This study investigated the use of attentional control strategies in the self-management of pain using daily process design methodology. Twenty six cancer patients with pain completed diaries 3 times daily for 10 days. Diaries incorporated measures of pain intensity, affect, coping, coping efficacy, and the novelty and predictability of pain, and participants completed a cross-sectional measure of catastrophizing. At the across-person level, focusing on pain was associated with increased negative affect, and the use of pain focusing strategies was positively correlated with experiencing pain that was novel in its location or quality. Distractions that were interesting, important and pleasant were positively correlated with positive affect, perceptions of control over pain and ability to decrease pain. Over-prediction of pain was positively correlated with catastrophizing, and negatively correlated with perceptions of control over and ability to decrease pain. The within-person analysis (ARIMA modelling) showed that catastrophizing moderated the effects of pain focusing strategies, novel pain and over-predictions of pain. Meta-analysis of the ARIMA models revealed that the within-person effects of using attentional strategies did not generalize across the sample. These findings indicated that the effects of distraction strategies are influenced by their motivational-affective significance rather than the frequency with which they are used, and provided further evidence that the threat value of pain influences the way in which people cope with their pain. Theoretical and clinical implications are discussed.