Have you ever tried to repeat a positive statement to yourself in the hopes of feeling better or improving your situation? Statements like: “I love and accept myself,” “I am successful at my job.” Did you get limited results or none at all? Or maybe things got worse instead of better? You are not alone in this experience. Research has shown that ‘affirmations’ work for some people and not for others.
I have spent many years researching and using affirmations both with my clients and myself. In the early years, I often gave up on them because of limited results. Yet I kept returning to them with renewed curiosity and fresh questions.
Over time, I came to appreciate that we humans are complex, multidimensional beings and so the reasons why affirmations often don’t work is similarly complex.
We are not all built the same
Too often, in our cookie cutter culture, we have one-size-fits-all recipes for improving health and living a better life. “Eat lots of broccoli,” we are advised. Yet, in Ayurveda, India’s ancient healing tradition, broccoli is contraindicated for one body type and recommended for another. The ancients knew something that we have either failed to notice or completely ignored: that we are not all built the same.
Each of us is unique, with our own personality and body type, a specific family history and a range of attitudes, beliefs and life goals.
We are energy
We are, in addition, more than just a mind and a body. We are also energy. Somewhat like the earth’s gravitational field, we each have a subtle energy field, what some researchers call the ‘biofield’. Within this biofield is an imprint of all our past experiences, our thoughts, emotions and a vibrational template of our physical body.
Our energy field responds to thoughts and attitudes, (our own and others), and registers every experience we have. As a therapist who has, for many years, worked directly with the human energy field, I am able to sense these energy effects. I provide a therapy that combines what is traditionally called hands-on healing with various counselling approaches. As a person lies, fully clothed, on a treatment table, I gently place my hands on different energy centres, called ‘chakras’, and feel what is happening for the individual.
For example, a woman once came for a first visit, and as I walked around to her left side, I suddenly heard in my mind’s ear, the sound of an angry man’s voice. She had not mentioned anything about her father so I gently asked her: “Did your father tend to get angry?” Her response: “My father had a violent temper. We never knew when he’d flair up.” It is amazing that as an adult, her energy still had an imprint of these experiences.
Clearing out the old to make room for the new
If we were to buy a whole new set of clothes, we would have to clear our closets of old clothes that are taking up valuable space. Likewise with affirmations. To assimilate a new attitude, a new way of perceiving ourselves and life, it is necessary to clear out old habits of thinking and feeling.
If, for example, you were criticized as a child, told that you were stupid and would never amount to anything, this message becomes lodged in your memory and in your energy. When you try to repeat an affirmation such as “I am intelligent”, this will create a ‘dissonance’ in your energy. I would experience this dissonance or contradiction as turmoil in your biofield. It is as if the whole ‘system’ has to reject the new message because it doesn’t fit with the old imprint.
Statements of truth versus affirmations
I have found over the years that a person’s body and energy respond to the truth much more so than any wish or intention. It is as if a person’s energy, which has a unique intelligence, cannot assimilate something new until the old pain is acknowledged and cleared.
What I do with clients is create a ‘statement of truth’ which their whole system accepts rather than rejects. So if a person is experiencing anxiety, I would suggest a statement such as: “I feel anxious. It’s just a feeling.” I have the person repeat this as I perform energy healing. The combination of the healing with a focus through repetition clears the old stress locked up in the individual’s biofield. It is a surprisingly gentle yet effective approach.
Once this is cleared, it leaves a ‘space’ inside that is receptive to something new. So I compose an affirmation that can be accepted by the whole person’s being. It always amazes me how specific it must be. The exact words must be used, words that the person’s subconscious can relate to. After all, words are symbols of direct experience. For example, when doing a clearing, the words ‘anxious’, ‘afraid’ and ‘scared’ each has a different effect even though they all refer to the emotion of fear.
Likewise with an affirmation, or what I prefer to call a ‘positive input’. If a person rejects the phrase “I am confident”, then we must find something that can, at the very least, be considered by their biofield.
For me, there is a definite science to using affirmations. It requires skillful investigation and the crafting of an approach that is tailored to each individual.