I hear some people have a hard time grabbing the concept of Affirmations. Does it mean "don't say mean things to yourself?" Or "imagine good stuff happening?" Or maybe "is it just 'positive thinking', rather than 'catastrophic thinking?'"
Well....yes. And no. More "no" than "yes".
Now telling yourself "I'm an idiot! Fat! Pathetic!" and similar lovely things is obviously NOT a good way to get comfortable in your own skin. You'd be surprised at how many people still don't get it. Just a couple of weeks ago, I opened up a popular diet/exercise book and read this bit:
"Now that you're standing naked in front of a mirror, slump down so you're slouching and all your fat is gathered in lumps around you. Let your belly and buttocks sag; push out your gut as far as possible. Notice your thighs squashed against each other, and see how the skin ripples with fat. Look at this image carefully. IT IS ONLY WHEN YOU ARE TOTALLY DISGUSTED WITH YOURSELF AND HATE THIS PERSON IN THE MIRROR THAT YOU CAN BEGIN TO CHANGE INTO SOMETHING BETTER."
(paraphrased, and emphasis added by me)
My first thought (besides "what an IDIOT!") was "this is dangerous." And it is. Self-hate turns into self-anger, and self-anger and disgust leads to isolation, despair...even suicide. And this knucklehead says "hate thyself?!"
Such thoughts are obviously negative and non-helpful. Affirmations are the opposite - good thoughts, encouraging thoughts, caring and gentle and forgiving thoughts. But there's more to it than that.
The basic point is this: AFFIRMATIONS ARE ALWAYS IN THE PRESENT. Always. No exceptions.
It's not "I will be a size 12." It's "I'm a size 22, and today I'm stronger and better than yesterday!" It's not "I'll be an actress", it is "I AM an actress."
Think of the difference. "I'll be a writer." Yeah, some day I'll sit down and I'll figure out what I want to write, and I'll take some classes, and maybe do a short story or two....then maybe I'll be a writer.
Now change it to "I AM a writer" and the whole mindset turns into something else. You can almost feel the switch flicked on in your brain: from potential to actual.
So how do these work? More to the point, WHY do they work? For that, I'm going to give you a (very very small, I promise!) lecture on Buddhism. It's not because it's "the right faith" or anything: it's just the one I best understand, and one of its very basic tenets is all about Affirmations (under a different name). So please consider it a philosophical lecture and not a religious one.
(And please don't sue me or burn an effigy on my lawn. I JUST reseeded, and it would make such a mess....)
The basic point of Buddhism is made up of the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. Boiled down, the Truths say "people suffer", and the Eightfold Path is the way to stop suffering. (Note: this doesn't mean physical suffering; it's emotional and spiritual. Or as my favourite bumper-sticker puts it: "Pain is Necessary. Suffering is Optional.")
The Eightfold Path is pretty straightforward.
1. Right Views
2. Right Thoughts
3. Right Speech
4. Right Conduct
5. Right Livelihood
6. Right Effort
7. Right Mindfulness
8. Right Meditation
So how does this all tie in with Affirmations and good thoughts? Simple: it shows the chain of events, starting with the View and ending with the Action.
Think of a goal that you wish to reach. Let's say you are a photographer and want to have your own show. Take each step in turn:
1. Right Views. Photography is important to you, and you treat it with both respect and delight. Your inner truth is that this is a good thing, a thing that makes the world more beautiful, more aware, and generally better. This view leads to...
2. Right Thought. This is the Affirmation part. You think "I'm getting the PERFECT shot for my show"; and "I'm putting together an awesome portfolio." All phrases that are in the present tense, and all phrases that are true. Sure, the photo isn't going into the portfolio TODAY, but you are PRESENTLY working on it. And these thoughts lead to...
3. Right Speech. You don't moan about how "I'm no good, I suck, I'll never be Ansel Adams." You feel good about a work in progress....PROGRESS, moving FORWARD....and your speech echoes that. "I'm looking for the perfect spot for my show"; "This shot I'm getting will be a great high-contrast photo." Since words are what connect us to other people, this leads to....
4. Right Conduct. You talk to other photographers, you learn new techniques, make new connections. And before you know it, those "Right Thoughts" lead you directly to the Conduct, the Action, you want to see: your own show.
(We'll skip the other 4. They're a little more esoteric than I want to get right now)
Positive Thinking is encouraging, yes. "I know I'll get that job!" But it speaks of the future. Affirmations speak of the NOW. "I'm getting a great job. I wonder if it'll be the one I'm interviewing for today?" It keeps a sense of openness, of acceptance, of daring the universe (or God, or whatever you like) to give you it's very best shot of GOOD STUFF!...'cause you're ready RIGHT NOW.
And the NOW is what Affirmations are all about.
Say them, write them, put them up where you can see them. Or think them to yourself. Just keep them in the Now, and keep them going. It takes a hundred "I give the BEST hugs!" to erase a single "I hate people and they hate me."
Speaking of hate....
Be aware that Affirmations can bring up self-hate at first. Try this: get in front of a mirror and say - out loud - "I am willing to change." Say it 10 times. Meet your eyes in the mirror. Don't mumble. Say it nice and clear.
How did you do? What did you feel?
Very few people get through this with no effect. I've seen mirrors thrown across a room, people smash them with a fist (a lovely mess for me to clean up, hmph!), start crying, start yelling, run away....every possible reaction. That's because Affirmations will often hit the very core of your YOU-ness, and shake it up...but good. It can scare the daylights out of you. At the very least, you'll feel resistance, a voice saying "BUT...HEY! DOWN HERE! YOU'RE FULL OF IT!"
Ignore the voice. It's the heart of your Inner Critic. It's where she's barricaded herself, her Alamo, her last stand. It's the Big Kahuna, THE wave you gotta surf to get free. And it's a big wave....but you've got a looooooong time to ride it.
Mirror-work is very intense, and few people are ready for it. If you think you are, give it a try: say the Affirmations you want in your life to yourself, straight in the eye, and they sink in faster (often TOO fast, so don't worry if you can't.) But everyone can start with basic writing-work.
And yes: it works. It encourages synchronicity, it buoys you up, it energizes and excites you because you're doing it NOW.
A little clearer now?
Note: The above relates directly to regaining one's creativity and reaching the artist within. For a look at some more generalized affirmations, have a look at this little video: www.youtube.com/watch?v=ia5nAojCFGM
Edited by: MERRICAT at: 9/12/2008 (18:25)