There are many theories about how affirmations should be phrased for maximum results. The most common theories, however, have misled many folks into believing things which simply are not true. I’d like to take a moment and set the record straight.
The theory most often taught says, “the subconscious mind cannot process a negative, and therefore interprets any negative phrase incorrectly.”
One of the classic examples of this is an affirmations like, “I will not get sick.” According to the traditional teachings, our minds will ALWAYS interpret this as, “I will get sick.”
What’s Right About the Traditional Teachings
Before I provide ample evidence showing where the traditional teachings are wrong, I want to give credit where credit is due. There is a psychological principle, which is normally taught in courses on conversational hypnosis like my “Keys To Power Persuasion” course, called the “Pink Elephant Principle.” This principle describes how our inner minds are literally forced to imagine anything and everything we hear or read in order to understand what is being said.
Again, the classic example is this. Whatever you do, do NOT think of a pink elephant.
It cannot be done and still understand what is being said. You may be able to avoid forming a picture in your mind of a pink elephant in a lacy tutu standing on a large ball holding a feather, but your inner mind THINKS of it long enough to understand what you’re supposed to avoid doing.
Additionally, experts in conversational hypnosis are able to issue “embedded commands” within a larger sentence. As a result, they can tell someone, “please don’t feel compelled to give me your wallet” and the person almost invariably complies with the subliminal message.
On the surface, this may give further support to the idea that our inner minds cannot process a negative, but the secret to embedded commands is HOW they are spoken. In the example above, special emphasis is given to the words “feel compelled to.” If this emphasis was not given, the ‘trick’ wouldn’t work.
Because of the Pink Elephant Principle, and the effects of conversational hypnosis, some folks have incorrectly assumed that the mind cannot process a negative, such as the words ‘not’ or ‘no’.
What’s Wrong About the Traditional Teachings
Perhaps what should be the most obvious flaw in the traditional teaching is one that may be the most easily overlooked. If our inner minds could not process a negative, then how did we accumulate such words into our language to begin with?
Since all language is processed by our inner minds before being stored as memories, it logically follows that we could not remember anything our inner minds could not process. And this being so, anything we have stored in our memories MUST be something our inner minds are capable of processing.
The sheer fact that many people have powerfully strong negative memories of a parent saying things like, “you’ll never amount to anything,” “you’re no good,” or “you’re no genius” proves the idea that “our inner minds cannot process a negative” to be false. If it were true, these early memories would have been stored as “you’ll amount to anything,” “you’re good,” and “you’re genius” respectively, and be incredibly positive influences in our lives.
Those who support the traditional teachings will immediately respond by saying this isn’t what they are talking about. It’s what they SAY, but not what they MEAN. Of course, when they say this, they are admitting they don’t really know what they’re talking about. If they did, they’d say what they mean.
Pushed on this point, those who support the traditional teaching will admit that it depends on what the person FOCUSES upon in the affirmation. In our original affirmation example of “I will not get sick,” if the person focuses on the words, “get sick” then that’s what happens. Otherwise, if they focus on the word, “not”, the affirmation proves more effective.
This is what an expert persuader does when they apply emphasis on an embedded command — they direct the listener to focus upon the part of the phrase they want them to act upon, such as “feel compelled to give me your wallet.”
Here’s another example. In sports, many athletes are taught to use affirmations such as, “there is no pain”. Sure enough, their inner minds correctly interpret the phrase and reduce the level of pain. If their inner minds could not process the negative, the pain would increase, not decrease.
Supporters of the traditional teachings will further state that our inner minds naturally and automatically focus upon the negative aspects of an affirmation. Perhaps this happens to them because they have conditioned themselves to LOOK for negative words and phrases in order to eliminate them from their own speech. But to say it happens for everyone is naïve and ill-informed.
Why the Traditional Teachings Continue
Let’s step back a moment here and consider WHY the traditional teachings continue to be repeated over and over again until it has become accepted as “common wisdom.”
The idea is that when you repeat positive affirmations, you will attract to yourself positive experiences. And when you repeat affirmations containing negative words and phrases, you will attract negative experiences.
The basic concept is sound. When you repeat certain statements, you can build within yourself a belief in what you’re saying, and our beliefs have a power to direct the course of our lives. Those with very practical, scientific viewpoints will say that this “power of belief” is merely a chain that goes from belief to decision (or lack of decision) to action (or lack of action) to result (or lack thereof). Those who are more spiritual see other possibilities as well.
Regardless of the mechanism involved, repeating affirmations is one valid option to use when we want to change the conditions of our lives.
If the traditional teachings were correct, then it would follow that someone who repeats positively phrased affirmations will always experience a more positive result than one who repeats affirmations containing a negative word or phrase. Let’s take a real example, and see if this theory holds water.
For many years, I’ve said to myself and others, “I don’t get sick.” It’s not an affirmation I repeat dozens and hundreds of times, day after day after day. But then again, I don’t spend any time thinking of my health, and I certainly don’t spend any time repeating health-based affirmations. And yet, the end result is that I can count on one hand the number of times I have been “under the weather” during the last 20 years.
The other side of this example is that I’ve known MANY people over the years who have spent hours and hours repeating affirmations such as “my body is a temple of perfect health,” “I am a channel for Divine Health,” or “God is healing me now,” all of which are excellent, 100% positive affirmations. The only problem is that these folks had more health problems than most.
Along another line, I’ve known many people who would constantly say, “I’m broke,” “I’m poor,” or “Money is hard to come by,” and yet were much better off financially than those who constantly affirmed, “I am worthy of abundant prosperity,” “God’s riches flow to me in ever increasing amounts,” or “I am blessed with abundant riches all the days of my life.”
