If you’ve been through a difficult breakup, you might be feeling alone, lost, confused, and maybe even wondering how you’re going to carry on. This might sound dramatic to parents and teachers, but when you’re a teen a breakup can feel like life is over. The truth is that adolescence is a time when teens are discovering more and more about who they are in order to grow into mature, well functioning adults. With an already fluctuating sense of identity, a break up can feel shattering.
Almost everyone will experience a breakup at some point in his or her life, and it’s usually not easy. However, research done by the American Psychological Association (APA) indicates that expressive, therapeutic writing is an excellent tool to use as a way to cope with a breakup. Although this is true for anyone, regardless of age, the significance for teens is that writing increases subjective well being. Said in non-scientific terms, writing provides a way to return to yourself. In other words, it’s the relationship you build with yourself as a result of having a writing practice.
For example, as you write down your experiences, another part of you is listening. The notebook is a place to be completely honest, access your emotions, and open the heart. Each time you write, the heart opens more and more and a certain appreciation develops. It’s a sort of appreciation for yourself, for the whole experience of being alive, for the process of looking inward, and for giving yourself this special time to write.
The study done by the APA also found that relationship breakups, once you’re over them, could actually lead to a positive outcome, such as personal growth. Also, those teens that were better able to cope with a breakup didn’t do so merely by venting to others but by positively reinterpreting the relationship and breakup experience. And one way this kind of reinterpretation happened was through writing. When there was a focus in writing on what went well and the positive aspects of the relationship experience, teens experienced a stronger ability to make get through the breakup process.
Furthermore, writing can give you a feeling of control, which is important at a life stage when you might feel that your life is controlled by others, namely parents and teachers. Adolescence is often an experience in which control feels just out of your reach. So, writing about particular emotions and experiences can bring back some of that power. Therapeutic writing gives you the opportunity to investigate and be curious about your emotions and experiences.
Whether you’re a male or female teen, writing can be your greatest companion, especially after a loss. When it feels like the entire world is oblivious to your inner emotions, the notebook can hold those heavy feelings for you. For this reason alone, therapeutic writing can be healing.
Perhaps it’s obvious that writing is a powerful healing tool. However, psychological science is just starting to catch up with what most teens already know.
Lewandowski, G. (2009). Promoting positive emotions following relationship dissolution through writing. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 4(1), 21-31.