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Coloured portrait

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Why Affirmations Don't Work and When Do They


Language reflects one of the four mental faculties:

1- Remembering
2- Planning
3- Fantasizing
4- Noticing

Remembering is recalling sounds, images and feelings from past events.

Planning is placing one’s thinking efforts towards the future. 

Fantasizing is making things up using imagination.

Noticing is paying attention to what is real in the present moment.

Of course, the four faculties are building upon each other. You can plan for the future based on what you remember from the past, and on what you are aware of in the present. Fantasizing is also using mental memories or things noticed in the present. In order to imagine a blue flying giraffe with yellow polka dots, you must have seen what a giraffe looks like, the colour blue, the colour yellow, polka dots and flying things / animals.

Planning for the future is based on one’s values, desires, needs, drives, urges and impulses, on memories of the past and on envisioning what is possible through fantasizing. Planning begins with intention: what are you seeking to create, and what are you intending to do towards your future. Intention gives direction to your actions. 

Prayers are an upgraded version of intention: they open a door for that which is generated from beyond the conscious mind and decisions. Prayers are either petitionary, addressed to a deity in second person perspective “Please dear [Deity] restore my health!” Or they are uttered as a neutral way to open doors for favourable possibilities: “May I recover fully and restore my health”! I personally tend to favour the latter.

What are affirmations?

Affirmations are used in lieu of prayers, as a way to affirm the individual’s responsibility and part in creating a desired future. “I have fully recovered and I enjoy total health!” Affirmations are positive statements in the present tense, which are used to describe a desired outcome as if it is already happening. 

For affirmation to work, they have to be rooted in reality or a possibility. 

When do affirmations fail:

1- Affirmations describing factual events that do not depend on an individual’s behaviour. Examples: “It’s raining!” Or “The storm has already stopped” 
Unless you are an effective psychic and Expert Rainmaker, this type of affirmations are useless. If everyone were a powerful psychic, humanity would shape the world’s climate, stop hurricanes and tornadoes, make rain in the Sahara and make Ottawa tropical. 

2 - Affirmations describe personal traits or behaviours that are not true. “I’m blonde with blue eyes” or “I’m tall and thin”. These are blatant lies and apart from their entertaining value, uttering them has no purpose.

3 - Affirmations that describe future outcomes which are highly unlikely to happen. “I have become Queen of England” or (a favourite of the naive) “I won the lottery jackpot”. 

When do affirmations work:

1 - Affirmations are useful when they describe an individual’s trait or behaviour which is already true but not yet or currently expressed. By affirming a strength, one can shift the mental focus from a deficiency to a resource, change their mental and body state, and express it. 

As an example, think of two polarized traits that you know yourself to possess, like being mean (come on, admit it, we all know that you and I can be mean at times, so own it!) versus being compassionate. You want to cultivate and strengthen your kindness, which you already possess, otherwise you wouldn’t recognize it or value it; so you affirm it: “I am kind and compassionate!”

2 - Affirmations are useful when paired with the individual’s ability to sustain a vision for a desired future. If you can imagine yourself fully recovered, then the possibility for your recovery is real and alive within your imagination, and affirming it will help you connect with it. Hope is a glimpse into possibilities. When affirming something that you are truly and sincerely hopeful for,  which is possible and credible, it has a chance to work. This bit is often employed by effective healers. There is a video clip on YouTube depicting two Qi Gong practitioners performing healing on a woman who has a tumour (bladder or another organ, I don’t remember the details). There are two cameras, one inside the woman’s body, focusing on the tumour; the other camera focuses on the practitioners. The two men use body movement and chant something translatable as “It’s already gone!” The camera shows the tumour shrinking until it completely disappears. 

3 - For affirmations to work there is a need for congruence between the person’s body-mind state and the content of the affirmation. Movement, voice pitch and volume, breath and posture must be aligned with the declared words.

4 - It is easier to see results using affirmations which describe a relative process then an absolute outcome. A person who is recovering from illness is more likely to benefit from affirming: “I am getting stronger and more radiant each day” than saying: “I am strong and radiant”

To sum it up: affirmations are positive statements which are used in the present to create a desired future, engaging existing strengths that have not yet been expressed and towards an outcome which is envisioned as possible by the person who is practicing the affirmations.  Their effectiveness depends on truth, sustainable vision, and congruence.


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