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The Problems with Positive Affirmations

Discussion in 'Support Subforum' started by Aurora, Mar 31, 2014.

  1. Aurora

    Aurora Peer Supporter

    Last year I used positive affirmations to avoid getting anxiety attacks again while studying for a very difficult exam and for boosting my self-worth when it came to my job. I really did feel good about myself and passed the exam even though it was a very stressful time for me.

    However weeks ago I started experiencing depression and anxiety which I hadn’t experienced in a couple years. Before this happened I had stopped saying my previous affirmations and started to constantly tell myself I was at peace and calm even though I was stressed out. It really came to a point where they didn’t seem to be doing much. Eventually I just stopped saying the affirmations.

    Now that I’m learning more about TMS I realize that I’ve just been repressing my emotions by saying those affirmations when I never fully believed them. I’ve basically been programming myself that feeling bad about myself is bad and that I can only allow good thoughts to enter my consciousness.

    What puzzles me is that the positive affirmation advice was given to me by a Life Coach who’s been doing this for years. She must have success using these techniques otherwise she wouldn’t still be in business. This just seems like something that eventually leads to worsening symptoms of TMS.

    Your thoughts please.
    G.R. and North Star like this.
  2. Mermaid

    Mermaid Well known member

    Hi Aurora

    That's a very good question you have raised.

    TMS healing is about regaining our balance as a whole, learning to feel, process and accept our emotions effectively, to avoid the build up of nervous tension in our bodies that leads to TMS pain and other symptoms.

    Positive affirmations, while being an excellent way to introduce a habit of positive thinking, don't work in isolation in the context of TMS healing. You are correct that in order for affirmations to be effective we must indeed believe what we are affirming.

    The way I approached this dilemma was to uncover what I needed to work on from my journaling, discovering not only HOW I felt about a situation, but more importantly WHY I felt that way. I would then devise an appropriate affirmation to complement working through what I had discovered.

    For example when I began my journal, I would affirm "I am willing to release the need for pain and anxiety", to get me started on clearing the subconscious need for my symptoms, and open myself to change.

    Later I discovered that one of the reasons for my developing TMS was my need for approval. While I worked through the emotions this raised I would affirm "I approve of myself. I love and accept myself exactly the way that I am". Thus complementing and reinforcing the emotional work I was doing in my journaling, to free myself of my old way of thinking, and introduce a more helpful one.

    I know it's difficult to do "deep" journaling, but it's very liberating - it's not nearly as scary as you think it will be. Once you uncover the thoughts that generate such strong emotions, you can work on changing them with the help of affirmations. Don't be afraid to look and what's inside you, that held me back for a long time, however once I started I began to make fantastic progress.

    Remember to treat yourself with patience, love and compassion and you will heal.

    Much love & blessings :joyful:
    Aurora, LindaRK, Ellen and 3 others like this.
  3. North Star

    North Star Beloved Grand Eagle

    Aurora, I know exactly what you're talking about! I feel like I have some pretty deep defenses (which I refer to as my BS Meter) and need to use discretion at times when it comes to positive affirmations. My wily brain will throw up a huge, "liar, liar pants on fire" if, on some days, I say something like, "My body is free of pain," when I'm limping around the house and muttering under my breath. On those days when I'm feeling especially fragile, I'll adopt more of a, "I am grateful that my body is healing even though I don't feel it right now."

    Mermaid has also given you some wonderful advice too. :)

    Keep in mind that this is journey too….it takes time to walk these changes out.

    Be encouraged, Aurora! You have a great understanding of what's going on and it's this knowledge that will give you the ultimate victory. :)
    LindaRK, Mermaid and Lily Rose like this.
  4. G.R.

    G.R. Well known member

    I can only speak for myself but I know often when I start with positive affirmations, I do not
    believe them but as I continue to say them, they become a powerful force in my life.
    They definitely over time change the way I think to the positive.

    Yes, I agree with North Star that this is a journey and it takes time to make changes.
    And the affirmations can surely keep you going in the right direction.

    I make it a habit that I am still working on to capture the first negative thought
    and make it positive. Herbie, recommended to not only make the thought positive
    but to see a positive image when you make the thought positive.

    Sometimes, it like fiery darts coming at me with negative thoughts and images; you
    are never going to get better, why is it so hard to get up from the chair, are you
    ever going to walk long distance again.... I try very hard to capture the thought
    immediately and then tell myself what I want and desire and then see myself
    doing what I am not able to do now.

