Journaling About Your Breakup Just Makes It Even Worse

Illustration for article titled Journaling About Your Breakup Just Makes It Even Worse

Take that, therapists: journaling after a breakup makes it harder to move on, according to a new study. Researchers at the University of Arizona thought that particularly "ruminative" patients could benefit from writing out all of their feelings in explicit detail like a 14-year-old LiveJournal poet. (More on those in a sec.) So they asked ninety recently divorced or separated men and women to journal for 20 minutes a day, over three consecutive days. From The Atlantic Health channel:

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.


The researchers were shocked to find that the participants who were the most "ruminative" and "were judged to be actively engaged in the search for meaning," (read: philosophers or neurotic?) actually made the least progress getting over the past when told to rehash it through journaling. But then when they really thought about it (maybe they journaled about it?), it made sense.

"If you're someone who tends to be totally in your head and go over and over what happened and why it happened, you need to get out of your head and just start thinking about how you're going to put your life back together and organize your time," said lead author and psychological scientist David Sbarra. "Some people might naively call this avoidance, but it's not avoidance. It is just re-engagement in life, and the control writing asks people to engage in this process."

In conclusion, I'd like to share something (not really sure what it is... it's not a poem, per se, but I wouldn't call it a story? It's a rant? A lament?) I wrote when I was 14 about my first kiss in my old LiveJournal:

i knew you were all wrong but i couldn't believe it so i made a list, took my favorite red lipstick and wrote down reasons why i had to stop. pages and pages torn from my algebra notebook weren't good enough. i wrote them all over your desk in spanish class, on your car window and number forty seven was scrawled slightly off center on your mirror so that it would be the first thing you saw in the morning. "YOU CAN'T SEE WHAT'S RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU!" but maybe i can't either, because after i was done i realized the name of the lipstick was heartbreaker.

Writing that did not help me get over the boy in question, but it did elicit many approving LiveJournal comments from my dramatic journaling peers.

Please share your own lovelorn middle school poetry down below.

[The Atlantic]

Image via uri Arcurs/Shutterstock.



There is one kind of journaling that I think IS very helpful post breakup - write down all of the terrible, awful, shitty things about your ex. Everything that drove you nuts, etc. Then refer back to this list whenever you start thinking about getting back together with them, or remembering the sweet things about them and missing them...etc. It's very helpful to go from "Aww, remember when he made me breakfast in bed? ::sniff:: I miss that guy..." to "Remember how he used to make me feel terrible about my body? Oh yeah. Asshole." That's my usual "therapy" advice to friends who are in the post breakup period, and it works like a charm.