In this section we shall consider how the SPAARS model of emotion accounts for the processing of trauma-related information at the time of the traumatic event and also how that information and the individual's reactions to it are processed subsequent to the traumatic event. The SPAARS approach to PTSD has been spelled out in considerable detail elsewhere (Dalgleish, 1999, 2004a; Dalgleish & Power, 2004b), so only a summary of the approach is presented here.
At the time of the trauma, we propose that information about a traumatic event is appraised at the schematic model level of meaning in a threat-related way as part of the individual's experience of intense fear. In addition, trauma-related information is encoded and represented at the analogical, propositional, and schematic model levels of meaning.
So, if we consider an example: John is involved in a serious road traffic accident (RTA). As the RTA is happening, John's interpretation of the sequence of events (e.g., cars colliding, people being injured) is appraised at the schematic model level of meaning within SPAARS as highly threatening with respect to valued goals such as personal survival and also to the highest goal of all (see Chapter 5), which is the maintenance of the existing configuration of dominant schematic models; that is, the maintenance of a sense of reality and of how the world "should" be. Perhaps not surprisingly, therefore, John experiences intense fear as the trauma occurs. Furthermore, information concerning the trauma—the images, sounds, what John was thinking, the sense of danger—is encoded within SPAARS at the various levels of the model (analogical, propositional and schematic model) (see Figure 6.11).
Such trauma-related information is highly incompatible with the individual's schematic models of themself, the world, and others. This incompatability, we have suggested, means that the trauma-related material threatens the person's sense of self and reality which are a function of these models. Consequently, trauma-related information is poorly integrated into existing representations at encoding.
In sum, then, the information associated with the traumatic event is incompatible with the individual's extant goals, it is threatening, and it is appraised as such at the time of the trauma. Furthermore, it is information that cannot be readily integrated with the schematic models of the self, world, and others.
Following a traumatic event, the individual possesses representations of trauma-related information in memory at the analogical, propositional, and schematic model levels. Within SPAARS, however, this information is unintegrated with the individual's dominant models of the self, world, and others. We submit that this pattern of representation within SPAARS accounts for the constellation of symptoms that characterise PTSD and related problems following the trauma and we turn to a discussion of these issues next.
We propose that the representations of unintegrated information at the different levels of SPAARS leads to a constellation of intrusion phenomena via two principal routes. First, the appraisal systems at the schematic model level of meaning will continue to
Was this article helpful?