Letting Go of Suffering- Week 6: Using Affirmations to Heal

I often ask my psychotherapy clients what they would think and feel if they overheard a parent berating a child with the negative messages that they dump on themselves, e.g. “You are so stupid.” “Can’t you do anything right?” “You are selfish.”  “You are a disgrace.”

Clients often respond that they would feel angry and think that the child was being abused. I tell them when they speak that way to themselves, it is as if they were the parent who is abusing the child. In this case the child is their inner child. That awareness is often jolting enough to motivate clients to learn what they need to learn to stop the negative self talk.

Affirmations are positive statements which can be used to replace the negative messages you tell yourself. By using these positive statements, as one might use a mantra, i.e. saying them over and over, you can fill yourself with positive supportive energy instead of negative, discounting energy.

Below you will see two styles of affirmations. The affirmations in the first style are phrased so that you affirm the beliefs you want to have. These affirmations are stated as if they were already true. For example:

I belong

I am worthy

I am enough.

I am a competent, capable adult.

I am love.

I am lovable.

My needs are important.

I am learning and growing.

I deserve support.

The other option is to pick an affirmation that the healthy parent part of you says to your inner child. For example:

I love you.

Your needs are important to me.

I will teach you and guide you.

Pamela Levin and Jean Illsley Clarke created sets of developmentally based affirmations. Their affirmations use the parent to child style.

Pam Levin’s can be found her her book Cycles of Power. Some examples of her affirmations:

You have a right to be here.

You don’t have to hurry, you can take your time.

You don’t have to suffer to get your needs met.

Jean I. Clarke’s are in Growing Up Again. Here are a few of hers:

I’m glad you are you.

You can know what you need and ask for help.

You can learn when and how to disagree.

Creating Affirmations from Think Structures

You can use the Think Structures you wrote in Week Four and Week Five‘s Letting Go of Suffering assignments to create personalized affirmations. (The Think Structure and this affirmation structure are processes created by Pam Levin (Cycles of Power.)

I will show you how to create affirmations using this Think Structure:

  1. I am scared
  2. That if I ask for what I want
  3. I will be ridiculed or punished
  4. Instead of being heard and supported
  5. So I pout, isolate and don’t ask for what I want.

To form the affirmation, you will use the 2nd and 4th line of the Think Structure.

So my affirmation would be:

I do ask for what I want and I am heard and supported.

Create affirmations from some of the Think Structures you wrote during the last two weeks. If you have not seen or done those assignments, consider going back to those lessons and completing them.

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If you like, you can use your Think Structure affirmations when you do the affirmation exercise I will describe in the next section of this post.

Another way you can  use your Think Structure affirmations is to set up life situations that will facilitate your healing. Using the example above, I could let my friends know that I am focusing on asking for what I want and would like to practice doing that with them. I could also let them know that when I ask for what I want, I would like to be heard and supported. (Being heard and supported doesn’t mean they will give you whatever you ask for. A long time ago, I practiced this exercise with someone by asking him if he would pay for my Masters of Nursing degree. He was very honoring of my request but, of course, did not agree to fund my education!)

Using the Affirmation

Pick one of the affirmations from this lesson, or create one of your own. For the rest of the week say it at least 1000 times a day; 5,000-10,000 would be even better! It is fine for you to say it internally, going as fast as you want. (A short mantra can be repeated 1,000 times or more in 20 minutes.) You can count using a tally counter from an office supply store or an app such as iPhone’s Counter +.

Even though this lesson only lasts a week, it would be best if you continue to say the same affirmation for 21 days. If you say it in the higher range (i.e. 10,000 a day or more) you may find that it starts flowing through your mind automatically. You may even wake up during the night and realize you were saying it in your sleep. Imagine what it would feel like to be listening to positive thoughts throughout the night instead of your self-critical ones.

What if my mind is fighting the affirmation?

Sometimes a particular affirmation is so far from what you believe, you may find yourself very resistant to saying it. If that is the case, take a piece of paper and make two columns on it. On the left side write your affirmation and on the right side write the negative response that comes to your mind. Keep doing that until you have written the positive one 50 times. Here is an example:

Positive affirmation               Discount

My needs are important…      No they aren’t

My needs are important…      I should be needless and wantless

My needs are important…      It isn’t safe for me to have needs

My needs are important…      No they aren’t

My needs are important…      No they aren’t

My needs are important…      That statement is nonsense

etc.

Do this two column affirmation exercise for several days if you need to and then start saying the 1,000 repetitions of the positive affirmation each day. Or do the 50 written affirmations in the morning and then say the affirmation during the rest of the day. As you continue to write and/or say the affirmation, the negative messages will decrease and then stop.

Another thing you can do when you find negative thoughts coming into your mind when you say the affirmation is to speed up the rate you are saying the affirmation. Speed it up until you drown out the negative message.

Journaling

Take a few minutes each day this week to write about your experiences with the affirmation.

Day 1

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Day 2

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Day 3

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Day 4

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Day 5

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Day 6

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Day 7

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See you next Monday for the seventh lesson.

To find the lessons in this series that have already been published, click here.

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