Transformative Processing of Negative Events Through Expressive Writing
Haverford College. Department of Psychology
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The aim of this study was to utilized Pennebaker and Beall's (1986) previously developed expressive writing paradigm and Pals'(2006b) concept of positive selftransformation to try to induce heightened psychological well-being through writing about negative events. Specifically, we developed three separate writing prompts that targeted the two separate components of processing (exploratory processing and coherent positive resolution) as well as a hybrid prompt that utilized elements of both in an effort to induce transformational processing, with the idea that this combination prompt would induce "optimal", or eudaimonic well-being. Overall, our results did not support our hypotheses; however, our combination prompt did produce narratives that scored significantly higher in growth than either the "explore" or the "resolve" prompt. Additionally, narratives in the Explore and Combination conditions showed a higher amount of insight cognition words than the Resolve condition. While these findings are not conclusive with regard to the influence of different writing styles on psychological well-being, they are conclusive in showing that growth is a function of both emotional exploration and positive closure and that this type of writing prompt has the potential to induce a significant positive change in an individual's self-identity.