The New Age Thinking regarding the use of affirmations can be somewhat frivolous. The idea that you can simply think about or affirm what you want and then get it is decidedly absurd. Yet, there is no doubt that thinking is a formative force in the materialization and fabrication of our world view and the conditioned circumstances in which we exist. How we view the world, and ourselves, as we are in and of the world, determines how we act which in turn results in effects. Our current situation–all the conditions of our present life and the various contexts in which we find ourselves, is a direct result of our past, specifically how we have used language in describing ourselves, our capacities, abilities and goals all of which is a precursor for behavior which, again, is causative meaning it brings about effects.
Language is not only our tool for communication. It is also our tool for thought. We think in words as well as mental pictures. But, language is a rather crude instrument. In English, with a mere 26 letters, we codify and represent all our experience…and communicate that experience, as best we can, with language. How can 26 letters encompass not just decades but ages upon ages of experience?
Language is tricky…it’s not always easy to understand the true meaning of a word or phrase. For example “love” has many different shades of meaning. When we say we love that new restaurant down the street, is that the same as when we say we love our mother? And when we are told that we should love ourselves, what kind of love do we apply? The kind of love we have towards our pet? Our sibling? One of the most common New Age Affirmations is something along the lines of “I love myself.” What does that mean? Really? Do we love ourselves the way we love our spouse? The way we love our neighbor? We don’t do those very well, so how could we possibly love ourselves any better?
Because thought, which uses language, is a formative force. Affirmations are important. What we say to ourselves, and how we say it, does have an impact upon our mind, our body and our behavior…which, being causative, brings about effects. It behooves us to consider the positive and accurate use of affirmations as part of mental health hygiene. Just as you brush your teeth twice a day, so taking a few minutes to use language and thought in such a purposeful way that the mind is imprinted with positive impressions, is healthy. And, just as toothbrushes come in different styles and choosing one that works well is a consideration, so too designing an effective and accurate affirmation takes some meditation.
There are some basic guidelines to the proper use of affirmations: relatively short, first person singular, realistic, and yet not necessarily a present reality, vividness and kinaesthetic intensity, which is feeling. An affirmation is generally no longer than a few sentences and mostly just one simple sentence. The most common beginning of the sentence is “I am” and this is actually a very good affirmation to start with. After you brush your teeth, look in the mirror and say to yourself “I am.” After you’ve done that for a couple of months consistently, you can add on to it. For example, “I Am Healthy.” Of course, exactly what “healthy” consists of is not detailed, nor should it be. The word “healthy” is associated with dozens, if not hundreds, of other words, phrases, images and feelings. It’s those associations that gives that word its meanings. As you say “I am healthy” the subconscious mind automatically conjures images of what that means. As you repeat that affirmation as if it is a mantra, the images and feelings become intensified. But, you ask, what if I am not healthy, as many people in fact are not. You can still affirm this statement. It is not a hope or a want, it can be a statement of fact…even though it may currently be a lie.
Many of the beliefs and world views we hold today were built up through repetitive use of affirmations…simple sentences…which were, at the time, untruths. But, having repeated them so often, in first person singular, with vividness and feeling, these simple statements which were not at the time realities, became so. For example, a child growing up and learning language might imitate their parent who might often say “I’m such a klutz.” The child begins to imitatively repeat this affirmation and, although not a reality at the time, can easily become one.
To affirm something in the present which is not currently a reality is not a lie. It is simply a conflict. The subjective reality of the affirmative statement, coupled with vividness and feeling, is in conflict with the objective reality of consensual agreement. As the new affirmative statements are repeated the conflict increases. During this period of conflict there may be very strong thoughts attempting to convince one that the objective consensual reality is “the truth.” By continuing on with daily affirmative statements the creative subconscious mind begins to work towards conflict resolution. One of the two “realities” must be dissolved. There is tremendous force and momentum behind the objective consensual reality. Yet with simple persistence, the new subjective affirmative reality which was in conflict with the objective consensual reality begins to take dominance. The objective consensual reality’s basis, which is nothing other than established internal, subjective, affirmative statements becomes less rigid…it begins to crack. It becomes subordinate, and diminishes, and eventually dissolves away. Objective indications of the new affirmative position begins to be noticed in the world of consensual agreement…a new personal reality begins to emerge which is also substantiated by growing objective consensual agreements.
So, you may currently be very unhealthy. That does not matter. You can still affirm “I Am Healthy.” Be warned however, that as the weeks and months pass, as the conflict between the objective consensual reality and the newly forming subjective affirmative statements increases, there may be tendencies to prove to yourself that you are unhealthy. These tendencies need not be acted upon and, like storm moving through the region, they too pass; and then you may find yourself engaging in behaviors which are more aligned with the newly forming subjective reality of being healthy. What these new behaviors are will vary from individual to individual. There is no prescription as to diet, exercise, etc. The behaviors arise from the subconscious mind which is now accepting the newly forming reality. Although some may argue that you must affirm specifics, this writer believes the more generic, the greater the chance of allowing the creative subconscious mind to organize and formulate the necessary components of that reality without undue influence from the conditioned conscious mind.
There are a number of simple, generic affirmations that can be practiced. For example, “I am competent,” “I am efficient,” I am relaxed,” are some very simple affirmative statements that if practiced regularly can impact the subconscious mind in such a way as to bring about behaviors that are in alignment with that affirmation. Here is a longer affirmation that can be useful to repeat upon awakening in the morning and upon retiring in the evening: “I am a unique person, wonderful in many ways. I am gifted with the freedom to make choices and the means to act. I live in a world of possibilities and respond with intelligence. I am alert to what is happening around me. I can communicate. I am able to reason and I can learn. I will often remember…I am a unique person, wonderful in many ways.”