Conflicting voices don’t always make it better
I had a client who was pretty actively depressed. At one point, he tried to give me a list of all the things that hadn’t help him before, and one of the things he listed was making affirmations. I stopped him and asked what sort of affirmations he was doing, and he gave the example of telling himself, “It’s important to feel happy. I feel good about myself.” It was screamingly obvious, from his tones of voice and body language, that he didn’t believe a WORD of those.
No wonder they didn’t help him! Whether those affirmations were given to him or he made them up himself, what he was saying had no connection to his personal experience and so his words were water running gently over a hard rock, with none of it soaking in. Whether a salesman is trying to keep himself stoked in the face of rejection or a woman is trying to talk herself into having the motivation to stick to her diet, people try to use some variation of self-affirmation to keep going. And, sometimes it works. A research study posted recently showed that they were able to get a higher percentage of people to stick to their blood pressure regimen by using small gifts and self-affirmations. It was a 6% boost (from 36% to 42%), which is nice, though there was not much overall benefit for the people in the study in terms of how much their blood pressure improved.
I have to admit, I’m rather “meh” about these results (6% is not a huge increase). In my experience, affirmations only work with particular criteria, and using generic phrases on people isn’t something that’s going to get an enormous boost, for several reasons. First off, if you have someone saying something he patently doesn’t believe, it’s not going to soak in. Secondly, while some people DO talk to themselves to keep themselves motivated on a particular task (hence the 6% improvement in their study), others don’t. As I’ve stated over and over, a flaw in general psychological research is that it’s based on large numbers of people, while individuals may or may NOT fit the pattern that’s being researched. Thus, if you give something for someone to say to himself when he’s getting rejected by potential customers and he keeps himself on task by talking to himself, great! However, if he motivates himself by making pictures in his mind’s eye, then what he says may not be the most effective approach. Or even, effective at all!
This is why something like affirmations should be tailored for the individual. They should fall within what he or she believes possible, and you should take measure of their beliefs beforehand and during the process. They should fit within what the personal already values. If someone already has whispers in his mind’s ear of how worthless he is, adding a different whisper of equal weight might not help that much. The ideal is to find areas that already fit within their realms of belief, or be prepared to do belief changework with someone if not. All of us with Bright Mind are trained in helping someone eliminate beliefs that get in the way.
Next, affirmations should be integrated in the way the individual uses his own brain. Should your affirmation focus on words or a picture? Should the words come before the picture or afterwards? Each of those components impact the end results. If you want affirmations that are compelling, or genuinely reassuring, the only way to go is to shape them according to your own personal style.
In my next post, I’ll show you an alternative to affirmations that I get much better results with. Stay tuned!