Rescripting Memory, Redefining the Self: A Meta-Emotional Perspective on the Hypothesized Mechanism(s) of Imagery Rescripting

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Alessandra Mancini, Francesco Mancini (2018): Rescripting Memory, Redefining the Self: A Meta-Emotional Perspective on the Hypothesized Mechanism(s) of Imagery Rescripting. In: frontiers in Psychology, 9 (581), 2018.

Abstract

Imagery Rescripting (ImRs) is a therapeutic technique that aims to reduce the distress associated with negative memories of early aversive experiences. It consists of prompting patients to rescript the autobiographical memory in line with their unmet needs. In recent years, ImRs was found effective in reducing symptoms of disorders such as depression, social phobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and personality disorders. However, the cognitive mechanisms underlying such broad effectiveness are currently an object of debate.
Empirical evidence has shown that ImRs reduces the negative self-belief derived from aversive memories in different types of mental disorders. However, existing accounts are not very accurate in explaining how this change in self-belief occurs and therefore why ImRs is effective across psychopathologies. We propose that ImRs changes the semantic self-representation encapsulated in the aversive memory by reducing the meta-emotional problem (i.e., perceiving a negative emotion as problematic and unacceptable). Empirical evidence implicates the meta-emotional problem or “secondary problem” in the maintenance of different disorders and has shown that treating it leads to symptoms reduction. Here we hypothesize that: (i) ImRs as a standalone treatment may lead to a reduction of symptoms; negative self-belief and the meta-emotional problem; and (ii) the reduction of the meta-emotional problem might mediate the relation between symptoms and negative self-belief reduction. To test our hypothesis, we present an experimental procedure that could be used in future studies. We conclude discussing the existing theoretical frameworks that attempt to unravel the mechanisms that play a role in ImRs.

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