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Interventions for Clients Coping with Cancer
Interventions for Clients Coping with Cancer - 10 CEUs

Section 7
The Roles of Negative Affect in Cancer (Part 2)

CEU Question 7 | CE Test | Table of Contents | Cancer
Psychologist CEs, Social Worker CEUs, Counselor CEUs, MFT CEUs

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On the last track we discussed the first step of reforming negative emotions.  This first step is determining if the emotion is realistic and appropriate.

On this track we will continue to discuss reforming negative emotions.  This will be limit the duration of the unpleasant emotion.  We will also discuss the "Act As If" technique. 

Reforming Negative Emotions - Part 2 of 3

Method # 2 - Limit the Duration of the Unpleasant Emotion

First, let’s discuss limiting the duration of the unpleasant emotion.  The question I asked Lynn was, "How long are you going to permit a fear of abandonment to continue to depress your immune system?"  Lynn’s response was, "How am I supposed to know!?  How long should we despair over any hurt!?" 

I felt that Lynn made a good point, but I stated, "The question becomes even more demanding when the strength of your immune system is part of the equation.  And for this act of will, I have observed that a determination not to permit the loss or hurt to go on forever seems to have a beneficial effect."  As Lynn considered limiting the duration of her unpleasant emotion, she became aware that she had no specific advice as to how to do it.  Therefore, I provided Lynn with information on the "Act As If" technique.

2- Step Technique:  Act As If
To help Lynn limit the duration of her unpleasant emotion, which was a fear of abandonment, I introduced her to the "Act As If" technique.  The Act As If technique I use has two steps. 

1. The first step is choosing the reaction the client believes is in her best interests.  I stated to Lynn, "Most events present us with two options.  We can react rationally by looking at our options and choosing to react in a way we believe to be in our best interests or we can react reflexively.  Reflexive action causes us to behave automatically, without considering the alternatives.  Most people react reflexively, which usually isn’t harmful.  However, when those reflexive actions provoke constant negative emotions, it can be counter-productive, especially to you as a cancer patient, to consider healthier ways of reacting.  When you know what the more productive reaction would be, you can force yourself to act in this preferred way."

Lynn asked, "I don’t think acting any other way would be uncomfortable."  How might you have responded to Lynn?  I stated, "I know.  That’s ‘acting as if.’  If you act as if long enough and consistently enough, soon this new way of responding will be the way you act naturally.  I hasten to add that choosing what is best for you can be and often is based on feelings of love, charity and compassion.  I stated to Lynn, "I realize this is not easy, nor does it happen overnight.  Acting as if takes consistency and perseverance." 

2. The second step in the Act As If technique was for Lynn to find a way to make it happen.  First, Lynn told her husband and her children of her fear of abandonment and asked them to be more considerate of her needs.  The family tried, but because of habit, not much changed.  Lynn stated, "The first option failed."  Her next step was to act as if standing up for her own self interest was what she felt like doing. 

Lynn stated, "After fifteen years of marriage and what seems like a lifetime of compliance this is a difficult change."  This is how Lynn handled situations as they arose.  "My son had plans for an afternoon and asked me to drive him to a friend’s house, which would ruin my afternoon.  Normally, I just would have done it.  So to act as if, triggered a scene.  But I stuck to my guns."   Think of your Lynn.  Eventually, considering her own desires as well as others could become Lynn’s natural reaction.  Could your client’s negative emotions begin to subside by using this technique?  Could that perhaps help take some of the pressure off his or her immune system?

On this track we discussed an additional method for reforming negative emotions.  This was limit the duration of the unpleasant emotion.  We will also discussed the act as if technique.  This is a two step technique.  The two steps are choosing the reaction which best serves the client’s interests and acting as if that is the way the client feels.

On the next track we will finish our discussion on reforming negative emotions.  Our final discussion on this topic will be on controlling the intensity of the unpleasant emotion. 

Peer-Reviewed Journal Article References:
Castonguay, A. L., Wrosch, C., & Sabiston, C. M. (2017). The roles of negative affect and goal adjustment capacities in breast cancer survivors: Associations with physical activity and diurnal cortisol secretion. Health Psychology, 36(4), 320–331. 

Ciere, Y., Janse, M., Almansa, J., Visser, A., Sanderman, R., Sprangers, M. A. G., Ranchor, A. V., & Fleer, J. (2017). Distinct trajectories of positive and negative affect after colorectal cancer diagnosis. Health Psychology, 36(6), 521–528. 

Hart, S. L., & Charles, S. T. (2013). Age-related patterns in negative affect and appraisals about colorectal cancer over time. Health Psychology, 32(3), 302–310. 

Rask, C. U., Gehrt, T. B., Rimvall, M. K., & Frostholm, L. (2020). Health anxiety: Conceptualization and future directions. Zeitschrift für Psychologie, 228(2), 141–144.

Regenwetter, M., Hsu, Y.-F., & Kuklinski, J. H. (2019). Towards meaningful inferences from attitudinal thermometer ratings. Decision, 6(4), 381–399.

Rompilla, D. B., Jr., Hittner, E. F., Stephens, J. E., Mauss, I., & Haase, C. M. (2021). Emotion regulation in the face of loss: How detachment, positive reappraisal, and acceptance shape experiences, physiology, and perceptions in late life. Emotion. Advance online publication.

Online Continuing Education QUESTION 7
What are the two steps to the "act as if" technique? To select and enter your answer go to CE Test.
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