Preverbal Stages

“The cognitive tradition was initially incorporated into EMDR as a way to assess the treatment effects (Shapiro, 1989). If the targeted event was verbally assessed, would it be with a believable negative or positive statement? An important contribution of cognitive therapy (Beck, 1976; Ellis, 1962) has been the recognition that beliefs impact behavior and that altering cognitions can result in change. Certainly, in many instances cognitive reorientation and coping skills are sufficient to remediate a given situation. Consequently, these practices have been integrated into the EMDR protocols. However, for the EMDR treatment of etiological events and triggers, beliefs are not given primacy as causes or change agents but rather are viewed as interpretive of the stored affect. That is, the beliefs are generally viewed as a verbalization of the stored perceptions. Likewise, the incorporation of self-other constructs, which are a hallmark of psychodynamic therapy, are mirrored in the use of the negative and positive cognitions, which reflect: “Who am I in relation to the event?” “How do I judge myself because of my participation?” However, from an information processing perspective, the global self-interpretive belief is a metaperception in that it is a verbalization of the stored sensory experience, which represents the event. It is assumed that the formulated belief and language itself are unnecessary for traumatization. Certainly beliefs can contribute to the stored negative affect. Obviously, however, infants can be traumatized at precognitive stages, and children at preverbal stages (for detailed descriptions of nondeclarative memory systems, see LeDoux, 1996; Squire, 1992). In EMDR treatment, it is the stored perceptions of the etiological event, which are largely defined by the predominant affect, that are considered to be at the core of the dysfunction. That is, the affective response to a survival threat can occur independently of a higher cortical analysis of the stimulus as dangerous (LeDoux, 1996).

In EMDR, affect is viewed as the composite experience of the physiological response. Even the designation of a specific emotion is considered to be merely a cognitive label that delineates or interprets the response in relation to societal or contextual descriptors. That is, the range of affect is the full and subjective array of physiological responses to internal and external cues. Just as the words red, blue, and green cannot describe the wide variegation of all possible hues (e.g., the subtle distinctions between different combinations of blue and green), language that delineates a specific emotion is too limiting to express the full range of affective experience. This is one reason that the emphasis in EMDR is placed on body sensations rather than on language. Its emphasis on affect also underscores the relationship between EMDR and the experiential therapies.”

Francine Shapiro

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“Obviously, however, infants can be traumatized at precognitive stages, and children at preverbal stages (for detailed descriptions of nondeclarative memory systems, see LeDoux, 1996; Squire, 1992).”

Francine Shapiro

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“We cannot claim that every child is born with a perfect knowledge of English. On the other hand, there is no reason why we should not suppose that the child is born with a perfect knowledge of universal grammar…”

Noam Chomsky

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