Some people swear by affirmations. They credit them with their success, with shifting attitudes, moods and lifestyles.
They do seem like a good idea: repeating something over and over and over, until SOMETHING inside of you starts to believe what you are saying and then… gets to work on it.
The thing is… that never seemed to work for me.
I tried for years!
The first brush with affirmations was when I discovered Louise Hay. She says the mind is like a computer and affirmations are like installing a new code. Then, whatever you accept as true for you will actually reflect in your reality.
I love Louise. I believe that she has had great results with affirmations in her life – and that others, who have listened to her, accomplished much with them. She is a wonderful healer.
For me, however, that didn’t work!
Perhaps I did not push through… because, to be honest, every time I started “affirming”, I chickened out and stopped after a few days.
It felt weird… as if something mysterious in my psyche was threatening doom and gloom as revenge for even trying to change the status quo, let alone happily shift – simply because “I” (whoever this conscious “I” who was thinking about these things) wanted to change.
I tried several times, I really tried! But the same process happened over and over again: I didn’t see results – and I got easily scared.
Then I discovered Florence Scovel Shinn – one of the early spiritual leaders in the US (early 20th century), who wrote books such as “The Game of Life” and “Your Word is Your Wand”. She was an artist and illustrator too and there was just something about her that really appealed to me – so I tried affirmations again.
Florence believed that by repeating a sentence that resonates profoundly in your psyche, you could solve a problem or accomplish whatever you wanted to accomplish in “perfectly natural” ways.
The results are fuzzier here… but not that far from the experiments with Louise Hay’s affirmations. I still didn’t feel comfortable with them… perhaps it was because I couldn’t quite find sentences that resonated profoundly in my psyche… although, at face value, “I am rich” resonated profoundly – at least with a desire for financial security and freedom…
It wasn’t until much, much later, when I started teaching children and then having my own, therefore being around very young people, that some things started to click for me.
Because I was around growing children a lot and I could see how they developed over time, I realized a few things, such as:
Very small kids, who do not have very well developed verbal skills, process the world in raw emotion much more than adults. They can’t even process that raw emotion, in fact, because they don’t have the capacity for self-awareness yet.
So if something “bad” happens – such as seeing their parents worry about money (just to stay with the financial example) – they somehow draw their own conclusions, which they don’t even put into words (because they can’t!) but which stay with them into adulthood, possibly for the rest of their lives.
It could be something like “Money is really hard to come by!” or “It takes a lot of hard work to have a good life” etc. etc.
But because this all happens before their self-awareness and verbal skills are developed, these conclusions somehow sink into a mysterious place in the psyche, from which they emanate later on.
This is why, if you try to “affirm” as an adult and you run into one of these early-formed conclusions, you will be met with suspicion and fear. The “young child” energy that formed that conclusion and is holding the belief will not easily let go of it.
To your adult mind, an affirmation might be perfectly logical – AND reasonable. But in the tender mind of a young child, the world is taking shape – and is often scary.
It dawned on me one day that my adult, logical, rational and (hopefully) wise self does not actually even need affirmations! I don’t need to affirm my well-being (emotional, financial, relational or of any kind), because it is obvious to me.
But those much younger – and, let’s just say it, wounded parts of me do!
They are the ones that need to be convinced that they interpreted the world all wrong! They need a course correction and they need to understand that it was all… a misunderstanding!
That the fact that my mom felt desperate about money all the time does not mean:
1) that everybody feels that way
2) that I will grow up to have the same fate (and deserve it! Because if mom had it so tough… how can I have or easy?!)
THIS is where affirmations come in handy.
You repeat over and over to those young and tender parts of yourself, over and over again, a mantra of well-being, the way you would say to an anxious child “It’s going to be alright! It’s going to be alright!” Over and over again, until the anxiety subsides.
You might try several affirmations until you hit on one that really resonates deep – and you will know it when that happens, because you will feel relief.
So if you feel drawn to affirmations but they haven’t quite worked for you, try saying them to your inner child.
(And let me know how it goes!)
To subscribe to “The Art of Feeling Good” for more articles like this: