Positive Words and Affirmations
Think positive. It is common advice…and good advice at that! Positive words, positive affirmations or simply affirmations, as they are more commonly known, are simply one way to follow that advice. There are two basic forms for affirmations—general and specific. Their names are self-explanatory. General affirmations are things like “I have a life of ease and fulfillment, “or “Divine Order is established in my mind, body, and affairs.” Specific ones would be things like “I am a slim 125 pounds,” or “I sell 100,000 copies of my book by the end of the year.” Proponents of affirmations or positive words offer varying suggestions of which sort to use, some suggesting that both types should be used. Advice regarding how many to use at one time also vary, but ten to fifteen would be a good maximum number.
How does simply speaking positive words have any effect on our circumstances? In my opinion, it has to do with this bit of wisdom from the Bible: “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7). Speaking words that reflect our desires or that remind us of our relationship to God or of our potential, influences our thinking- even if only for awhile. If we repeat these words often throughout the day, as some recommend, then that way of thinking becomes a habit, and more and more ingrained in us…and the Biblical wisdom is brought to fruition. Even if you aren’t one for Biblical anything, as discussed elsewhere on this site, we’ve all experienced the power of expectation or perspective in everyday situations. People with a sunny disposition seem to have plenty to be sunny about, while the woe is me group experiences the darkness of the cloud they see hanging over everything! Of course, that’s not to deny that bad things happen to happy people, or that good things happen to unhappy people….but, in general terms, you get out of life what you look for and expect. This is the basic gist of The Secret and the Law of Attraction that have come into general awareness of late. And, as mentioned in the Life is Beautiful section, there is science to support this perspective.
Ways to Use Affirmations
So how do you use positive words/affirmations? First you have to choose which sort—general or specific- suits you. General ones fit better if you are of the belief that God or your Higher Self knows what is best for you…so you simply affirm this trust and belief by saying things like “I am open and receptive to the good of God and prospered in all that I do.” Specific positive words/affirmations are good if you have specific goals or current issues regarding health or business or whatever. In this case, you take the goal or issue and state it in positive words, using present tense and perhaps incorporating feelings. Using the word “I” is good, though not essential. Some examples would be: for poor vision—“I enjoy my perfect eyesight and am thrilled to easily read the newspaper without glasses.” Or for weight—“I smile as I step on the scale to see that I am my ideal body weight of 125 pounds!” As with all things, it seems, each of us has to choose what approach works best for us. Certainly combining the two sorts of affirmations is okay!
Repeat, repeat, repeat!
The next thing to consider is how or when to use positive words/affirmations. The most common way that I have seen suggested is frequent repetition. This approach generally calls for affirmation sessions at least twice a day, and even better is to have the positive words either posted around the house or written on cards or whatever and carried around with you to be repeated throughout the day. The idea here is twofold: first frequent repetition means that we are thinking “good” thoughts more often and since what we think on grows….you get the idea! Secondly, frequent repetition allows these ideals to be accepted at deeper levels …and it is from this deeper level that our life is created. This approach reminds me of the Biblical adage to “Pray without ceasing.” (Thessalonians 5:17) For me personally, I have found that I have a hard time sustaining such an approach…it becomes a bit of a chore sometimes to say the same words over and over. For this reason, I personally vary my approach, using affirmations along with visualization and just open-ended communing with Spirit. To me, it’s all prayer (see further down the section on Joseph Murphy’s types of prayer).
Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.
~Ralph Waldo Emerson
Interview with Susan Gregg
Another way to use positive words/affirmations is to enter into a relaxed state of mind by whatever means you like. The idea here is that your conscious mind acts like a filter regarding what it lets pass into the subconscious…so statements of desires fulfilled or wonderful potentials are apt to be dismissed by the conscious mind and not allowed into the powerful subconscious. When we are relaxed, this filter is less active and so such words have a better chance of sinking in. There is an easy to use method given in Instant Self-Hypnosis, as well as in the Gabriel Method. The relaxation response discussed in the Mind Over Matter section would also serve as a good way to reach a relaxed state of mind. Repeating your affirmations in a relaxed state of mind is a good option.
Almost the same thing…
…but not quite is to try to commune with Spirit or God before speaking your positive words/affirmations. The emphasis here is more spiritual than just relaxing the mind and body, although you do indeed relax as you try to “be still and know.” This approach would be more or less the same as meditation. Then from this state of communion, you speak your words of Truth. In The Universe is Calling, Eric Butterworth describes this process as being similar to an archer releasing his arrow…from a point of stillness and power (the archer pulls back the bow and is still), we release our words into the Universe knowing they will reach their mark (the archer simply lets go and releases the arrow). I find that a beautiful and useful analogy!
