Divorcees encouraged to express themselves through writing had a harder time moving on.
PROBLEM: It's a paradigm of traditional psychology to have distressed patients express their feeling in writing -- the experience, as anyone who's kept an angsty diary (guilty) will attest to, can feel extremely cathartic. Newer theories have focused on the ability to form a coherent narrative as important to the coping and recovery process following a traumatic event. Researchers at the University of Arizona hypothesized that focusing creative word vomit into narrative form could help patients with the highest tendency to ruminate about the past to pull themselves together and move on following divorce.
- Scouting the Olympics of Sperm
- Domestic Violence Increases After Major Sporting Events
- People Drunk on Arrival to the ER Have a Higher Survival Rate
METHODOLOGY: Ninety recently divorced or separated men and women were asked to write in a journal for 20 minutes a day, over three consecutive days. Some of them were instructed to "really let go and explore your very deepest emotions and thoughts;" others were asked to record the tale of their failed marriage as a story with a beginning, middle, and end. Those remaining kept an opinion and emotion-free log of their daily activities. The researchers assessed the participants' emotional baselines before the journal-thon began, and then followed up 8 months later.
RESULTS: The participants who were the most ruminative, and who "were judged to be actively engaged in the search for meaning," made the least progress in dealing with their emotions when instructed to express their emotions through writing.
The researchers weren't expecting this. But by follow-up, on scales measuring response to a traumatic event, depressive mood disturbances, and "loss and rediscovery of self," the participants who fared best turned out to be the control group: those who engaged in dry data collection.