So much has been proffered and promoted about affirmations as being an energetic path toward realizing our desires and ambitions. Yet, little is understood about how they actually work. Most of us share a common belief that if we say something enough times, it will slowly come to pass. This is only partially true. There are other dynamics at work that can either augment the effects of that practice or weaken it if not totally extinguish its effects. Let’s take a look at what we think we are working with as compared to what is actually happening when we use an affirmation.
The simplest definition that I can offer is that an affirmation is the verbalization of a wish or desire with the assumption and hope that enough repetition will produce it. This seems simple enough but we must realize that there are factors that we must consider and understand for this to work for us.
First, if we are choosing to use an affirmation we must realize that, most likely, it is to have or be something that we feel that we are either lacking or unable to be or accomplish. This feeling may be conscious or unconscious. The unconscious feeling is the one we will find the hardest to ferret out and recognize. The conscious ones are those that we can understand “straight up.” The problem with an affirmation arises when what we really feel and believe about ourselves is too far off from the affirmation and our intended change. Let’s use a simple and common example.
There are a great many people that feel and believe that they lack the competence and confidence to accomplish a goal that they might wish for themselves. The goal, whatever it might be, is not as important as the feeling we have about ourselves that triggers the desire for the affirmation. Feeling doubtful about our competence is a lot less damaging than feeling overtly incompetent. Our rational mind recognizes the difference and will direct energy and support effort toward the doubtful while assuming that we still have the potential for “adjustment” but sees an overt feeling of incompetence as being a hopeless investment. So, affirming that “I am a competent and confident person” and feeling its opposite not only cuts off the energy toward becoming competent but serves to reaffirm the feeling of incompetence confirming for it deeper and more powerful roots.
Any affirmation that we use must allow for the possibility of success and failure for the mind to see the potential for “adjustment.” So, rather than affirming that “I am a competent and confident person,” better to say, “Each day that I work on being more competent and confident I am growing stronger and stronger.” This phraseology allows for the possibility of defeat but focuses on our wanted progress which allows for the uncertainty of doubt.
The active principle behind using an affirmation is that the affirmation focuses the energy consistently toward our desired goal or as meta-physicians describe it, “staying positive.” On the flip side of this perspective, when we verbalize our perceived short-comings and inadequacies, our energy is fed into the resistance we feel toward accomplishing what we want or hope to do or become. Our desire then gets locked in an energy "stalemate." Of this the Chinese have been known to say “to acknowledge our enemy gives them power over us.” There is also an old Shamanistic story that is told to a youth by an elder. When the elder tells the youth, “A good wolf and bad wolf both live within our hearts” and asks, “Which one will win?” When the youth is unable to answer, the elder tells him, “The one that we feed will be the one that wins.” If we acknowledge and follow no other laws in the universe, we should know that energy follows thought and attention directs energy.
There is another understanding that I’ve learned that I’d like to impart. It’s that the difference between Self-Talk and affirmations is that the Self-Talk is dynamic and that the affirmation becomes static through becoming wrote or ritualistic. Let me explain.
When we repeat an affirmation over and over with the same words and cadence, the rhythm and the cadence start becoming wrote or automatic. When something becomes automatic we tend to lose the contextual feeling and the meaning that originally powered the affirmation. It becomes mindless. When we no longer feel the context, the energy diminishes and the affirmation loses the potency of its edge and its power. We’ve all noticed the “fall off,” if I can call it that, from when we’ve begun an activity or action we’ve really had an urge or a taste for all the way to the time when we conclude the activity. The feeling of novelty has worn off and it feels like we’re now just going through the motions. When we no longer feel the novelty or context, the feeling stops powering the affirmation. When this occurs we lose momentum and, more importantly, we become less conscious of what our original intention felt like. Like the law that energy follows thought we can also say energy follows feeling.
When we do an affirmation it is important to maintain an awareness of the feeling behind it so it continues its momentum of power and effect. If your affirmation has lost its “umpf,” change it up periodically by phrasing it slightly differently and by changing the words and cadence. When you do this it will regain “novelty” by sounding and feeling fresh and different enough to get you to pay more attention to its focus and intent. In this way your refocusing becomes dynamic as opposed to static in a constant process of evolving the energizing of your desires.
Lastly. Phrase your affirmations in the present tense. That is, don’t say, “I have become more…” or “I will be more…” But say, “I am becoming more…” Focusing in the present channels the energy into action not just a memory (past) or potential (future).
So, to recap: focus in the present tense. Allow more for your success and failure in its phraseology. Change up the words and cadence to keep it fresh and focused and speak of your progress in small bite sized pieces not in larger than life sweeping assertions that your mind can’t accept the logic behind. Hopefully, these tips will help. Affirmations do work but only in certain situations and we must craft them carefully so they don’t backfire on us. Enjoy and keep it simple.