Date of Award


Publication Type

Doctoral Thesis

Degree Name





counselling, emotion, emotional processing, emotional transformation, psychotherapy process


Pascual-Leone, Antonio




Introduction: The aim of the current study was to explore emotional sequences involved in resolving shame, with a primary focus on comparing the effects of facilitating anger vs. facilitating sadness in the context of shame activation. The main hypothesis posited that facilitating anger, as opposed to sadness, would better promote emotional recovery from shame. This was inspired by an emerging line of research suggesting that facilitating an emotion that is incongruent (e.g., anger), as opposed to congruent (e.g., sadness), in its action tendency with the emotional distress presenting (e.g., shame) might better promote emotional outcome. Method: A randomized experimental design was used to directly compare the extent of emotional recovery in participants who underwent one of three emotional sequences. “Attending to shame” was a condition designed to promote continual engagement with feelings of shame at both steps of the 2-step emotional sequence. The other two conditions, “facilitating anger” and “facilitating sadness”, were designed to activate shame in the first step and then to promote either anger or sadness, respectively, at the second step of the sequences. Emotions were conceptualized and identified following Pascual-Leone and Greenberg’s sequential model of emotional processing (2007). The sample consisted of 62 undergraduate students who reported struggling to resolve their feelings of shame in reaction to a past emotional injury by a significant person in their lives. Participants’ shame, sense of resolution, and perceived sense of usefulness for each condition were assessed at post-task. Participants’ defense styles, levels of trust in the offender, aggression, and depressive symptoms were also explored for possible links with emotional processing and outcome. Results: Bootstrapped multiple regression analyses revealed that the facilitating anger sequence was uniquely associated with gains in participants’ sense of direction for resolving distress (B = 4.50 when compared to attending to shame; B = 3.38 when compared to facilitating sadness). Facilitating anger as opposed to shame also reduced participants’ feelings of shame but only in individuals who had less use of immature defense styles (B = 4.79). Facilitating anger and facilitating sadness, compared to attending to shame, both promoted participants’ self-awareness into their own personal struggles (B = 2.95 and B = 1.67, respectively). Discussion: Findings confirmed empirical literature on the sequential model of emotional processing that promoting a different emotion, albeit a negative emotion, in the activation of distress is associated with emotional benefits. Findings further revealed that facilitating anger, as opposed to sadness, was uniquely associated with some aspects of emotional recovery in individuals struggling to resolve their feelings of shame. This may implicate the salubrious effect of promoting an emotion that is incongruent to the presenting emotional distress.