As Neil Sedaka warbles in his infamous 1960’s song, ‘breaking up is hard to do’. Anyone who’s ever experienced the very real physical and emotional aftermath of the end of the relationship will know just how painful it can be – but research has shown that there may be a way to speed up the process.
The study, which was published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, suggests that repeatedly reflecting on the break-up promoted ’emotional recovery’ – and while this might initially sound like the most upsetting approach, their findings demonstrated that it could actually be the quickest route to moving on.
To make the assessment, the authors asked 210 participants who’d recently split with their significant other to partake in various questionaries and interview processes – some very lengthy and in-depth, and others short and brief.
The key aspect they focused on was ‘self-concept reorganisation’, which is essentially the mental separation of the person from their previous other halves. What they found was that those who had to focus on their former relationships in more detail achieved this faster than those who had surface-level discussions.
The study’s first author, Dr Grace Larson, explained of the discovery: ‘The process of becoming psychologically intertwined with the partner is painful to have to undo. Our study provides additional evidence that self-concept repair actually causes improvements in wellbeing.’
What they were unable to pinpoint is exactly why this method works – although Dr Larson did add: ‘It might be simply the effect of repeatedly reflecting on one’s experience and crafting a narrative – especially a narrative that includes the part of the story where one recovers.’
So while the most common advice might be not to dwell on a broken relationship and distract yourself from the heartache, the survey shows that this may not be the most effective solution for everyone. Healing is personal, but don’t be afraid of reflecting – although you might not have access to a questionnaire or interviewer, the researchers believe that attempting a similar process on your own can be just as effective.