Monday, August 10, 2009

More on affirmations

Just as an add-on to my last post, I should point out that I don't think affirmations in themselves are a bad idea at all and this little pic illustrates why. We all have our little voices in the back of our minds shouting criticism, usually based on past failures, that can be much more hurtful and restricting than anything we could hear from someone else.

I see affirmations as a potential way of pushing for some balance. Shouting some positive in an attempt to drown out the negative.

Zarathustra wrote in the comments, "Anyone who can be lifted out of their problems simply by repeating a feelgood proverb from a greetings card probably doesn't have that bad a set of problems." I agree. But that's not to say they can't help or be part of a process.

And Alex wrote, "Affirmations are about taking control of what you will concentrate on, because what you think about all the time is what you will get." For me, I believe this is true to a large extent. Certainly, our thoughts can become very limiting and self-defeating. They can hold us back becoming a kind of self-fulfilling prophesy based on where we perceive our place in life is or what has happened to us in the past or in an attempt to retain an identity. Making conscious efforts to adjust that thought process or even simply to interrupt the negative voices seems to make a huge amount of sense to me and I guess affirmations can be a tool useful for some to achieve that.

But I believe for that to really work, there have to be a couple of conditions.

Firstly, it has to be potentially true. By 'potentially' true, I mean something that isn't easily shown to be a lie. For example, if my brain is telling me, 'I am a loser', that is so vague that it can't be shown to be a lie. No matter what I have in my life, I could find ways of proving it. That's one of the reasons a message like that is so powerful. Saying 'I am powerful', while our negative voice can provide example after example why it isn't true, it can't completely be shown to be a lie. But even that may be a bit of a stretch in our lives and, if we can't believe it, we will reject it.

Saying 'I have rippling muscles and all the girls love me' is right out.

And, secondly (and where it applies to the example in the last post), it can't be more limiting than the negative messages. That would be totally self-defeating. For example, if I'm in a job shovelling pig shit and my negative message is, 'I will never be better than a shit-shoveller', I will live to prove that true and likely be very unhappy as a result. But if I repeat the affirmation in the last post to myself over and over, which amounts to 'I am happy in my workplace', the result is the exact same - I'll never be any better than a shit-shoveller because I'll be spending all my mental energies trying to convince myself to stay there.

What use is that?

That's a self-limiting affirmation. No better than 'I am a loser'. And probably worse because there'll be a bit of a Tell-Tale Heart scenario going on. The lie contained within that affirmation will eat away at us until it becomes too much to bear.

Life is hard enough without wasting our mental energies trying to convince ourselves that a really crap life situation is actually wonderful. Isn't it better that we put those energies into making a better life situation for ourselves?


susan said...

Dearest Bitter,

I understand the cartoon. I always thought i had a reverse Midas Touch- everything I touch turns to s**t.

I like the fact that you have two babes next to you. One of em even looks like me!

If that was me they most likely would have turned into JtR and Rasputin.

Red Pill Junkie said...

Let's explore another possibility:

Take for instance the work ethic practiced in ancient Japan. The code of ethics called on you to take pride in your work, simply for the reason that it was useful to others; in that truth you needed to strive in to making the best possible job you could: the best sword maker; the best carpenter; the best kimono tailor; etc.

Of course, our western sensibility dismisses this, because we feel the most important thing in life is to re-affirmate our ego. It's all about putting ourselves in the center of the Universe and let everything revolve around us.

Well, perhaps the Japanese code of ethics was installed as a way to perpetuate a feudal society. And perhaps we as modern westerners are also wrong in trying to force the sun to rise and set upon our needs.

Perhaps there's middle ground?

Humphrey Erm said...

Hey Bitter Animator, I just have a question for you not related to the post here, though I think it might interest you alot.

You used to talk about this idea of "today's Reason for being angry" in a few posts, as well as about how we are accepting bad stuff and such things with authoritarian consent.

My question is, have you seen "Zeitgeist"? It explores alot of these themes, subjects and questions you talk about, and I believe you will find it very interesting. Heres a link to google videos for it:

I would love to read a post about your thoughts of it, perhaps sparking further discussion on the ideas present there.

Thanks for a great blog by the way, I read every post ;)

Bitter Animator said...

You know, RPJ, there's a huge amount of things I love from Japan but they aren't a culture I personally would seek to emulate.

Humphrey, I have seen Zeitgeist and found it really interesting. My views on it and the implications beyond it would take many posts to get through but, as you've asked, I'd love to post to about it and will do so!