The Interactional View of Emotions and Solution-Focus

Following up on a recent post in which I noted how Barbara Fredrickson put forward an interactional view of love, I read Lisa Feldman Barrett paper on the interactional view of emotions.

In her paper Psychological Construction: The Darwinian Approach to the Science of Emotion I found a stance that is very useful to Solution-Focused practitioners and which validates our perspective on change (“action is in the inter-action“).

Take the following: “Our hypothesis is that during every waking moment of life, mental states are constructed as interoceptive cues from the body and exteroceptive cues from the world are continually categorized and made meaningful with conceptual knowledge stored from past experience. […]. In our view, an instance of emotion is constructed when affective changes are categorized as related to the situation using an instance of an emotion concept BECAUSE those affective changes are in the focus of attention […].”.

Changing the focus of attention is key to constructing emotions, according to Barrett. Isn’t one of the main purposes of SF that of shifting clients’ perceptions from a problem-frame to a solution/opportunity-frame?

Also: “Emotions are said to be coordinated packets of physiology, experience and behavior, but every waking moment of life is just such a coordinated package; there is no package that is “essentially” anger, or sadness, or even emotion.” If emotions are not essences but categorizations of perceptions, then a conversation as a tool for change makes a lot of sense: it would not change an “essence” but it would surely change what we perceive and how.

SF is such an effective, elegant and powerful tool because it does not put any kind of label on clients and does not see them through the lens of a theory. On the contrary, SF practitioners stay on the surface and resist the temptation to categorize or to look for the “essence” of the problem. That is why I could not help but smile when I read this: “Progress in the science of emotion depends on whether we can resist the urge to essentialize.

Welcome to the interactional view, science of emotion!

Update on 6/30: The Boston Magazine has caught up with me, I mean with the importance of Lisa Barrett’s work :) for psychology. Here is a link to their feature article –> http://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/article/2013/06/25/emotions-facial-expressions-not-related/print/

Love 2.0 and the interactional view

In her latest book, Love 2.0, the renowned Positive Psychology author Barbara Fredrickson introduced an interactional view of love.

According to the latest research she presents in her book, love is not so much a noun but rather a verb. It is something that emerges in micro-moments of interactions between living beings, when they share a positive emotion, resonate with it in synchrony and build on it to deeply care about each other.

In other words, love is in-between.

This view mirrors the stance of Solution-Focused practitioners when we say that solutions and change and the future all emerge in-between, in the space of dialogue and interaction, rather than being determined by inner drives or outer social pressures.

Seeing how SF and current Positive Psychology thought are somehow converging on this interactional view was quite interesting to behold.

Solution-Focus works, it is briefer and less costly

Don’t take our words for it.

Here is another study, just published –> Effectiveness of Solution-Focused Brief Therapy: A Systematic Qualitative Review of Controlled Outcome Studies, by Wallace J. Gingerich, Lance T. Peterson, in Research on Social Work Practice, January 2013, 23, (1).

Here is the ABSTRACT:

Objective: We review all available controlled outcome studies of solution-focused brief therapy (SFBT) to evaluate evidence of its effectiveness.

Method: Forty-three studies were located and key data abstracted on problem, setting, SFBT intervention, design characteristics, and outcomes.

Results: Thirty-two (74%) of the studies reported significant positive benefit from SFBT; 10 (23%) reported positive trends. The strongest evidence of effectiveness came in the treatment of depression in adults where four separate studies found SFBT to be comparable to well-established alternative treatments. Three studies examined length of treatment and all found SFBT used fewer sessions than alternative therapies.

Conclusion: The studies reviewed provide strong evidence that SFBT is an effective treatment for a wide variety of behavioral and psychological outcomes and, in addition, it may be briefer and therefore less costly than alternative approaches.

AWEsome

The video above was used to put participants in a state of awe in a study led by Stanford Professor Jennifer Aaker.

The title of the study says it all: Awe Expands People’s Perception of Time,  Alters Decision Making, and Enhances Well-Being.

Thought I would share with you the study and the video to wish you all sorts of awesomeness.

Happy Holidays & Happy New Year

My warmest Season’s Greetings to all my readers.

And my wish for you for 2013 in these words of Steve Jobs – in the New Year, embrace change and improve this world!

(link to a 90 second YouTube video of Steve Jobs talking about the ‘Secrets of Life’ in 1995).

Paolo

How Children Succeed – Grit, Curiosity, and the hidden power of Character

Paul Tough‘s conclusions can be summed up very briefly:
- the biggest obstacle to academic & life success is a home & a community that create high levels of stress, and the absence of a secure relationship with a caregiver that would allow a child to manage stress;
- non-cognitive skills, like conscientiousness, grit, resilience, perseverance and optimism are more important than cognitive skills for young people to succeed in life;
- character matters; as the author points out, conservatives are right about this. But character is molded by the environment and as a society we can do a lot to influence its development in children; as the author points out, liberals are right about this. “We now know a great deal about what kind of interventions will help children develop those strengths and skills, starting at birth and going all the way through college.” (p. 196).
To get to those conclusions the author takes the reader on a very interesting journey, and that is what makes the book superb. It is well written and a treasure throve of scientific insights and cutting edge research, with moving stories about students, teachers and schools that make the science alive. Mr. Tough introduces the reader to innovative interventions for children and adolescents while painting insightful portraits of the people at the forefront in the quest to develop (or at least not squander) the human capital of this nation.
I felt the author’s position was very balanced. While looking for successes in his reporting, he does not shy away from highlighting the difficulties and the unknown: e.g., he puts the early successful KIPP’s results into perspective, with the good, the bad and what can be done differently; you got a sense this topic is still a work in progress; he makes it very clear that “No one [author’s emphasis] has found a reliable way to help deeply disadvantaged children, in fact.”(p. 193).
But overall there is a sense that, in the end, we will figure it out. A sense of possibility.
For passion and for work I read a lot of books about psychology, neuroscience & leadership / personal development. I always learn a lot.
But this book is different. Not only did I learn a lot. I was also moved.
I was totally absorbed and emotionally involved in the stories of the kids the author features in his narrative.
Mr Tough says that when he spent time with these young people he felt “a sense of anger for what they’ve already missed.”
I felt the same way – and that goes to his credit. I almost feel as if I personally know little James Black  or Kewauna. I did get mad on their behalf.
Mr. Tough also says he had a second reaction: “a feeling of admiration and hope when I watch young people making the difficult and often painful choice to follow a better path, to turn away from what might have seemed like their inevitable destiny.”  (p. 197).
That is what I felt as well – again, to Mr. Tough’s credit.
I am already doing some volunteer work with Big Brothers, Big Sisters.
But you get sucked in the local situation and your horizons get narrower.
Reading this book widened my perspective and made me fully appreciate the depth of the problem but also the promise of better days to come if we embrace a new way to tackle it.
So I made the resolution to get more involved next year.
Here is my recommendation: read the book.
You will learn a lot – about neuroscience, about parenting, about teaching and about what makes people successful.
You will meet some young people who deserve all of our respect and admiration.
Hopefully, you will be moved as well to do something, even a little tiny bit, to make a difference.

Note: this book review was originally posted on Amazon, here –> http://www.amazon.com/review/R3KZ2UCFMRH774