Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Affirmations: Part 2, Column 2

My last post, Wall-to-Wall Inspiration, covered the topic of inspirational words, especially affirmations. There is a powerful second step to making affirmations work. It seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle in the smiley-faced enthusiasm of some of our more eager metaphysical go-getters. I’m making fun of myself, because I used to border on being one of them.

The Complications of Over-Simplifying

While I’m on the subject, there is a real danger in our culture of oversimplifying things to the point that they—or we—become caricatures. This is exacerbated by a culture that relies heavily on video as a medium for information and entertainment—always entertainment—even on the most serious topics. Everything is reduced to video clips and sound bytes, and the more we live media-driven lives—we micro-blog on Facebook and Twitter in a sentence or two—the more we are apt to lose the core nugget of truth for brevity.

For example, there is fabulous information in the movie,
The Secret, which claims to reveal the most powerful law in the universe; however, if you don’t listen to it with a discerning ear, it comes off sounding like a very materialistic form of magic, one without heart and soul. As I say often, it’s not the tool; it’s how you use it. Knives are instruments of nurture to a cook, and in the hands of a skilled surgeon, a lifesaver. In the hands of a serial murder—not.

I don’t want to get into the controversy that has sometimes surrounded The Secret; it has its pluses and minuses like all people and things. But I do want to say this: affirmations are another one of those things that will either not work, backfire, or sound really stupid to seriously grounded realists if you don’t know the second step. The reason the smiley-faced metafoofoo types never seem to have gotten it? It has to do with negatives. They don’t like them. (I didn’t invent the expression metafoofoo for airy metaphysical types, but I do claim to have added the smiley-face! :) I think the perennial positive thinkers haven't yet found the positives in negatives.

The Positive of Negatives
Here’s the second step. You must spend time writing down the negative mind-chatter that pops in as you affirm your new way of thinking, your positive statement. If you do not get it out in the open on a piece of paper where you can face it squarely, it will sabotage you.

This takes some emotionally painful and rather time-consuming work. My spiritual teachers taught me that it takes writing the new affirmation and coughing up the negative self-talk 77 times before the new idea “sets.” Hopefully, it sets firmer than squiggly Jell-O and takes root in your mind like an oak tree. Remember, mighty oaks from tiny acorns grow. These little seeds of self-discovery will yield big.

I was taught to do this exercise by folding a standard piece of notebook or other 8.5 x 11 lined paper lengthwise. You set up two columns. You can call them whatever works for you. I usually marked them, simply, with the plus (+) and minus (-) symbols.

You need 77 lines, so use as many pieces of paper as necessary. Maybe it’s not a magic number, but it’s enough writing to do the job. You don’t have to write all 77 affirmations and your inner responses to them in one session, but if you can make the time, that’s ideal.

Here’s an example. I wanted to work with the affirmation: I am lean, fit, centered—energetic. For starters, I realized it’s a four-in-one, and I’d have to do those declarations one at a time, starting with “I am lean.” Here is some of what popped out in my process, with the Column 2 Minuses in parentheses:

1. I am Lean. (That’s a laugh. Just look at you!)
2. I am Lean. (You lean over cuz you’re so fat! That’s your “lean.”)
3. I am Lean. (Well, maybe under several inches of pudge.)
4. I am Lean. (But you had a fat mother; her mom and sister were fat. You come from a fat family!)

I don’t want to bore you with my obnoxious, personal demons, but I do want to report that at some point the talk in Column 2 will begin to change. It happens quite naturally:

18. I am Lean. (Maybe deep within)
19. I am Lean. (Hmm, well, OK, I think that’s probably who I really am.)
20. I am Lean. (Your uncle is fit and in control of his eating. He’s 82 and still traveling and having fun!)
By the end of this exercise, you will have actually downloaded the barriers to your beliefs and put them out in front of you where you can deal with them. I have lost 9 lbs. since affirming “I am lean” and dumping out my negative mind chatter for examination. I’m sure affirmations aren’t the only reason—I was using multiple tools—but I can’t deny they factored into it.) For some more excellent examples, especially about blocks to prosperity and manifesting money, read
Using Affirmations to Uncover and Transform Negative Beliefs and Attitudes by Douglas Bloch, a profound self-help author who speaks from having walked the path from pain to wholeness. Also, here’s another similar spin on how to do affirmations with some additional and delightful twists, including singing them: Motivation Tips by Carla Valencia.

