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J Pers. 2019 Dec 16. doi: 10.1111/jopy.12534. [Epub ahead of print]

Self-distancing promotes positive emotional change after adversity: Evidence from a micro-longitudinal field experiment.

Author information

1
Department of Psychology, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada.
2
Autism and Developmental Medicine Institute, Geisinger Health System, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

This research examines changes in emotionality following adverse experiences in daily life. We tested whether daily self-distancing (vs. self-immersing) in reflections on adversity results in positive change in emotionality. Additionally, we probed the "dosage" effect of repeated self-distancing.

METHOD:

A micro-longitudinal field experiment combined 4-week daily diary and experimental manipulation of perspective during diary-based reflections on adverse experiences to explore the trajectory of change in emotionality. Each day, participants (N = 149) described and reflected on one significant event from that day and rated emotionality. We randomly assigned participants to reflect from a self-immersed or self-distanced perspective.

RESULTS:

Self-distanced participants showed a change toward positive emotionality while maintaining the same level of negative emotionality, whereas self-immersed participants did not show changes in positive or negative emotionality. We also observed that self-distancing reached its maximum effect ("dosage") for positive emotionality in the third week of the diary.

CONCLUSIONS:

Repeated self-distanced reflections can promote positive change in emotionality in the face of everyday adversity. Notably, repeated self-distancing effectiveness has a saturation point. In contrast, self-immersed reflections on adversity do not promote positive emotional change. Together, these observations raise the question how the default self-immersed reflection on traumatic experiences impacts personal growth.

KEYWORDS:

adversity; emotion; emotional change; posttraumatic growth; self-distancing

PMID:
31840248
DOI:
10.1111/jopy.12534

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