Cancer and Emotions

Releasing Negative Emotion


Resentment is like taking poison yourself, and waiting for the other person to die. If you focus on why you are angry, you will probably become angrier. If you focus on whether you wish to be angry or whether the anger is useful for learning, the anger will probably diminish.

Conventional wisdom in psychology says that negative emotions cause a narrowing in a person’s thinking and acting repertoire for survival. Conversely, positive emotions bring about a widening of a person’s thinking and acting repertoire. Negative emotions trigger a suppression of immune function while positive ones trigger an enhancement. Dr L.R. Derogatis, in Journal of the American Medical Association, said, ‘Cancer patients who express anger or express upsets survive longer.’ Which would you like?

Frequently, a person’s personality can become dominated by a particular negative emotion (such as anger, sadness, fear, hurt or guilt). It’s as though that particular emotion becomes the dominant feature in their lives. All of us know people who, much of the time, display such distinctive negative personality traits. From a psychological standpoint, what tends to cause this is a long history of recurrence. If not dealt with adequately at the time, events involving a particular emotion become ‘jammed’ at the unconscious level. For such a person, even a trivial event can precipitate a cascade of all the negative emotion attaching to similar events from the past. Ordinary everyday emotions, such as anger, can suddenly become rage, sadness can become depression, and fear can become extreme anxiety.

Extremes of specific negative emotions have become identified with particular diseases, e.g. anger has become associated with heart disease, and guilt and depression with cancer. In seeking to tip the balance in the direction of health, the healing of such past events and repressed emotions is essential. However, the typical cancer patient does not have the time to engage in lengthy counselling or therapy. This is where forms of ‘brief’ therapy come in – psychological processes which can enable patients to release unresolved negative emotion at the unconscious level in a matter of hours without having to explore each and every related event in the past. Time Line Therapy, a form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (See page 201) developed by Dr. Tad James, is an example of such a process. Though Field Therapy has proved particularly effective when dealing with anxiety and trauma (See page 199). Such interventions are best done with a qualified psychotherapist or counsellor. However, if you are negatively affected by such powerful negative emotions, it is well worth the effort to clear them out as they are blocks to recovery.

~ Summary ~

Unresolved or trapped negative emotion from the past can be released and free up self-healing.

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