    Aurora, you will get there. Just keep going. Try not to measure everything in good
    or bad because that will cause tension and more symptoms.

    Hope this helps.
    Lots of Love,
    North Star, Aurora, Mermaid and 2 others like this.
  5. Walt Oleksy

    Walt Oleksy Beloved Grand Eagle

    I use some affirmations without really believing them, too, but they seem to register in my
    unconscious mind anyway and bring me peace and sleep when I say them in bed.

    Are we fooling our unconscious mind? Maybe, but it doesn't seem to care, it just helps us.

    But I do think it's better to believe our affirmations.
    North Star, Aurora and Lily Rose like this.
  6. Aurora

    Aurora Peer Supporter

    You’re right, I’m seeing things as being black and white. I’m looking forward to discussing this with my therapist tomorrow.
    Thank you all for your input.
    North Star likes this.
  7. Aurora

    Aurora Peer Supporter

    I also wanted to add that I've been following Steven Conenna's journaling approach and it seems to end with positive affirmations. I really do let myself write down positive things as they come to mind when I finish journaling.
    North Star likes this.
  8. G.R.

    G.R. Well known member

    Today I decided to say my affirmations all day long and I mean all day long. It really made
    a big difference. I felt very positive and enjoyed my day so much better.

    I basically just said I am getting better and better and better. I am healed. I emotionally
    felt like I was in such a good place. At first they were just word but by tonight I felt so

    I do believe what we speak can bring life or death so to speak. I am learning we have
    a choice what we want to speak into our day. And I do think our bodies respond
    to our words whether we believe it or not.

    I am going to concentrate more on believing what I say. I am sure that is powerful, too.

    I know someone recommended Steven Conenna's book. What did you like most about it?
    I do need some input in my journaling because it does not feel like I am going deep enough.

    How is everyone doing with journaling??????
  9. Eric "Herbie" Watson

    Eric "Herbie" Watson Beloved Grand Eagle

    Aurora, When affirmations get to where their not working you either change them up or begin to feel the affirmations emotionally more. If you speak affirmations and you don't practice feeling them then why practice right.
    Questions if you don't mind. How do you do your affirmations?
    Do you live them cause living them is the true way to show forth an affirmation?
    If I say I'm healed from my head to my feet then I feel this healing energy go through my body.
    Do you feel your affirmations? Affirmations is more the way we live, more so than the words we say.

    Here's the thing, affirmations might be working well for you but you might be reacting to outside stimuli with conditioned responses. How do you know that its not lots of other factors other than just an affirmation downfall, how do you know that its not your lack of breathing styles and meditations and reaction control and all the dozens of other factors that need to be practiced in order to cover all bases.

    So what is your protocol and do you use meditations and deep breathing. Are you reconditioning programmed habits and using the tools you need to loose the pain. Are you getting in touch with nature and then enjoying everyday with happiness. If you said no to two or three of these then we need to make sure your protocol is good ok. Thanks
    Bless you
    Becca, G.R. and North Star like this.
  10. Eric "Herbie" Watson

    Eric "Herbie" Watson Beloved Grand Eagle

    Yes Yes Yes, that's it GR. Do the affirmations all day long. Let them become a part of you. On the journaling when I want to know more about my repressions I really look into all avenues of my life. Like the other day I was writing about my workouts and my imaging , my breathing and my book. See you would think all of that is already covered in my consciousness but I still have thoughts and doubts even in those areas like am I doing this good enough. Am I helping enough. Do I do all the work needed and how can I even study more in the day and help others.
    All of this is journaling see. You don't just have to journal about what you think is bothering you cause to often its all the little stuff that piles up.
    I usually like to journal everyday too so I don't get to far behind and another thing I think is helpful is to make sure to journal about subjects that you don't think you have journaled enough about and then feel all the emotions -- focus and let them go and then start speaking positive affirmations back into your life again ok.
    G.R. likes this.
  11. North Star

    North Star Beloved Grand Eagle

    G.R….I so enjoy you. Thank you for your powerful post. I am going to be more intentional today in practicing affirmations. Yesterday, I did a mindless thing. It was a minor - like accidentally putting too much baking soda in a recipe. Sure, I scooped out the excess…and proceeded to chide myself. All day long I was battling the accuser. I need to be on the offense today.

    To answer your query about journaling. I only do it on days I feel I need to work through something or release some frustration. (Like the mother-in-law encounters this week.) With our new puppy (puppy love!) and a house on the market, my times to journal are sometimes limited.

