How You Deal With a Breakup Depends on Your Beliefs About Personality

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If you’re still agonizing over a breakup that happened five years ago, it may be because of the way you view personality, according to new research. The Stanford University study, published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, finds that when someone views rejection by a partner or a friend as a judgment on the kind of person they are—that their personality is unchanging—they’re more likely to nurse those hurt feelings for extended periods of time. People who view personalities as more malleable, rather than static, tend to get over it sooner.

The researchers conducted five experiments with a total of almost 900 participants, asking them about theoretical and real-life rejection and how it changed how they saw themselves. For instance, participants rated to what degree they agreed with the phrase, "I worry that there is something 'wrong' with me because I got rejected,” and whether or not past rejections had revealed anything about their true self or made them question their views of themselves. Those who viewed personality as a fixed entity—rather than an aspect of the self that can grow and change—were more likely to view getting dumped as revealing something about their true self (like, say, that they’re fundamentally unlovable).

In one particular experiment, participants read up on psychological research on personality and social ability before answering questions about how they would respond to a breakup they read about. Those who read about how personality is a fixed entity reported rejections as being more defining, and expressed concern that rejection would change how they saw themselves.

"The experience of being left by someone who thought that they loved you, then learned more and changed their mind, can be a particularly potent threat to the self and can drive people to question who they truly are,” Lauren Howe, the study’s lead author and a doctoral candidate at Stanford, explained in a press release. These feelings not only impact a person’s ability to get over a breakup, but can harm future relationships, since the previously rejected person might be more guarded against potential rejection. So the next time you’re facing rejection, try to think about your ability to change and grow. It may help you move on.

[h/t: The Washington Post]