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/

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

Microanalysis and Solution-Focus: change happens in the details

One of the key principles of Solution-Focus practice is that “The Action is in the Inter-Action”, as Mark McKergow and Paul Z Jackson brilliantly put it. Which means that we “co-construct” meaning and solutions in the interaction.

But how?

This is where microanalysis comes in. Pioneered and extensively used by Janet Beavin Bavelas and her research group at the University of Victoria, microanalysis is defined as “the detailed and reliable examination of observable communication sequences as they proceed, moment by moment, in the dialogue”….

My guest post on Microanalysis in Coert Visser’s Blog.

Read more here >>>>>> http://solutionfocusedchange.blogspot.com/2012/01/microanalysys-showing-details-of-how.html

Interview with Janet Beavin Bavelas, Ph.D.

Janet Beavin Bavelas, Ph.D., F.R.S.C., is one of of the co-authors of Pragmatics of Human Communication and, as a Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Victoria, still at the forefront of research into interpersonal communication. The research team she leads specializes in the study of face-to-face dialogue – their findings have direct applications in psychotherapy, counseling, coaching, and management. I had the privilege and the pleasure to attend her workshop on microanalysis at the 2010 SFBTA Conference in Banff, Canada.

I was so happy to finally encounter an empirical research method dedicated to exploring the power of interaction to produce change! In my opinion, every Solution-Focused practitioner should become familiar with Janet Beavin Bavelas work: her research results are an essential part in establishing the scientific credentials of Solution-Focus.

Besides being an innovative thinker and a thorough scientist, Janet Bavelas is also a very engaging person and she very kindly accepted to be interviewed for my blog – here are her answers to my questions. I suggest  you take the time to read this interview again and again – as her motto goes, “Life Happens in Detail” and many insights wait for you in the details of her thought-provoking answers. Enjoy!

1)  You have been working a lot with Solution Focused practitioners in the past few years, using Microanalysis to investigate Solution Focused conversations. Can you briefly tell us what draws you to Solution-Focus?

Good question–especially because I’m an experimental psychologist, with absolutely no practical training in therapy or anything else!  I’m glad someone finally asked me that question, because I’ve had my answers ready:

First, Steve, Insoo, and I had the same roots, learning from the Palo Alto Group and especially John Weakland.  The three of us were not there at the same time, but that experience was a lasting influence for all of us.  (I agree with Steve and Insoo, who in a 1991 article pointed out that their SFBT was just one small change from the original Palo Alto Brief Therapy.)  In addition to John’s many wonderful qualities as a mentor, there was the focus of the whole Palo Alto Group on language and communication. That heritage makes it easy for my research group to teach what we do to SFBT folks.  For example, you have the right focus on observable communication rather than on inferred mental processes.

Second, I admit that I am always attracted to good idea that is 180° from what everyone else is thinking.  The new idea has to be a good one as well as challenging assumptions that no one usually questions–then I’m interested.  That was true for the original Brief Therapy and is also true for SFBT.

The third reason is ethical. My personal ethics will not accept inventing negative characterizations of a client and imposing these labels on someone who is vulnerable.  I say “inventing” because there is usually no basis except the opinion of someone in authority. For example, diagnosis usually categorizes an individual based on a single highly limited observation, with no objective check or recheck. The individual arrives at a consultation with one problem and leaves with at least two! More broadly, clinical theories of  personality, cognition, emotion, or brain processes almost always indulge in circular reasoning.  For example,
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Solutionsurfers Brief Coach Training starts on the 14th of June in Berkeley!

I am so excited to be leading Solutionsurfers Brief Coach Training in Berkeley, next week, at the beautiful UC Clark Kerr Campus!

An Accredited Coach Training Program (ACTP) with the International Coach Federation (ICF), the training is one of the best way to learn how to lead Solution-Focused conversations – a method featured in books like Switch, and an established protocol in therapy.

Here < are some reasons of why learning Brief Coaching skills matters, if you are a Coach, a Consultant, a Manager, an Executive or anyone in a Leadership position. Whenever you need to facilitate change, Solution-Focus is the quickest evidence-based technology we have.

Here < is what is different, and of value, about Solutionsurfers training program.

And > here < are the details – when, where and how much. At 2,980 US$ for 8 days of training and follow-up Skype sessions, with flexible payment options, the price is hard to beat, considering the quality of the training format refined over the years and delivered in such small groups.

There are still two spots left… send me an email now at briefcoachingsolutions@gmail.com if you are interested in attending next week!!

See you in Berkeley soon!

How Not to Change – 11 Strategies for Staying Stuck

Photo courtesy of @NiniBaseema http://theformofbeauty.tumblr.com/

More often than not, Solution-Focused Brief Coaching boils down to helping clients getting unstuck.

Bill O’Hanlon‘s latest book, Change 101 – A Practical Guide to Creating Change in Life or Therapy offers a very useful overview of change strategies for life, therapy and coaching.

As a change facilitator, I do have my ideas about which change strategies work best.

Having said that, I did find amusing Bill O’Hanlon’s list of 11 strategies for staying stuck, which you can find at the end of his book.

Whenever we feel change is hard, it is very often because we are “trapped” in one or more of these useless behaviors:

  1. DON’T LISTEN TO ANYBODY
  2. LISTEN TO EVERYBODY
  3. ENDLESSLY ANALYZE AND DON’T MAKE ANY CHANGES
  4. BLAME OTHERS FOR YOUR ACTIONS OR PROBLEMS
  5. BLAME YOURSELF OR PUT YOURSELF DOWN REGULARLY
  6. KEEP DOING THE SAME THING THAT DOESN’T WORK
  7. KEEP FOCUSING ON THE SAME THINGS WHEN THAT FOCUS DOESN’T HELP
  8. KEPP THINKING THE SAME THOUGHTS WHEN THOSE THOUGHTS DO NOT HELP
  9. KEEP PUTTING YOURSELF IN THE SAME UNHELPFUL ENVIRONMENT
  10. KEEP RELATING TO THE SAME UNHELPFUL PEOPLE
  11. PUT MORE IMPORTANCE ON BEING RIGHT THAT ON CHANGING

Got change? :-)

Update: On the “getting unstuck” side of the equation, Bill O’Hanlon also sends out each week a free email with tips about how to create positive change. Just send a blank email to: PossiBill0228-192380@autocontactor.com