An Irish dramatist, who attempted to examine an origin for distress, stated the above quote. Our lives may consist of numerous situations that can cause us stress. One of those situations may include disintegration of a romantic relationship. Various studies have shown that the dissolution of a romantic relationship can be a highly stressful and a traumatic process, although emotional responses to it can vary depending on the degree of seriousness of the relationship and various other factors (1). Nonetheless, it is an experience that can trigger many emotional feelings, which can elicit negative psychological effects. In this essay on relationship, I will discuss a personal relationship dissolution experience and bring about its various psychological effects. I will then advert towards the main purpose of this paper, providing several coping strategies that I used to overcome my stressors and the one strategy that I wish I had used. Throughout the paper, I will integrate my own episode with several peer-reviewed studies that have explained the connection between relationship dissolution and stress.
Effects of Relationship Dissolution
There may be many emotional feelings involved when one experiences relationship dissolution. Most common ones include feelings of frustration, anxiety, hurt, depression, loneliness, guilt, insecurity, anger, self-pity and reduction in self-confidence (2). The nature of psychological distress might vary depending on the type of the relationship. Although studies have repeatedly shown that a majority of people, who encounter detachment from their partner, experience few, if not all, of those feelings to some extent (2). Considering my own experience, I encountered a blend of stressful feelings including anxiety, frustration, hurt and helplessness. I experienced fluctuations of these stressors for a few months, which seemed to deteriorate with time via different coping strategies. Different studies have shown correlations between stress and relationship dissolution. One study analyzed a sample of university students. The students had been in a romantic relationship for a period ranging from 2 to 262 months and 75 percent of the student rated the relationships in the serious and very serious categories. These students were administered an Impact of Event Scale (IES), which is a 15 item questionnaire. The IES questionnaire measured intrusive thoughts and avoidance behavior related to the distressing event, which in this case, was the dissolution of a relationship (2). The results displayed that 72 percent of the students encountered intrusive thoughts. According to these students, these troubling thoughts were triggered mostly by imaginations that would remind them of their previous partners. A majority of these students also admitted that they thought about the dissolution when they did not mean to and they often had strong feelings about it (2). Personally, I had similar feelings regarding my own previous relationship. I would imagine the times spend together with my partner and several other pleasant moments, which would cause feelings of hurt and anxiety. Often, I would imagine these past events involuntarily. As a result of these negative feelings, I found that I was unable to sustain proper concentration, experienced sleeplessness and a lost of interest in future relationships. To prevent myself from further suffering, I unconsciously implemented various coping strategies. Following is a discussion of some of the many coping strategies, which can be used to eliminate distress.
Different personalities may require different coping methods in order to reduce and eliminate stressful emotions. Some of the generic and well-known strategies include social support, keeping oneself busy, thinking about options and choices, finding others who have experienced break-ups, finding new relationships and convincing oneself that the negative aspects of the relationship are good reason for the break-up (1). These coping strategies can be referred to as adaptive strategies as oppose to maladaptive strategies, which can involve aggression and the use of illicit drugs. There can be an increase in stress levels if the route of maladaptive strategies is taken to overcome negative emotions (3). In a stressful situation it would be appropriate to face and recognize stressors for what they are, and reconcile adaptive coping strategies (book).
In my situation, the best adaptive coping strategy that I used was gaining social support. It felt as if I was able to release my negative emotions via talking to other people regarding my experience. By receiving social support, one can gain confidence that there are other people available to listen and respond positively. A lack of social support is often associated with an increase in psychological distress following negative life events (1). Some people use avoidance as a coping strategy. Such people decide to withdraw themselves from the distressful situation altogether. Although, extensive studies have shown this coping strategy to be associated with depression in the long run (1).
Referring back to the study of university students, as part of the study, the students were also given a Ways of Coping Questionnaire (WOC). This questionnaire investigated the role of coping in the relationship and coping outcomes. The findings revealed that seeking social support was associated with relationship dissolution. In other words, the higher the severity of the break-up, the more students turned towards social support from others. Also, the study confirmed the association between avoidance and depression. Students who felt more depression tended to apply avoidance as a coping strategy (1).
Some people develop explanations, which help them to develop a sense of control to facilitate coping from negative emotions. For example, after my break-up, I started to detect flaws in the relationship and I used those imperfections to relieve myself from anxiety and other negative emotions that I often felt. This is a coping process, which enables people to progress and better adjust to the dissolution.
In some situations however, people may not be able to understand the dissolution or find the explanations to persuade themselves out of negative emotions. In such cases, other coping strategies such as meditation, counseling and additional socializing can prove to be beneficial (book). One thing that I did not consider then as a coping strategy was meditation. Although I wish I had since my recent embracement of mediation has proven to be a very useful in reducing anxiety levels. Through meditation, one can seem to suspend thinking altogether and allow the world to fade away. It is a method that reduces arousal, initiating relaxation.
According to the university student study, which was mentioned earlier, the link between initiation of coping strategies and negative emotions is unclear. It is unknown whether the coping strategies effected stress symptoms or whether the distressful situation itself triggered the coping strategies (1). Relating this to my experience, many of the coping strategies that I used were not particularly planned. Most of them seemed to be triggered by the experience itself. For instance, I would constantly talk to my friends regarding my break-up without planning on doing so. The relationship between coping strategies and stress symptoms is unclear, however, it is necessary for such strategies to exist after dissolution to reduce levels of distress.
The levels of distress that follow dissolution of a romantic relationship can have immense negative emotional effects on an individual. It is arguable that the intensity level of distress may depend on the degree of commitment, seriousness and the nature of the romantic relationship. However, as the student study discussed, and various other studies have shown that these negative emotions are felt by the majority of people who experience dissolution of a relationship to some measure.
Overall, my own experience of relationship dissolution was a learning one. It helped me better understand my negative emotions and allowed me to comprehend the different strategies I can apply to overcome my negative emotions.
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