The integrated constructionist approach to emotions: A theoretical model for explaining alterations to positive emotional experiences in the aftermath of trauma.

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Date: Feb. 2022
Publisher: Elsevier Science Publishers
Document Type: Report; Brief article
Length: 334 words

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Abstract :

Keywords PTSD; Trauma; Positive emotions; Emotion construction; Theory Highlights * Trauma alters the evaluation, interpretation, and labeling of internal stimuli. * Individuals with PTSD develop inflexible fear-based labels for internal stimuli. * Rigid negative assessments of internal stimuli limit positive emotion construction. * This results in efforts to downregulate internal stimuli that was previously appetitive. Abstract Prior research has assumed that individuals with PTSD find positive emotions enjoyable and rewarding. While intuitive, this assumption is problematic for a number of reasons. A growing body of literature suggests that positive emotions can be unwanted and uncomfortable experiences for many people, particularly individuals with PTSD. Yet our empirical and theoretical models of PTSD do not adequately account for this complexity. Throughout the following pages, we argue that the same behavioral processes that have been heavily researched and associated with fear and avoidance of negative emotions and PTSD can be extended to positive emotions as well. We propose the integrated constructionist approach to emotions, which integrates learning theory principles with a constructionist approach and suggest that trauma experiences lead to a shift in the evaluation, interpretation, and labeling of an individual's internal experiences. This evaluative shift results in generalized patterns of emotional responding characterized by efforts to downregulate internal stimuli that were previously defined as positive and may have been appetitive pre-trauma. We subsequently highlight the theoretical, empirical, and clinical importance of taking an idiographic approach to understanding and working with emotions among individuals with PTSD. Author Affiliation: (a) Eastern Colorado Health Care System, Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center, Mental Health Service, 1700 North Wheeling Street, Aurora, CO, 80045, USA (b) Department of Psychology, Clark University, 950 Main Street, Worcester, M.A., 01610, USA * Corresponding author. Mental Health Service, Rocky Mountain Regional VA Medical Center Eastern Colorado Health Care System, 1700 North Wheeling Street, Aurora, CO, 80045, USA. Article History: Received 1 February 2021; Revised 5 November 2021; Accepted 16 November 2021 Byline: Lia S. Bishop, Ph.D. [Lia.Bishop@va.gov] (a,b,*), Kathleen M. Palm Reed, Ph.D. [kpalm@clarku.edu] (b)

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Gale Document Number: GALE|A690387990