Interesting article on MSNBC today by Wray Herbert who writes the “We’re Only Human…..” blog. The title was Psychology: Time Only Heals Some Wounds. In it he talked about a research study by Michigan State University psychologist Richard Lucas.
Lucas questioned the idea that people have set-points for happiness in much the same way people seem to have set-points for weight for instance. It is the idea that some of us are just unable to sustain prolonged states of melancholy or conversely happiness. We are divided it seems into glass half empty or glass half full camps. What he found, however, was that people’s feelings are effected by life’s stresses and turmoils and that whether or not a person can adapt or overcome them is not predictable or even predetermined by personality. The stressful event has much to do with it.
For example adjusting to divorce is not the same as adjusting to being widowed. Widowed people, according to the study, seem to “get over” their grief though it appears to take about seven years on average* for this to happen, but the divorce appears to leave permanent emotional scarring that affects divorcees for the course of their lives. The reasoning behind this rather odd finding is that it may be easier for people to adapt to an event that is a one time hit of “bad luck” than to adjust to a “chronic condition” like divorce.
They liken divorce to that of a chronic illness whose reminders are constant and go on to further postulate that people who get married and stay married until” death do they part” were actually happier people anyway whereas divorce seems to strike those who tend towards misery normally.
The widowed are able to reframe their thinking and adjust their goals/expectations and “escape” their misery and the divorced are trapped because the lack of real resolution makes it impossible for them to do that.
An interesting theory.
A poster at YWBB today, Jenna, posted today about being irritated by the board and other widows. I could relate. Can relate. There have been more than a few instances when I have been “irritated” to the point of snarkiness at the defeatist lifer attitudes of another widow on the board. But what makes me, or Jenna, fight and “reframe” and others content to put on the black weeds of acceptance? Why are some of us “Scarlett’s” and others “Aunt Pittypat’s” or “India’s”?
*Update – Recent studies have found the time limits on grieving to be rather arbitary and anecodotal at best. Researcher George Bonnano has found that the vast majority of people, who have no underlying mental health issues, take on average 6 months to a year to leave active grief and begin to move on with their lives.