adults to journal about their marriage as a story with a beginning, middle and end. Another group was asked to write about daily life free of strong emotional exploration. A third group was asked to write expressively and without limits about their feelings.
More than six months after the initial experiment, researchers determined that those who wrote about their feelings freely were less likely to process their experience in a way that moved them forward. Particularly for individuals prone to repeat rumination on their darker feelings, journaling served to reinforce these negative emotions.
During a divorce, emotional stress can overwhelm some individuals. Journaling may help certain people move forward with a greater understanding of themselves. However, this recent study shows that if you find yourself simply writing out the negative over and over again, you may find yourself stuck in it.
Source: Discovery News, “In a divorce? Don’t write about it,” Emily Sohn, Dec. 5, 2012