    Herbie, beautiful words of wisdom. Thank you for all you do here. I'm eager to get back into your book.

    Aurora, thanks for starting such a great thread.

    Love to you all,
    G.R. and Eric "Herbie" Watson like this.
  12. Aurora

    Aurora Peer Supporter


    What I loved most about Steven Conenna’s book was the instructions on journaling. I found it interesting to journal on my feelings about my feelings. Someone else also mentioned the book The Meaning of Truth which I read shortly thereafter and found that the journaling in that book was similar though not the same as Steven Conenna’s book. I found it valuable to read both.


    I definitely didn’t feel my affirmations though they were effective for a short time. I do use meditations and I’m trying to get into loving kindness meditation. I get so confused about deep breathing since there seem to be so my techniques out there and I keep forgetting to do just one.
    G.R. likes this.
  13. Eric "Herbie" Watson

    Eric "Herbie" Watson Beloved Grand Eagle

    Thank you North Star. Thats so cool when you said intentional cause I am reading the book by
    Dr. Wayne Dyer now." The Power of Intention " You have been doing pretty good yourself.
    I remember Abraham Lowe calling those bake n soda incidents, trivialities.
    So its no issue there, plus we all slip up.
    The trouble is when we go back unconsciously, unknowingly.

    Bless You
    G.R. likes this.
  14. Eric "Herbie" Watson

    Eric "Herbie" Watson Beloved Grand Eagle

    You cant feel Affirmations. Ok then you feel the journaling though right, that's all that matters in that department. As long as you try to get into meditation then it will be hard. Just make the choice to just be and relax. The ,meditations will get easier as you relax. The deep breathing has 1 simple ingredient. Breath in for a count of 1 - hold for a count of 8 and release to the count of 4. To that ratio. That's it Breath in in , 1 count -- hold 8 count . release 4 count.
    Bless You
  15. Solange

    Solange Well known member

    Aurora, I have had problems with affirmations and not really believing in them too, so now I simply try to set aside a little time wherever I am for 'mindful meditation', as I call it, and instead of actual affirmations e.g. I am calm and relaxed etc, I tell my brain, 'I wish to be calm and relaxed in mind and body,' or 'I wish to feel calm and confident.'
    I think you get the picture. I find this bypasses my disbelief reflex and doesn't set up internal tension and conflict for me because I do want to achieve the stated goal.
    Hope this helps.
    Becca, Eric "Herbie" Watson and Ellen like this.
  16. Walt Oleksy

    Walt Oleksy Beloved Grand Eagle

    North Star, I know about recipe mix-ups.
    This morning I spooned Annie's can of dog food on top of my oatmeal.
    It took a while to fix, and I think the little oatmeal left did her good.

    I didn't yell at myself. I just figured it was a "senior moment."

    This happens to younger people, too. I remember my sister said
    when she was a teenager, a girlfriend got on a bus and handed the driver
    a letter she was going to mail, and put her bus fair in the mailbox.
    Eric "Herbie" Watson, G.R. and Forest like this.
  17. G.R.

    G.R. Well known member

    That is great Walt. What a great story!!! It happens to all of us!!
    Eric "Herbie" Watson likes this.
  18. balto

    balto Beloved Grand Eagle

    Words Can Change Your Brain
    The neuroscience of communication
    by Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Robert Waldman

