The integrated constructionist approach to emotions: A theoretical model for explaining alterations to positive emotional experiences in the aftermath of trauma
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.
Behaviour Research and Therapy
emotion construction, positive emotions, PTSD, theory, trauma
Bishop, Lia S. and Palm Reed, Kathleen M., "The integrated constructionist approach to emotions: A theoretical model for explaining alterations to positive emotional experiences in the aftermath of trauma" (2022). Psychology. 571.