Accentuate the Positive, Eliminate the Negative
That peppy old tune by Johnny Mercer,
Accentuate the Positive, sung by Perry Como, tells us not to mess with “Mr. In-Between.” In order to eliminate the negative, we have to find it! Rout it out like the rat infestation in my garage and turn the whole mess over to Mr. Clark, the namesake of our pest-control service. When we affirm without finding and eliminating the negatives, we haven’t finished the job—or the paper work. We are, indeed, messing with Mr. In-Between. We can’t get anywhere, because we are laying a foundation on faulty ground, one with potholes, sinkholes, and a host of hidden pitfalls and pratfalls.

Try this process, and please share your success stories with our Cool Insights family. It’s profound and practical!


Photo Credit: TORN BLUE PAPER FROM NOTEBOOK © Loraliu Dreamstime.com


NEW FEATURE: Cool Saging Conversations

Check out the new feature and sidebar on Hot Flashbacks, Cool Insights! I’m participating in a meme on Pop Art Diva’s Saturday Soapbox on various issues near and dear to baby boomers. Memes (pronounced meem, long e like beam), are a way of propagating culture, analogous to the biological transmission of genes. Anytime we communicate by whatever means about culture, these conversations propagate cultural evolution from one mind to another. In other words, if we talk about our culture, we change it! I will post Cool Saging Conversations beside my regular posts, not just in response to the Saturday Soapbox, but on all kinds of cool saging topics. Today’s inaugural post is response to the Pop Art Diva’s Saturday Soapbox on March 1, “Are We Wasting the Resources of Our Elders?”


Pop Art Diva! said...

I will comment on your Dinosaur Saturday Soapbox post but first I have to tell you that this affirmation post was an eye opener for me! I'm going to try this out on the negative/positive thing - because you're right the negatives can sabotage the positive you're trying to create if you don't know what they are and face them!

Now, on to your Saturday Soapbox Inaugural Post response: I have come in personal contact with a number of 20 somethings lately in my personal life and I have found myself thinking, "do they think I'm a silly old fart like I used to think my Aunts and Uncles were?"

It's funny, I've found my readers and buyers of my products cover a wide age range so my online brand is cool but am I personally, lol? I don't know and frankly there's nothing I plan to do about it - "I yam what I yam" but I have become more understanding of who my older relatives and acquaintances were - now that I am nearer to being "old" myself!

Joyce Mason said...

Pop Art, you'll never be "old" to me. Thanks for these great shares! (Your shares are the kind that are still "up.")

Eileen Williams said...

Oh, my gosh, Joyce--
I'm totally blown away by your thoughts and insights into making affirmations really work.
I'm an auditory type so say them to myself as I exercise. However, I've never addressed the negative rebuttal lurking in my thoughts. My practice has been to push aside these self-sabotaging thoughts and keep affirming. Now I know that, if I don't address these nasty culprits, they'll continually keep me back, and all those fabulous goals I've been working towards may be lost.
What a breakthrough--thank you!!!

Joyce Mason said...

Eileen, so glad this spoke to you. It's one of those things I have known for years but only recently remembered again. It makes so much sense to me, because it is truly our hidden mind chatter and beliefs that derail us from our goals and desires. "Column 2" can be both scary and hilarious--but ultimately liberating! Thanks for sharing your reaction.

Ann Pietrangelo said...


While I believe wholeheartedly in maintaining a positive attitude, I agree that we must also address the negative in our lives.

Having a realistic view of our own lives, as well as the world in which we live, enables us to move forward despite the negative.

Your post leaves us with plenty to ponder.

Joyce Mason said...

Ann, thanks for your comments! I'm glad this was thought-provoking, and the reactions I'm reading here make me glad I posted it. I think my cat's recent abscess from a wound in a fight reminded me of the Column 2 process. We clean out a wound before we dress it and allow it to heal so "infection" can't set in, that negative stuff that can go systemic without treatment. May all our affirmations fulfill their ultimately positive destinies!