    If I were to put you into an fMRI scanner—a huge donut-shaped magnet that can take a video of the neural changes happening in your brain—and flash the word “NO” for less than one second, you’d see a sudden release of dozens of stress-producing hormones and neurotransmitters. These chemicals immediately interrupt the normal functioning of your brain, impairing logic, reason, language processing, and communication.
    In fact, just seeing a list of negative words for a few seconds will make a highly anxious or depressed person feel worse, and the more you ruminate on them, the more you can actually damage key structures that regulate your memory, feelings, and emotions.[1] You’ll disrupt your sleep, your appetite, and your ability to experience long-term happiness and satisfaction.
    If you vocalize your negativity, or even slightly frown when you say “no,” more stress chemicals will be released, not only in your brain, but in the listener’s brain as well.[2] The listener will experience increased anxiety and irritability, thus undermining cooperation and trust. In fact, just hanging around negative people will make you more prejudiced toward others![3]
    Any form of negative rumination—for example, worrying about your financial future or health—will stimulate the release of destructive neurochemicals. And the same holds true for children: the more negative thoughts they have, the more likely they are to experience emotional turmoil.[4] But if you teach them to think positively, you can turn their lives around.[5]
    Negative thinking is also self perpetuating, and the more you engage in negative dialogue—at home or at work—the more difficult it becomes to stop.[6] But negative words, spoken with anger, do even more damage. They send alarm messages through the brain, interfering with the decision making centers in the frontal lobe, and this increases a person’s propensity to act irrationally.
    Fear-provoking words—like poverty, illness, and death—also stimulate the brain in negative ways. And even if these fearful thoughts are not real, other parts of your brain (like the thalamus and amygdala) react to negative fantasies as though they were actual threats occurring in the outside world. Curiously, we seem to be hardwired to worry—perhaps an artifact of old memories carried over from ancestral times when there were countless threats to our survival.[7]
    In order to interrupt this natural propensity to worry, several steps can be taken. First, ask yourself this question: “Is the situation really a threat to my personal survival?” Usually it isn’t, and the faster you can interrupt the amygdala’s reaction to an imagined threat, the quicker you can take action to solve the problem. You’ll also reduce the possibility of burning a permanent negative memory into our brain.[8]
    After you have identified the negative thought (which often operates just below the level of everyday consciousness), your can reframe it by choosing to focus on positive words and images. The result: anxiety and depression decreases and the number of unconscious negative thoughts decline.[9]
    The Power of Yes
    When doctors and therapists teach patients to turn negative thoughts and worries into positive affirmations, the communication process improves and the patient regains self-control and confidence.[10] But there’s a problem: the brain barely responds to our positive words and thoughts.[11] They’re not a threat to our survival, so the brain doesn’t need to respond as rapidly as it does to negative thoughts and words. [12]
    To overcome this neural bias for negativity, we must repetitiously and consciously generate as many positive thoughts as we can. Barbara Fredrickson, one of the founders of Positive Psychology, discovered that if we need to generate at least three positive thoughts and feelings for each expression of negativity. If you express fewer than three, personal and business relationships are likely to fail. This finding correlates with Marcial Losada’s research with corporate teams,[13] and John Gottman’s research with marital couples.[14]
    Fredrickson, Losada, and Gottman realized that if you want your business and your personal relationships to really flourish, you’ll need to generate at least five positive messages for each negative utterance you make (for example, “I’m disappointed” or “That’s not what I had hoped for” count as expressions of negativity, as does a facial frown or nod of the head).
    It doesn’t even matter if your positive thoughts are irrational; they’ll still enhance your sense of happiness, wellbeing, and life satisfaction.[15] In fact, positive thinking can help anyone to build a better and more optimistic attitude toward life.[16]
    Positive words and thoughts propel the motivational centers of the brain into action[17] and they help us build resilience when we are faced with life’s problems.[18] According to Sonja Lyubomirsky, one of the world’s leading researchers on happiness, if you want to develop lifelong satisfaction, you should regularly engage in positive thinking about yourself, share your happiest events with others, and savor every positive experience in your life.[19]
