Targeting positive affect to clear the pain of unrequited love, codependence, avoidance, and procrastination



Most clients who enter therapy do not have a simple problem of a single disturbing memory. More typically, clients come to therapy with a mixed presentation, of not only emotional disturbance, but also a history of conscious or unconscious choices about how best to soothe, contain, or avoid that disturbance. When the client has a problem that includes positive and negative affective components, we could say (in the language of Shapiro's Adaptive Information Processing Model) that the chain of experiential associations -- the dysfunctionally stored memory network -- has positively valued experience at the entry point into the network and disturbing material at other, less accessible places. Clients often experience this situation as one of conflicting ego states. Specifically, one ego state may be positively emotionally invested in an outcome that is an obstacle to the person's larger life goals. When this happens and the usual EMDR method of targeting negative affect is stalled, it may be useful to target the positive side of the issue, that is, an image that has a positive emotional valence. Such clients are asked to hold in mind the enjoyable aspects of a problematic wish or identity while engaging in Dual Attention Stimulation (DAS). In this way, they can process these positive aspects, "disinvest" from the problem, and go on to resolve the conflict. Several session transcripts illustrate how this approach can work in practice.


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Jim Knipe



“Targeting positive affect to clear the pain of unrequited love, codependence, avoidance, and procrastination,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed October 26, 2020,

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