*But Were Afraid to Ask
Thank you to author and artist, Susan Singer, for this guest post on the power and use of affirmations.
Try them for birth, for your health, your mental state and well-being, and even for goal-setting and reaching your dreams.
Here, Susan walks us through the whys and how-tos of using affirmations.
What is an affirmation?
An affirmation is a positive statement of belief. Ex: I am happy and prosperous.
When did affirmations start?
Affirmations have been around for as long as people could speak – we all know people with sunny dispositions who tend to look on the bright side of life – but in 1952, affirmations became mainstream when Norman Vincent Peale published The Power of Positive Thinking. It stayed on the New York Times bestseller list for 186 consecutive weeks and has since sold around five million copies. This small book introduced affirmations and the power of thinking positively to millions of avid readers who were ready for a shift in their thinking.
In 1978, Louise Hay wrote Heal Your Body which began as a small pamphlet containing a list of different bodily ailments and their probable metaphysical causes. Her premise is that the way we think actually helps cause our physical ailments, and that if we examine those beliefs and work with affirmations to change them, we can heal ourselves. Her pamphlet was later enlarged and extended into her book You Can Heal Your Life, published in 1984 and has since sold over 35 million copies.
One of my favorites of her affirmations is about urinary tract infections about which, she says:
Probable cause: Anxiety. Holding on to old ideas. Fear of letting go. Being pissed off.
New thought pattern: I comfortably and easily release the old and welcome the new in my life. I am safe.
What can affirmations do for me?
Affirmations change how you speak, which can change what you think, which can change how you perceive what happens in your world, which can change what continues to happen in your life.
For example: A young woman in her 30’s, let’s call her Mona, thought she had it all – a husband, three young children, a house, two cars, a cat, a good part time job. She thought her life’s path was clearly delineated and good.
Then her husband came home from a business trip and informed her that their marriage had reached an end time. It was over. Done.
Her husband moved out. Her new reality began. She was full of anger, resentment, hurt, and grief and often felt furious with her ex for betraying her. When her children weren’t around, she stomped around the house cursing her ex, crying, and raging against the world.
Then one day at work, she got into a conversation with an older colleague. The woman began complaining about her ex-husband, saying what a jerk he was. Mona noticed how dry and brittle the woman seemed, how drawn and bitter. She asked how long she’d been separated and learned to her surprise that the woman had divorced her husband more than twenty years before and was actually happily remarried. Mona realized she did not want to be like that woman. In that moment, she chose to create a reality she wanted to live into, one which would empower her and give her life-affirming choice from there on out. She decided to affirm:
This is the best thing that has ever happened to me. I am experiencing unbridled joy.
You may be thinking: Yeah, right! That sounds ridiculous, she was just lying to herself. Which leads us to how affirmations work.
How do affirmations work?
Our brains are hardwired through genetics, upbringing, and past experiences to think in a certain way and to expect life to have certain outcomes. For example, if you are raised wealthy, you tend to expect to have enough of what you need in life. If you think you always have bad luck, you might tend to notice the bad luck you have more than the good.
Mona was hardwired through societal values and family experience to perceive her ex as a jerk and to blame him and to be full of rage and resentful. Her parents had gotten divorced, and her mother was still angry ten years later even though she had initiated the divorce. Mona got a lot of compassion and pity from her friends when she complained about her ex. Certainly her feelings were justified. Mona could have continued to perceive herself as a victim and to be pissed off at her ex.
But how would it have served her? Her ex was with another woman and wasn’t coming back. He didn’t seem to feel guilty. Her misery didn’t do anything but make her miserable and affect her children negatively.
Instead, by using an affirmation, she created an equally plausible but far more positive possibility:
This is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I am experiencing unbridled joy.
Yes, it sounds absurd, given her situation, but it helped her create a vision of how life could be if she let go of the resentment and bitterness and recognized that perhaps, in fact, it just might be the best thing that ever happened to her. Maybe, just maybe, there were wonderful surprises awaiting her which she never could have experienced if she had remained in her marriage.
