over several weeks. Actually, it is unending because rational thinking
and self-instructions will stay with you forever.
Some people have great difficulty believing they are responsible for
their emotions. Other people like to be emotional; they feel it is "real"
and being controlled is phony. (No doubt many of us are loaded with
intense, usually unreasonable emotions; yet, spewing our vile
emotions on others is not healthy or considerate, although it may be
real.) Still other people can't imagine fantasies vivid enough to arouse
the unwanted emotions. And some have trouble fantasizing how
different techniques will work out.
If the emotions are too unpleasant to voluntarily experience, start
with less intense emotions in an hierarchy or seek therapy.
Effectiveness, advantages and dangers
This method is only 20 years old or so. It is part of "Cognitive
Behavioral Modification" and has been empirically tested several times.
The results are promising, suggesting about the same effectiveness as
desensitization. To the extent that our emotions are a product of how
we think, this method seems reasonable. Remember, some theorists
believe thoughts are independent of emotions. (I believe some
emotions are generated by our thoughts and fantasies, but other
emotions are automatic, conditioned responses and still others are
socially learned or lead to a pay off. I further suspect that still other
feelings are hormonal and genetic.) This method is well worth a try.
Any method that uses imagination has the advantage of being
convenient--it's always available. It probably takes no more time to
think positively about a problem than would be spent in the natural
course of events thinking negatively about the situation.
A possible danger is strengthening the unwanted emotional
response to the situation by producing the emotion over and over
again using fantasy. Just as naturally occurs, we become obsessed
with an upsetting or angering situation and the emotion grows as we
think about it (see chapter 7). Yet, the use of cognitive methods and
reasoning to reduce the emotions offers considerable hope for effective
Mahoney, M. (1974). Cognition and behavior modification.
Cambridge, Mass: Ballinger Publishing Co.
McKay, M., Davis, M. & Fanning, P. (1981). Thoughts &
feelings: The art of cognitive stress intervention. Richmond,
CA: New Harbinger Publications.