I saw a patient today who has been using affirmations as a tool to improve her health, but she was frustrated that they weren’t working. Everyone has patterns of thinking that are counterproductive to our own experience of joy, happiness and sense of well being. Our thoughts structure our perception of the world. Research from the field of behavioral psychology has essentially proven the tenet, “as we think, so we are”. Where does that leave us when we are feeling stuck and overwhelmed in a negative experience or thought loop?
Thought patterns, although they may be deeply ingrained, are just that, well trodden habits that can be altered. This does not require years of psychoanalysis but does require a desire for change. Affirmations are often too superficial to get at the root of a challenging pattern, sugar coating a rock, does not make it palatable. One cannot override a negative thought by forcing a positive one into our head. Because of this, affirmations can often make us feel worse, like my patient was experiencing. A few helpful tools that I have found to be very effective for altering thought patterns without forcing us into positive thinking include:
The Work developed by Byron Katie. Her groundbreaking process can be found on her website, thework.com. It is a simple, elegant process of asking four specific questions about any difficult issue and it can be truly transformative.
The Emotional Freedom Technique developed by Gary Craig. This is a tapping technique that helps to disengage the hooks that keep us stuck. His book, “The EFT Manual”, explains the process. It is again simple and can be done in the moment when the issues come up.
And of course, see my last post about the Hawaiian practice of Ho’oponopono.