Psychology lost its soul at the beginning of the twentieth century with the joint onslaught of both American and Russian Behaviourism. As John Watson famously said, ‘the soul is not the remit of science’. However, in the 1950s psychology at least regained its capacity to think – cognitive psychology was reputedly born at a symposium at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology on 11 September 1956 (see Bruner, 1983) and the subsequent development of cognitive science has swamped psychology and the many adjoining areas of linguistics, anthropology, philosophy and artificial intelligence. We should of course be grateful that we are no longer trapped in the onedimensional world of behaviourism, in which we are no better than headless chickens (or pigeons, or rats) running around the farmyard, cage or Skinner Box. Cognitive science has at least given us more computational power – unfortunately, the behaviourist’s computer would still have us using the abacus, or a mechanical equivalent.
And in the field of therapy, cognitive science has given us the many and varied cognitive and cognitive behavioural therapies. Yes, of course we should be grateful to be given back our thinking minds. At least the cognitive and cognitive behavioural therapies acknowledge that we have thoughts and beliefs and assumptions and schemas. It often makes sense to our clients that theymay overvalue one thought at the expense of another, or they may have a mistaken belief about their own worthlessness as people, or they may believe that they are about to die of a heart attack when they are not.We knowas clinicians that many of our clients can be helped by examining their cognitions and by examining the possibility that alternative cognitions would be more functional and would help them improve their well-being and general life satisfaction.
Cognitive science and cognitive behavioural therapies can absolutely be congratulated for the benefits they have brought to academics, to clinicians and to clients. But unfortunately something has been left out in these great strides forward – and that is emotion. There has been growing recognition in the past 20 years or so that cognition is not enough.We may now be able to produce computers that can play a good game of chess, but we are yet to see a computer commit suicide because it was rejected in love, or take out a gun and shoot someone because of an insult to its mother (or perhaps its motherboard?). Much of what we do as humans is motivated by emotion. We build a monument to the person we have loved and lost because we are overwhelmed with grief and want to find a way to express those emotions. We strive for wealth, fame and success because we believe those things will make us happy – whether or not they will – if or when we ever achieve them. We move to another country and learn to speak Russian because we fall in love.We avoid leaving the house at a certain time because we hate our neighbours, who leave rubbish in our drive-way because they hate us! We teach our children to look right and left as they cross the road because we are terrified of what might happen to them if they carelessly forget. The list of emotion-motivated things we do is endless. Emotion is constantly with us and guiding us, for that is its purpose.When emotions function well and properly, they help us to prioritize, to work when we would rather play, to choose between otherwise impossible choices, and to avoid situations and objects that might be dangerous or unhealthy or disease ridden. The well-functioning emotion system is there to guide and protect – emotions are the 10 commandments of the psychological world. But as any powerful system, the emotion system can run out of control. Danger can be signalled when there is no objective danger – the harmless spider in the bath really does not warrant that level of panic and disgust. Or, the person can be so overwhelmed by feelings of despair and self-disgust that he or she would rather be dead. Or, the driver cutting in front of us can instantly fill us with an inexplicable feeling of road rage that causes us to put lives in danger.
- The Assessment of Emotion
- Too Much Emotion
- Too Little Emotion
- Additional Topics
- An Overview of EFCT