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SUMMARY OF THE SPAARS MODEL META-EMOTIONAL SKILLS AND

REPRESENTATIONS THERAPEUTIC IMPLICATIONS FINAL COMMENTS ON SPAARS

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You miss 100% of the shots you never take.

(Wayne Gretzky)

As in ice-hockey, so in real life. We have taken shots at most things throughout the previous chapters in this book on the principle that if you don't shoot you'll never hit the target, but at the same time we are mindful that many of the shots will inevitably miss. The aims of this final chapter are therefore to draw together the key components of the model we have presented over the previous chapters and to present some of the therapeutic and research implications that result from this framework. One of the key tests for any model is of course its usefulness, whether it ultimately turns out to be true or false. We hope to demonstrate that the SPAARS approach has within it a number of non-trivial implications for therapeutic practice, together with a number of non-trivial research predictions that, we believe, should help to distinguish it from competitor models.

In Chapter 1 and in subsequent chapters we raised a number of questions about what an emotion is and how emotion should be best approached and understood. We identified two main approaches that can be tracked historically to the present day. The first approach, stemming from Plato and reaching its height in the philosophy of Descartes and the psychology of William James, identified emotion with conscious "feelings", which did not play a causal role in behaviour. This approach has recently been revitalised with work in neuroscience (e.g., Damasio, 2003) and in philosophy (Prinz, 2004). The second approach stems from the work of Aristotle and has provided the starting point for a number of functionalist models of emotion and much of the underpinnings of cognitive science. The key distinction made by Aristotle was between matter and function; thus, although it is possible to describe an emotion in terms of its physical nature, such as its physiology and behaviour, it is necessary to know the biological, psychological, and social functions of an emotion, otherwise it cannot be adequately described or modelled.

On the basis of more recent philosophical and psychological models (see especially Chapters 2 and 3), the following components of emotion can be identified: an initiating event (external or internal), an analogical interpretation, an appraisal of the interpretation especially in relation to goal relevance, physiological reaction, an action potential or action readiness, phenomenology, and overt behaviour. Probably all of these components are necessary for emotion, with the possible exception of conscious awareness; we argued that the concept of "emotion" is an holistic one that covered all of these potential components, but it was not identifiable with any one component in particular. This holistic approach is contrary to prior theories that have equated emotion with for example conscious feelings (affect), or with the physiology, or with overt behaviour. This approach is also non-reductionistic—that is, an emotion cannot be reduced to a particular neurological state because the same state could serve different functions—nevertheless, a particular neurological state may set boundaries over what the accompanying emotion is likely to be.

We also reviewed other aspects of the range of cognitive models, both philosophical and psychological, and summarised their strengths and weaknesses as models of emotion. One of the starting points that we then took for our own SPAARS approach is the proposal that there are five basic emotions—not three, not eight, not fifty-seven but five—that can be distinguished in terms of their basic appraisals. How can we be so sure of this number when other basic emotion theorists are criticised for failing to agree on any precise number (e.g., Russell, 1994)? There is little doubt that the evidence from studies of child development, universal recognition of facial expression, physiological distinctiveness, linguistic analyses, and emotion concept analyses suggests different numbers of potential emotions (see Chapter 3). This conflict does not imply that the evidence is contradictory, but rather that these systems also serve functions other than those related to emotions. For example, facial expression serves to communicate a wide range of drive-related, non-emotional cognitive, and interpersonal states such as pain, hunger, interest, and surprise; physiology too reflects a vast array of non-emotional states. Part of the confusion therefore about the exact number of basic emotions reflects the misidentification of emotion with one particular expressive system. Because of this multi-functional nature of expression systems, it is necessary to take each as a triangulation point rather than the definite location—or, in statistical terms, taking a multi-trait multi-method approach may be necessary in order to determine the true number of latent traits (or basic emotions) within the data (Power, 2006).

In relation to the question of the number of basic emotions, there is one piece of further crucial evidence that has generally not been taken into account in the debate— how many basic emotions need to be posited in order to account for the range of emotional disorders? Indeed, here lies the weakness in a number of theoretical approaches to emotional disorders: many fail to offer generic models applicable to all disorders, but instead focus on one or two disorders typically related to anxiety and depression (see Chapter 3). A further problem (see Chapter 4) is that some generic theories of emotional disorders such as Beck's (1976) cognitive therapy are agnostic in relation to basic emotions and any number of such emotions could be accommodated within the models in an ad hoc fashion. As we have demonstrated in the previous chapters and will summarise in this one, we believe that the range of emotional disorders can be derived from the five basic emotions of fear, anger, sadness, disgust, and happiness either operating singly or in combination. The fact that this derivation is possible is, we believe, powerful evidence that these form the five basic emotions.

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