That sounds great! How do I begin?
To use affirmations in your life:
- Become aware of your negative beliefs. What underlying beliefs are potentially causing problems for you? For example, perhaps you believe you are terrible in math because your second grade teacher told you that you couldn’t add 2 + 2.
- Write the negative belief down very clearly and simply. In this example, it would be “I am terrible at math.”
- Turn the negative statement into a powerful positive one.It is important to use only positive words here because our brains are like a 2-year-old. If you tell a toddler, “Don’t touch the stove!” he will touch the stove. He doesn’t hear “don’t!” It’s better to tell him what he should do, for example: “Come to Mommy and let me give you a great big hug!” Stove forgotten.Our adult brains function that same way, so it wouldn’t be helpful to write, “I’m not terrible at math.” More helpful, but still not perfect, would be, “Maybe I can add 2+2. My second grade teacher was stupid and a jerk.” Placing blame elsewhere robs us of our power to change things.More powerful would be: I am excellent at math! I love math! I can’t wait to learn more!These may sound a bit absurd compared to the entrenched beliefs, but just imagine living with these voices in your head rather than the others. Feels much better, doesn’t it?
Other examples of creating positive affirmations from negative thoughts:
Change: “I’m too fat. I have to lose 50 pounds before I can be happy.”
To: “I love my body exactly how it is. I choose joy now.”
Change: “I’ll never have enough money.”
To: “Money is flowing in ceaselessly from all directions, expected and unexpected.”
OK, I have my affirmation written. Now what?
If your negative beliefs have been running the show for quite some time, they will take some prodding to loosen them and let them disappear.
Our brains have many neural pathways, many of which are firmly entrenched, keeping our negative thoughts in the forefront. The job of affirmations is to help offer our brains a new path so we don’t go automatically down the same tired old pathway.
If you’re used to believing you’re awful at math, it’s going to take some work to break that pattern and to build a new one.
I recommend the following:
- Speak your affirmation out loud at least 100 times/day. When stopped at a traffic light is a great time to practice this.
- Write your affirmation at least 100 times/day. When you first get up or before you go to bed are great times for this since your brain is most open at those times.
- Each time your negative thought intrudes, replace it with your new positive thought and imagine positive scenarios which fulfill that belief. For example, getting a 100% on a math test, enjoying your math homework, teaching someone else how to do a math problem with enthusiasm.
- Notice when things are different than your old belief would have had you expect so you see that the affirmations are working.
What is the expected outcome of using affirmations?
I can’t foretell your future, but I can tell you what happened for our friend Mona.
Once she replaced her resentment toward her ex with the excitement of possibility, she began to feel anticipation, wondering what sort of new joy would crop up each day. She paid attention each time she felt joy and recognized her affirmations were coming true.
Ultimately, she began to explore her creativity and has become a well-known artist whose works are recognized for their life-affirming joyful tone. She also used positive thinking to create a vision of the man she wanted to bring to her as a life partner. She was blessed to meet and marry him about ten years after her ex left her to greater possibilities.
So, will this happen for you? I certainly can’t promise it, but what do you have to lose by trying?
Try creating a powerful positive statement to counteract an old negative belief and see what happens. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll create a new and better reality!
About the Author:
Susan Singer is the author and illustrator of Birth Affirmations, a small book containing 69 affirmations and 29 delicate graphite illustrations intended to empower the expectant mother and to create a positive mindset for giving birth and being with her baby.
In addition, Singer is also a prolific full-time artist who has produced dozens of one-person art shows on topics mostly related to the human body: Pregnant Nudes, 12 Naked Men, Scar Series, and Beyond Barbie, to name a few. All of her work, including Birth Affirmations, has at its core the intention to empower others and to help them follow their own passion in order to live the most amazing life possible. You can see her artwork at susansinger.com and can purchase Birth Affirmations at BirthAffirmationsBook.com.