What is Emotional Processing?

Click below to link to:

  History of emotional processing
  Copies of the classical emotional processing article
  Model of emotional processing
  Possible mechanisms underlying emotional processing
  The dreadful casket – a metaphor for emotional processing
  Perspectives of emotional processing from philosophy
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Nearly every day there is some sort of hassle or stress that confronts us; fortunately not too severe but once in a while major events such as death of a loved one, accident or breakdown of relationships can come our way.  Jack Rachman in his article ‘Emotional Processing’ (1980) points out that for the most part, disturbing emotional experiences are satisfactorily absorbed or ‘processed’.

Fortunately, emotional pain is not cumulative; we recover, the slate is wiped clean, a good sleep often wipes away yesterday’s upsets, a fierce argument calms down, we recover from hurts, disappointments and losses.  Sometimes, we get stuck or don’t seem to get over an event but considering the multiple ‘slings and arrows’ that come our way, a good proportion are absorbed, dissolved, handled or processed, rather like an immune system helps us recover from physical illness and accidents.

What would happen if we could not absorb hassles and traumas?  Would they accumulate to an unbearable level so that yesterday’s arguments and hassle

s were never wiped clear but simply accumulated throughout life?

Do we need a concept of emotional processing to explain this ‘absorption’?  Are there other concepts such as decay of memory or simply time which would do just as well?

What psychological, physiological and neuropsychological processes constitute ’emotional processing’?  How does it operate to remove the impact of the stresses and hurts?  How does a traumatic event cease to become traumatic.  What are the processes at work when talking to a therapist?  Why does having a good cry remove the feeling of distress?

There is a good deal of
unmapped country within us
which would have to be taken
into account in an explanation
of our gusts and storms’

Daniel Deronda
George Eliot