Fun With Affirmations

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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.”

Anticipating Anticipatory Anxiety

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You’re going to the dentist – and you feel anxious. You’re about to go take a test, and you feel anxious. You’ve been asked to have a meeting with your supervisor, and you feel anxious. You might just be anxious anticipating another day! Anticipatory anxiety is a common discomfort for millions of people. Some people can even get anxious anticipating the arrival of the anticipatory anxiety! Anticipatory anxiety is the physical symptoms of increased heart rate, increased pulse, shallow rapid breathing and increased tension which can cause upset stomachs and headaches and perhaps increased sweatiness, all of which arise when thinking about an upcoming event.

General anxiety is also often caused by thinking; however, the thinking may be about anything: a past relationship, ongoing financial issues, problems on the job…. Anticipatory anxiety is specifically about some particular event about to occur. What we think might happen can cause great anxiety. If we magnify the potential problems of the event to such an extent that in our mind it becomes a catastrophe, our anxiety could reach such levels that we become dizzy and may even pass out. If we imagine the upcoming event as being uncomfortable or embarrassing, then our anxiety will be less severe, though still quite noticeable. The difference between anticipatory anxiety that is incapacitating and merely moderately uncomfortable is entirely rooted in what we are thinking about the upcoming event.

Truly, any thinking about an upcoming event is conjecture. We really don’t know what will occur. We guess, we fabricate, we imagine and yet we don’t know, which in itself can be a cause of anxiety – especially if we think not knowing somehow equates to instability. Nevertheless, we do fabricate outcomes of upcoming events and those outcomes are generally negative which causes the anxiety. If we were to imagine positive outcomes we would be much less anxious, maybe even excited. Also note that anxiety and excitement can share the same kinds of symptoms: elevated heart rate and pulse, shortened and shallow breathing, tension….Before a person diagnoses themselves with anxiety, they might want to explore the possibility that they are actually excited.

The key to lowering and perhaps even reducing anticipatory anxiety is an awareness of thinking. If we can capture those fleeing internal sentences and/or internal images which we have created about an unknown future, we can analyze them. More often than not, these internal fabrications are not realistic. We may see ourselves at the dentist and in excruciating pain. We may imagine ourselves taking a test and totally unable to answer any question. We foresee the meeting with our supervisor as ending up in being reprimanded or even fired. All of these scenarios take place in our mind often without a shred of evidence. Yet, the mind reacts as if it’s a fact and the body reacts accordingly.

So, how do we combat anticipatory anxiety? First, be aware of the physical symptoms and then take a moment to relax. You can do this by taking a few deep inhalations and exhalations. Then examine the content of your thinking, your internal dialogue and your mental pictures, which occurred at the onset of the anxiety. Counter the unrealistic and irrational thoughts with more realistic and evidence based thoughts. For example, if you see yourself in excruciating pain at the dentist, counter that with the knowledge that you will actually be feeling no pain due to the Novocain or other pain inhibitor you will receive. Test anxiety can be countered with envisioning yourself answering the questions rather than not – it’s purely a matter of imagining something negative vs. imagining something positive. And, if you have studied for the test and know the material, then it’s far more realistic to have a positive outcome than a negative one. If you find that the holiday’s when family gatherings are common cause anxiety, examine what mental pictures you are holding that might generate that anxiety. Sure, maybe you are recalling past holiday’s that were terrible, but that does not necessarily mean that the upcoming holidays must be that way. You can envision and imagine alternatives which are more pleasant and that will reduce the anticipatory anxiety.

Why the mind tends towards the negative rather than the positive is a mystery. Yet, there is no doubt that anticipatory anxiety is purely a mind game. You can win the game if you are aware of your thinking and able to challenge the irrational, unrealistic thinking and replace it with more realistic thinking. Realistic thinking is not necessarily positive thinking, it is more objective thinking sometimes called scientific thinking because it is based on evidence, not conjecture. So, next time you start to feel anxious, become a scientific thinker and examine the evidence. You may find yourself pleasantly surprised to find the source of your anxiety vanish like a clouds dispersing after a storm.

Prevent Domestic Violence

Unfortunately, domestic violence is an all too common experience for many woman. There are resources out there for those in need of information about how to prevent domestic violence and, as well,  support for victims of domestic violence. The link below offers a listing of some available resources to help address domestic violence prevention….

 

View domestic violence prevention and support resources HERE

The Fallacy of Prohibition

Obviously, ‘the war on drugs’ and all it entails takes its toll on mental health. Anybody interested in a sane and rational approach to drugs and prohibition in our culture would do well to watch this short video clip…..