A really simple approach!
There is a very simple approach you can take with positive words/affirmations which is to use just one! That one would be, “Day by day in every way, I am getting better and better.” This formula is the creation of Emile Coue, a French pharmacist and humanist who lived in the late 1800’s. Coue had a clinic in France where many people overcame or were cured of a variety of illnesses and afflictions. He called his approach conscious auto-suggestion and you can read the details of his methods and experience in Self-Mastery Through Conscious Auto-suggestion. The essence of the approach is to repeat the day by day statement twenty times before falling asleep and twenty times upon awakening. The times correlate to times when we are relaxed as advocated above, and the statement is general so as to allow our own inner wisdom to direct our growth and healing. The simplicity of it is appealing, though this may not be the approach for you if you crave variety!
Positive words in action!
Another approach to using positive words in your life is visualization. This is basically giving life to your affirmations…creating a mini-movie in your mind in which you are living the words that you may have said in your affirmations, living your goals, the ideal life! There are many books that describe this approach in more detail, but really, it is a simple matter. Again, morning, and before bed at night are good times to practice visualization. But any time can work! You can even have many, brief visualizations throughout the day as various issues arise or come to your attention. For example, when I exercise, I often close my eyes for a brief time to envision myself in my ideal body, doing the same exercise that I am doing in the flesh. When I attend to my skin before bed, I might close my eyes and envision my radiant complexion. Mike Dooley suggests in Infinite Possibilities that just five minutes of visualization per day is enough to bring results. Jerry and Esther Hicks recommend 15 minutes. Shakti Gawain offers a nice variety of visualization exercises. Visualization comes more easily for some people than others. I like to use it instead of affirmations for variety of practice, as well as throughout the day as I mentioned.
Unlike the law you may be thinking of where everything that can go wrong does go wrong, the Murphy’s Law to which I am referring is all positive! In fact, it’s not really a law at all (I just thought it was a catchy caption!)—but rather a description of types of prayer. These descriptions apply to this discussion of positive words in that many of the types actually employ such words. Moreover, they reiterate a point that I have been making about there being a variety of ways to go about such matters! I will be brief here so for further description, check out Think Yourself to Health, Wealth, and Happiness: The Best of Joseph Murphy’s Cosmic Wisdom. Types of prayer:
- Praying to Let Go-in this technique, you do not pray for a specific outcome, but rather release the problem to the Infinite Intelligence of your subconscious mind.
- The Passing-Over Technique—similar to the first technique, here you basically turn the problem, over to your subconscious mind…but first you enter a state of reverie, then think over what you want, and then release it to your subconscious mind.
- Visualization (or Mental Movie) Technique—this is as described above. Murphy points out that that which you can visualize in your mind’s eye already exists in the invisible realms of your mind as the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)
- The Thank-You Technique—what you might have guessed, this technique follows St Paul’s advice to make known our requests with praise and thanksgiving. So here, we give thanks for whatever it is we would like as if we already have it, despite appearances. This technique involves repetition morning and night as with many techniques and extra efforts whenever doubt arises
- The Argumentative Method-this method is akin to that of Dr. Phineas Quimby who practiced in Belfast, Maine in the mid-nineteenth century with good success. It consists of spiritual reasoning whereby you recognize that your problem is based on false belief or negative patterns of thought etc…and when fully convinced of the verity of the argument, you experience healing.
- The Absolute Method—this is much like the Emmet Fox’s Golden Key mentioned elsewhere on this site. Basically you mention the person and the problem being treated…but then you stop thinking about them and direct your attention to God and His qualities and attributes, immersing yourself in such thoughts. Much like ultrasound can send healing waves to the body, this rise in consciousness generates spiritual electronic waves of harmony, health, and peace.
- The Decree Method-this method is based on the Biblical wisdom: “Thou shalt decree a thing, and it shall be established unto thee: and the light shall shine upon thy ways.” (Job 22:28) So here you simply declare that what you are praying for is done with feeling and faith. This last method is most similar to positive affirmations
Why don’t my affirmations work?
