Affirmations- Helpful or Harmful?

You wouldn’t pick up a hammer and knock yourself in the head.  Likewise, it is not a good idea to force ‘positive’ thoughts upon yourself in a manic, urgent way.  So how do we work with thoughts to improve our lives?

Affirmations are positive thoughts.  They are carefully worded sentences that contradict a negative thought.  Affirmations, like hammers, are a tool and as such have no inherent utility except in how we use them.  Using affirmations to uplift the quality of your thoughts takes a bit of listening to the emotional reactions you have to the positive phrases.  If saying, “I love and accept myself.” causes irritation, the first order of business is to say to yourself, “That irritates me to say.  Why?” and then follow that feeling down the rabbit hole.  Why?  What does it bring up?

Using affirmations is not an exercise in ‘mind over matter.’  Eventually, the ‘matter’ will mind and require us to look at it.  So the whole point of the philosophy of affirmations is to excavate that core wounding thought or belief and really identify if we believe it or not.  If we do- do we want to continue doing so?  If we don’t- what phrase can we reach for whenever that thought circles like a shark in our head?

It’s a game.  It’s a way of relating to yourself and others.

You see, we have to think thoughts.  There is no- not thinking thoughts.  In the same way the heart pumps blood and never stops, the brain thinks thoughts.  It just thinks and thinks and thinks.  On and on.  WHAT it thinks is something we can significantly influence.

If we have to think thoughts we might as well reach for thoughts that feel good to think.  We can’t stop, nor do we need to stop, painful thoughts from occurring.  Its when those thoughts are allowed a downward momentum that our experience of life gets out of control.  In fact, being caught in a downward spiral of painful thoughts is actually the practice of using ‘negative’ affirmations.  Think about it.  If you say the same thing over and over and over again- that’s what your life experience is going to become.  That will be the hue with which you see the world.

Most people who are in the default negative affirmation spiral that is typical for most everyone, do not realize that they have the power to change the quality of their thoughts just by turning around and questioning those negative phrases.  You have to see them first.  So we aren’t trying to use positive thoughts to hide from deeper rooted negative ones.  This is a practice of unearthing what is TRUE so that it can be witnessed and then shifted.

Pretending we are happy when we really aren’t will lead to surprising impulses that come from out of the seeming blue.  We can’t stay happy.  Nor should we stay unhappy.  We must allow for the ebb and flow.  We can’t keep negative thoughts out.  Impossible.  Like getting into a tug of war with a horse.  If you fight with your mind, you will lose every time.  If it wants to think something- its GOING to think it.  Let those thoughts land in your awareness and take note of them as information about the truth of what we are experiencing and then reach for a concept to counter the negative one.  You’re thoughts are not you.  You are that which is thinking thoughts.  So what are you thinking?

Example:  “I’m fat.” would be countered by, “I have the perfect body for my goals in life.” or “I love and accept myself.”

Example: “I’m not very smart.” would be countered by, “There are all manner of intelligence on Earth and the differences make us strong.  I have skills and gifts unique to me and I support those skills every day.”

Example: “There is no one for me to love in this world.”  would be countered by, “I love life and I love myself.  I am lovable and loving.”

But saying these is not the same as taking the journey of what they really mean inside to you.  That is an inner landscape only you can feel.  But the core walk-away concept here is to learn how to detect the feelings you might have ABOUT certain feelings.  If you go to a mirror right now and say, “I love you” to yourself, how do you feel?  Lame?  Embarrassed?  Uncomfortable?  It is the undercurrent of emotion we want to keep our eye on when working with affirmations.

Otherwise, we are inflicting a kind of hostile optimism upon ourselves (and others) which is actually an effort to control one’s environment.  A desire to control is actually coming from an unrecognized fear and distrust of the process of life.  Once we locate THAT- (which is wily like a mouse and easy to miss) we can provide ourselves with a more useful affirmation.  So the game would go something like-

“I can see that I am feeling stressed as I say this affirmation.  I need it to be true.  I have worry.  I have fear that something bad is going to happen… (enter affirmation)  I can trust the process of life.  What I need will come to me.  I don’t have to have it all figured out.  The help I need flows effortlessly into my life.  I am healthy and well.  All is well.”

“All is well” is a mantra I go to often.  Because most of the time- all IS well.

Eventually, as I have personally discovered, affirmations stop feeling like “affirmations” being applied artificially to “reality” and start to be the way you actually think.  That doesn’t mean you lose your critical analysis of any given person or situation and become naive to the ways of the world.  It means you have your eye on all the craziness the world could bring and you respond with fast, spry reflexes to new situations so as not to get caught in an undertow.

The ability to trust your reflexes is only as strong as your ability to acknowledge the truth of what is.  If we deny what is we freeze our reflexes.

If you want to give affirmations a try- Louise Hay is the matriarch of this life guidance tool.  Her book: You Can Heal Your Life- literally healed mine.  I hope it helps you too.

Be well, people.  I believe in you.