I Don’t Believe in Affirmations, Do You?
Affirmations and positive thinking are often touted as great tools for self development. If you’re an upbeat, self-esteeming legend of positivity these new age tricks may do what the self-help books promise. If that’s you then won’t want to read any further.
For me affirmations and positive thinking were more like short term band aids that seemed to help, but nothing really changed with the trotting out of positive phrases and sparkly thoughts. The band aid looked great on top, but underneath things were still a bit festy.
The thing that changed my negative default was learning that I could feel however I wanted to feel and didn’t have to wait for an external event for this to happen. All I needed to do was get better at having and being in a body so that I could actually FEEL positive. That’s right, not think it or hope it or wait for it to manifest, but feel it.
Getting better at being in a body takes work and a willingness to feel some of the uncomfortable crap that’s been stored there. It’s a practice that takes work and support. But it’s worth the effort and can change the way you think and feel.
Why doesn’t positive thinking work for some people?
One day I literally woke up to myself as I heard my inner voice trying really hard to come up with a positive way to be with what I was seeing in the mirror. I was 15 kilos over weight, I felt uncomfortable, frumpy and anything but gorgeous. I kept telling myself to love myself anyway. Yes, good idea. But ignoring the part of me that felt like crap wasn’t a good idea at all. It just made me feel crappier. As long as I kept trying to put a positive spin on things and ignore the pain there was absolutely no drive to do anything about it. So I got real and felt the crappiness and admitted that I was overweight and that I didn’t like it and started to find ways of making a change.
So no amount of positive thinking was ever going to address the problem, however feeling the feelings and acting on them did. In this case denial was masquerading as positive thinking and keeping me from making a change.
Affirmations – Battleground and Disbelief
Apparantly if you say an affirmation often enough, consistently and for long enough, whatever you are affirming eventually manifests. So phrases things like “My life is filled with abundance” or “I am happy and loved” or “I love and approve of myself” begin as affirmations and eventually become truths.
Maybe I didn’t stick with it long enough.. I did try. When I did I noticed the internal battle and disbelief that would get triggered. As each affirmation was spoken I swear I could hear something inside going, “No, it isn’t”, “No, you’re not” and “No, you don’t”. Then the battle would begin. What was this doing to my system? Could my limbic brain discern the difference between a perceived internal battle and a real external battle or argument that would inevitably trigger a flight or fight response? Were these internal battles adding stress to my life instead of making me feel better about it all?
Try Embodiment Instead
I love the idea that there many subconscious parts of ourselves that are all doing their best to keep us safe and happy. I experienced some deep shifts in working with a practitioner who could help to identify these parts that were lovingly sabotaging my life. It’s an interesting paradigm and not everyone’s cup of tea but what I understand now is if I always deny the uncomfortable feelings, or blocks by attempting to turn them around with positive thinking then that’s when life just doesn’t flow for me.
Yes, I too believe it’s important to not focus on the negative but to look for positive experiences instead. But sometimes things are just shitty and that’s just the way it is. I catch myself censuring my words sometimes, afraid to sound negative as we all know how boring and draining that is. But every so often it’s refreshing and freeing to have a good whinge and just tell things how I see them. Negativity is ok, it’s just the yang to the yin of positivity. Sometimes it’s real and authentic to complain, just watch if it becomes habitual and divisive.
I teach a handful of different techniques to work with negative thinking, the easiest response that clients seem to appreciate quickly is to just get out of their heads and in to their bodies. This gives the mind something else to focus on and arrests the train of thought before it becomes embedded and energy sucking.
When it comes to affirmations, the question for me is…. what’s the point? What are we trying to achieve? If it’s to feel a certain way like more abundant, more loved, free, or happier then why not just feel that way. Simply drop your awareness out of your head and from what ever thoughts that you are having to convince you that you aren’t any of those things and instead bring your awareness into your body and simply feel that feeling. Look around you, you are abundant. Do you want to feel loved? Do it, just feel love in your body, right here right now, generate it yourself, don’t wait for someone else to do it for you. The same with happiness, just feel it. It is always there, it doesn’t need an external stimulus you can feel it anytime you want. So why waste time waiting for affirmations and positive thinking to manifest change in your external circumstances when you’re in complete control of you internal landscape and can just do it now.
The other things that starts to happen as you spend more time in an embodied state and less in a zombie negative thought state is that you become present to what needs to change externally to support an ongoing state of abundance, happiness and feeling loved.
Yes it’s simplistic and it sounds too easy. But it works and the magic thing is that it works right now, it’s free and it puts you in control. How positively affirming is that?