Click below to go to:
Rachman S, Behaviour Research & Therapy 1980, Vol 18, p51-60
A working definition of the concept of emotional processing is presented, with the aim of integrating a set of clinical and experimental observations. If successful, the concept may help to unify such apparently unrelated events as obsessions, the return of fear, abnormal grief reactions, nightmares, treatment failures, and so on. Factors that may facilitate or impede emotional processing are presented, and some circumstances that may give rise to initial difficulties in processing are mentioned. A number of theoretical problems are posed, and some methodological innovations offered.
Go to copy of article
In this article we propose mechanisms that govern the processing of emotional information, particularly those involved in fear reduction. Emotions are viewed as represented by information structures in memory, and anxiety is thought to occur when an information structure that serves as program to escape or avoid danger is activated. Emotional processing is defined as the modification of memory structures that underlie emotions. It is argued that some form of exposure to feared situations is common to many psychotherapies for anxiety, and that confrontation with feared objects or situations is an effective treatment. Physiological activation and habituation within and across exposure sessions are cited as indicators of emotional processing, and variables that influence activation and habituation of fear responses are examined. These variables and the indicators are analyzed to yield an account of what information must be integrated for emotional processing of a fear structure. The elements of such a structure are viewed as cognitive representations of the stimulus characteristic of the fear situation, the individual’s responses in it, and aspects of its meaning for the individual. Treatment failures are interpreted with respect to the interference of cognitive defences, autonomic arousal, mood state, and erroneous ideation with reformation of targeted fear structures. Applications of the concepts advanced here to therapeutic practice and the broader study of psychopathology are discussed.
‘Emotional processing with specific reference to post-traumatic stress disorder’
Rachman S, International Review of Psychiatry (2001) vol 13 pp 164-171
The concept of emotional processing is revised and updated and then applied to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The main extension of the model is the introduction of cognitive influences on emotional processing. A working definition of the concept is presented, with the aim of integrating clinical and experimental observations. The concept allows for an integration of such apparently unrelated events as unwanted intrusive thoughts, re-experiencing, the return of fear, abnormal grief reactions, nightmares, treatment failures, and so on. Factors that facilitate or impede emotional processing are presented and some circumstances that give rise to difficulties in processing are mentioned. A number of theoretical problems are posed and some methodological innovations offered.