I have read many books that promote affirmations and visualization, and if they are to be believed, these approaches have worked wonders in many lives. Beyond such books—and I understand if some people are skeptical of them, thinking it’s just a way to sell books—I personally know people who’ve had success using positive words. I myself have had some success. However, there are certain areas where I seem to be stuck. And I remember one person on an email list I am on who was so determined and later so angry that he was unable to bring about desired change in his life.
So what’s going on here? Given all the explanations about how and why positive affirmations should work, why is it they don’t always work? Those that write the books do offer some reasons why you may not have success with affirmations. One reason has to do with how your mind works. In Instant Self-Hypnosis, Forbes Blair explains how our minds have filters to screen new thoughts and behaviors…this filter allows us to maintain our personalities and keep our sense of reality intact…it also keeps us from falling into chaos with all the information we are bombarded with daily! So, a filter is good! But it does sometimes oppose change we think we want! Positive affirmations, if repeated enough—which could mean daily for months—can get past this filter…but it can be really difficult to be so diligent and consistent and patient with them to see the results! So that is one reason they may not work for you. Perhaps the thing you want to change has a real stronghold in your subconscious—this would require more diligence and effort in affirmations to change than something less ingrained in you. And, for me at least, such diligence and effort can be hard to muster! Remember the Biblical wisdom mentioned above—“as a man thinketh in his heart (italics mine)…many would say that the subconscious mind which is where we house our real beliefs and experiences is the heart referred to. So unless our affirmations get past the filter into our subconscious, the change we desire may not come! Self-hypnosis, and meditations and relaxed states of mind are therefore good methods to use before stating affirmations.
A second reason positive affirmations may not work sometimes has to do with attitude or feeling. Gregg Braden, more so than other authors, emphasizes “feeling is the prayer.” Braden relates an intriguing story of a video he watched of a woman who had bladder cancer and went for treatment at the Huaxia Zhineng Qigong Clinic and Training Center in the city of Qinhuangdao, China. In the video, a nurse practitioner is displaying the tumor on an ultrasound machine while three male practitioners performed a mode of healing that is centuries old. They repeated a single word over and over—loosely translated, what they said was “already accomplished.” As you might guess, the cancerous tumor disappeared within minutes! The key to the healing wasn’t the words used but the focus on the feeling behind the words—of the outcome. Braden purports that this is the key to prayer…or for this discussion, reciting affirmations. It needs to be more than just rote repetition.
Another reason our efforts with positive words may not be successful has to do with subconscious blocks. This is kind of the same thing as the filter…for example, we may want to experience our ideal body/lose weight…and despite really wanting that consciously, and despite repeated affirmations etc…we get stuck or do not have success. If a situation does not respond to regular efforts to change, we should consider that something within us is opposing this change, and generally speaking, it’s not something of which we’re consciously aware! There are various ways to clear such blocks, although I must admit that I haven’t been consistent about using them—they seem so abstract! I will mention three methods of clearing. Please refer to Reference page for books that go into more detail.
One method is called tapping and it’s based on the idea of energy meridians which are used in acupuncture and acupressure. It’s basically what it sounds like—you tap various parts of the body while repeating a few phrases. See Try it on Everything and The Tapping Cure. Another method, discussed in Shakti Gawain’s Creative Visualization, is an exercise in which you run through a series of questions regarding the topic at hand, thus becoming aware consciously of some limiting thought processes of which you may not have been aware beforehand. Lastly there is a process Joe Vitale discusses in his book Zero Limits which is based on an updated version of an ancient Hawaiian method…it’s called Self Identity through Ho’oponopono. I like this method as its basis is that you don’t have to know or explore what it is that might be behind your block, but simply “clean” by repeating one or more of a handful of statements. The proponents of this method claim you don’t even have to believe it will work! I have used this at times with some success, but it’s not become a habit for me, so I can’t attest to its efficacy in general.
So, as you can see, once again there are a variety of approaches to reach the same end—sound familiar?! Even in something as seemingly straight-forward as using positive words to bring about change in your life, there are choices to be made to suit your personality. I have to admit, in the past, all this choice and variety drove me nuts! My logical mind felt there had to be one “true” way or at least one “best” way! Sometimes there appear to be contradictions or contrary advice in the approaches—e.g. Braden says the key is in the feeling behind the words…but I have read other accounts of people who started out saying things they did not feel to be true. They didn’t bother trying to feel the prayer, yet the repetition brought them to that place of feeling. So different ways to the same end. Not only do all these variations not drive me nuts anymore, I appreciate the choices and marvel at the many ways we have to enrich our lives!