I often ask new psychotherapy clients what they would think if they were out to dinner and heard a parent barraging a child at a nearby dinner table with all of the negative things they say to themselves. “You’re stupid.” “You’re disgusting.” “Why don’t you use the brains you were born with.” “Can’t you do anything right?” They usually say they would intervene, or call Child Protective Services or the police. They clearly see treating a child in that way as abuse.
When we were little, we may have heard those things from critical parents, but as adults we are the person treating the vulnerable parts of ourselves in abusive ways. I believe it is reasonable to see a parent constantly criticizing a child as a way of brainwashing him or her. Self-criticism can be seen in the same way. We may be berating ourselves hundreds of times a day, and, to me, that is brainwashing ourselves.
If our mind can be brainwashed in the first place, we can also brainwash it to think positive thoughts. I’ve always been very skeptical of affirmation programs that have people stand in front of mirrors and say an affirmation to themselves once or twice a day. But I’ve found it very effective for myself, and for clients, to flood our minds with an affirmation.
I recommend the affirmation be said at least 1,000 times a day for 21 days, using some kind of counter. (Talley counters are available at office supply stores and IPhone has an app called Counter +). While 1,000 is effective, I found if I said the affirmation in the realm of 10,000-15,000 times a day, it started going through my mind automatically. I even woke up at night and discovered my mind saying it on its own.
Imagine saying, “I am lovable, or “It is okay for me to make mistakes,” “ My needs are important,” or “I am a competent, capable adult” 1,000 to 20,000 times a day rather than all the critical comments you usually tell yourself.
It doesn’t matter how fast you say or think the affirmation. You can do 1,000 of the short ones in 20 minutes. Once you have picked an affirmation, stick with the same one for 21 days. If you want to switch to a new one after 21 days that is fine, but don’t switch midstream. If you need ideas other than the ones I mentioned above consider using one of the Affirmations for Letting Go I shared in an earlier blog. Any positive statement said to yourself in high quantities will work.
So are you interested in experimenting with brainwashing your mind with good things? Try it. I’d love to hear about your experience.
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