Art, Positive Thoughts and Adjustment : HEARTS IN HEALTH

Art, Positive Thoughts and Adjustment

by Bivi Franco on 05/27/16

One of the scariest feelings we face as humans is the stripping of a sense of control over our lives. Cancer patients confront this feeling the moment they are diagnosed and continue to face an overwhelming sense of helplessness as they fight the disease. Along with this loss of control comes fear, doubt and uncertainty which permeates every part of patients’ lives, ultimately affecting their quality of life. If the thought life of cancer patients is so powerful, would being able to unravel the cause of the cancer provide relief? Is there a way to help patients feel “in control” again, and would that positively affect their adjustment to life with cancer?

In the study “Attributions, Beliefs About Control, and Adjustment to Breast Cancer,” authors Shelley Taylor, Rosemary Lichtman and Joanne Wood ask those exact questions. According to their findings, assigning causality to their cancer did not positively or negatively affect patients’ adjustment to having cancer or recovery. The only negative correlation the researchers found was that assigning blame to another person for their cancer caused emotional distress, which in turn affected their quality of life. Instead, the study finds a strong link between how patients view the amount of control they have and a positive adjustment. 

In his writings, S.C. Thompson describes four types of control people exercise when attempting to process or adjust to a new situation: “cognitive control (thinking about the aversive experience differently); information control (learning about the aversive experience); behavioral control (affecting the aversive circumstance through some direct action); and retrospective control (deciding after the fact that one could have controlled the aversive event and that one presumably can do so in the future)” (Taylor 491). Taylor, Lichtman and Wood’s findings show that cognitive control benefits cancer patients the most. Thinking about their situation in a different way improves patients’ quality of life and allows them to adjust to the new reality of their cancer in a positive way. Behavioral control also helps patients adjust, specifically an increase in exercise and “taking increased time for leisure activities” (497). 

With such a great need for patients to see life through a positive lens as well as participate in activities that help them regain a sense of control, Feel Beautiful Today is committed to bringing Arts in Health programs like Workshops With Patients, Joined in Hope, Through My Window and LUNA that provide the opportunity and space for patients to experience hope and encouragement. Whether working on creative activities in Art Care Packages or working with one of our workshop facilitators on making a bracelet or necklace, FBT’s programs help patients focus on the beauty in their lives as well as physically and emotionally relax and rest.

Often we cannot control the situations we encounter in life, but we can control how we think about them. It is FBT’s mission to continue to plant seeds of hope where the world feels very much out of control and to equip patients with the tools they need to adjust well.


Taylor SE, Lichtman RR, Wood JV. “Attributions, Beliefs About Control, and Adjustment to Breast Cancer.” J Pers Soc Psychol. 1984 Mar; 46(3): 489-502.

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