    Our advice: choose your words wisely and speak them slowly. This will allow you to interrupt the brain’s propensity to be negative, and as recent research has shown, the mere repetition of positive words like love, peace, and compassion will turn on specific genes that lower your physical and emotional stress [20]. You’ll feel better, you’ll live longer, and you’ll build deeper and more trusting relationships with others—at home and at work.
    As Fredrickson and Losada point out, when you generate a minimum of five positive thoughts to each negative one, you’ll experience “an optimal range of human functioning.”[21] That is the power of YES.
    For more information on the effects of positive and negative speech, see Words Can Change Your Brain (Newberg & Waldman, 2012, Hudson Street Press), and for strategies to reduce stress and improve communication, visit www.MarkRobertWaldman.com.
    [1] Some assessments of the amygdala role in suprahypothalamic neuroendocrine regulation: a minireview. Talarovicova A, Krskova L, Kiss A. Endocr Regul. 2007 Nov;41(4):155-62.
    [2]HaririAR, Tessitore A, Mattay VS, Fera F,Weinberger DR.. The amygdala response to emotional stimuli: a comparison of faces and scenes. Neuroimage. 2002 Sep;17(1):317-23.
    [3] Duhachek A, Zhang S, Krishnan S. Anticipated Group Interaction: Coping withValence Asymmetries in Attitude Shift. Journal Of Consumer Research. Vol. 34. October 2007.
    [4] The Role of Repetitive Negative Thoughts in the Vulnerability for Emotional Problems in Non-Clinical Children. Broeren S, Muris P, Bouwmeester S, van der Heijden KB, Abee A. J Child Fam Stud. 2011 Apr;20(2):135-148.
    [5] Protocol for a randomised controlled trial of a school based cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) intervention to prevent depression in high risk adolescents (PROMISE). Stallard P, Montgomery AA, Araya R, Anderson R, Lewis G, Sayal K, Buck R, Millings A,Taylor JA. Trials. 2010 Nov 29;11:114.
    [6] What is in a word? No versus Yes differentially engage the lateral orbitofrontal cortex. Alia-Klein N, Goldstein RZ, Tomasi D, Zhang L, Fagin-Jones S, Telang F, Wang GJ, Fowler JS, Volkow ND. Emotion. 2007 Aug;7(3):649-59.
    [7] Wright, R. The Moral Animal: Why We Are, the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology. Vintage, 1995.
    [8] Erasing fear memories with extinction training. Quirk GJ, Paré D, Richardson R, Herry C, Monfils MH, Schiller D, Vicentic A. J Neurosci. 2010 Nov 10;30(45):14993-7.
    [9] Generalized hypervigilance in fibromyalgia patients: an experimental analysis with the emotional Stroop paradigm. González JL, Mercado F, Barjola P, Carretero I, López-López A, Bullones MA, Fernández-Sánchez M, Alonso M. J Psychosom Res. 2010 Sep;69(3):279-87.
    [10] [Negative and positive suggestions in anaesthesia : Improved communication with anxious surgical patients]. Hansen E, Bejenke C. Anaesthesist. 2010 Mar;59(3):199-202, 204-6, 208-9.
    [11] Kisley MA, Wood S, Burrows CL. Looking at the sunny side of life: age-related change in an event-related potential measure of the negativity bias. Psychol Sci. 2007 Sep;18(9):838-43.
    [12] May I have your attention, please: electrocortical responses to positive and negative stimuli. Smith NK, Cacioppo JT, Larsen JT, Chartrand TL. Neuropsychologia. 2003;41(2):171-83.
    [13] Losada, M. & Heaphy, E. (2004). The role of positivity and connectivity in the performance of business teams: A nonlinear dynamics model. Losada M, Heaphy E. Am Behav Scientist. 2004 47 (6):740–765.
    [14] Gottman J. What Predicts Divorce?: The Relationship Between Marital Processes and Marital Outcomes. Psychology Press, 1993.
    [15] On the incremental validity of irrational beliefs to predict subjective well-being while controlling for personality factors. Spörrle M, Strobel M, Tumasjan A. Psicothema. 2010 Nov;22(4):543-8.
    [16] The value of positive psychology for health psychology: progress and pitfalls in examining the relation of positive phenomena to health. Aspinwall LG, Tedeschi RG. Ann Behav Med. 2010 Feb;39(1):4-15.
    [17] What is in a word? No versus Yes differentially engage the lateral orbitofrontal cortex. Alia-Klein N, Goldstein RZ, Tomasi D, Zhang L, Fagin-Jones S, Telang F, Wang GJ, Fowler JS, Volkow ND. Emotion. 2007 Aug;7(3):649-59.
    [18] Happiness unpacked: positive emotions increase life satisfaction by building resilience. Cohn MA, Fredrickson BL, Brown SL, Mikels JA,Conway AM. Emotion. 2009 Jun;9(3):361-8.
    [19] Pursuing Happiness in Everyday Life: The Characteristics and Behaviors of Online Happiness Seekers. Parks AC, Della Porta MD, Pierce RS, Zilca R, Lyubomirsky S. Emotion. 2012 May 28.
    [20] Genomic counter-stress changes induced by the relaxation response. Dusek JA, Otu HH, Wohlhueter AL, Bhasin M, Zerbini LF, Joseph MG, Benson H, Libermann TA. PLoS One. 2008 Jul 2;3(7):e2576.
    [21] Positive affect and the complex dynamics of human flourishing. Fredrickson BL, Losada MF. Am Psychol. 2005 Oct;60(7):678-86.
  19. Mermaid

    Mermaid Well known member

    That's a very encouraging post Balto, thanks for sharing it with us. :happy:
    Eric "Herbie" Watson likes this.
  20. Walt Oleksy

    Walt Oleksy Beloved Grand Eagle

    Thanks, Balto, for sharing that wonderful post on the power of YES.
    Worrying about money won't put a dime in our pocket.
    Praying for work that can bring money is the power of YES.
    Those prayers have been answered for me time and again.
    Eric "Herbie" Watson likes this.

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