Obviously, affirmations by themselves are not the answer. And certainly not the way the affirmations are phrased. There is something else which determines how well an affirmation will work. If you’ve read my book, Choose To Believe, you’ll know this. It is the belief we have (or don’t have) in the idea contained within the affirmation.
You see, those people who kept repeating 100% positive affirmation about perfect health without getting positive results really didn’t believe what they were affirming. Each time they said to themselves, “my body is a temple of perfect health”, their inner minds responded with a thought or feeling like, “What? Are you crazy? My body is so sick I can hardly move.” While they may have been saying something positive, the affirmation merely served to remind them of their negative experience.
And those who constantly said things like “I’m poor” had a completely different concept of what “poor” means than those in lower income brackets. To one person, ‘poor’ may mean they make less than $100,000 a year. To someone else, earning $30,000 may feel like stumbling into Ali Baba’s cave.
So, the bottom line is that the affirmations we use, in order to be effective, must call up within our minds a positive idea or feeling. How the affirmation is phrased doesn’t matter nearly as much as the idea or feeling brought up by the affirmation, and this may be completely different from person to person.
The Psychological Stairway
Another factor to consider in all this is what I call the Psychological Stairway. When you go into a high-rise office building and want to get to the 10th floor, you cannot step directly from the 1st floor to the 10th, and must take the stairs, elevator, or escalator to get there.
In much the same way, someone who has to “look up to see the grass” cannot usually jump immediately to a grand, expansive, 100% positive, sugar-coated affirmation such as “My life is a perfect picture of abundance and overflowing joy.”
For someone who struggles daily with lack, limitation, and self-worth issues, attempting to use such a glorious affirmation generally serves merely to remind them of their hardships and frustrations. These folks tend to get better results with affirmations which get them a little closer to their goals, where a “better” affirmation will have more meaning.
One person may say an affirmation of “I am blessed with a great abundance of wonderful things” and get a strong positive feeling, whereas someone else may say the exact same phrase and be reminded of how hard they’ve had to struggle in recent years.
For this 2nd person, a better affirmation may be “Life doesn’t have to be hard. It can be easy.” If they get a positive feeling from the affirmation, it’s much more likely to produce positive results than if they repeat a 100% positive affirmation which doesn’t resonate with them at all.
As an example from my own past, I can remember times when I felt so low, repeating affirmations like “Wealth is an ever-present reality in my life” felt like vinegar in my mouth, and therefore produced either no results, or in fact “negative” results. (i.e. – things got worse). When I decided to use a more “believable” affirmation of “things are not as bad as I think they are,” I experienced a rather quick shift in my mindset (within minutes), allowing me to see more positive possibilities, at which point the more positive affirmations had a better chance of working.
Phrasing Your Affirmations
All of this leads us to a set of general guidelines we can follow to create powerful affirmations that will produce positive results in our lives. By concentrating on the feeling we get when we say an affirmation, and not worrying about whether it contains negative words or phrases, we are more likely to see the results we want.
Here is what I suggest to those attending my Choose To Believe workshops.
First, as clearly as you can, imagine the final result you want to experience. If you want to have lots of money, a big house, nice car, and fancy clothes, daydream about living that reality now. If you want to experience vibrant health, abundant energy, and a youthful appearance, then imagine this as if you have it now.
When you have a good feeling of what you want to produce in your life, then write down a short description of what it is, and do so using your own words. Try to keep it as short as you can while still preserving the feeling of what you’ve daydreamed about. And keep in mind that you’re writing this for yourself, not anyone else, and you should express this idea in the way that seems most natural to YOU.
The reason for this is because when you express the idea as you would naturally say it to yourself, you are using words and phrases your inner mind can identify with. (After all, where do the words come from in the first place?) And when you use words and phrases your inner mind can identify with, your affirmation will be accepted that much more readily.
For those who want a more detailed explanation of why this works so well, we have to again refer to conversational hypnosis and a science called NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming). Basically, it is a matter of familiarity, and a type of process NLP experts call “mirroring and matching”. When we meet someone who looks like us, talks like us, and expresses ideas the same way we do, we automatically trust them more. (This is explained in more detail in my Keys To Power Persuasion course.)
By the same token, when you use affirmations that sound like your everyday conversation, your inner mind will trust them more than when you use affirmations that sound like “geek speak.”
“Negative” Affirmations That Work
Below is a list of affirmations that may not seem to be 100% positive, yet have produced great results for those who have used them. I’m not suggesting you SHOULD use these, but merely pointing out that if your affirmations look like these, it’s okay.
Don’t let anyone tell you your own affirmations are not “good enough.”
* I don’t get sick.
* Life doesn’t have to be hard. It can be easy, and my new mindset is opening the doors for an easy life experience.
* The negative experiences of my past no longer have any power over me. I am free from them and look forward to expressing my true potential.
* Things are not as bad as I think they are.
* I have fewer problems than most people.
* I have no problem saying ‘no’ to anyone when it’s the right answer.
* I am not controlled by any outside person or substance.
* Although I enjoy being with other people, I do not need anyone
else in my life to be happy.
* I do not need any person or thing to be happy.
* I maintain my self-control and do not overindulge my appetites.
* I do not allow others to pressure me into doing something I’d
rather not do.
* I don’t have to prove my worth to anyone.
* I refuse to feel guilty because someone wants something that I do
not want to give them.
* The past does not determine the future.
In the end, what really matters is the results you get from your affirmations. If you resonate with 100% positive, sugar-coated affirmations, great! Otherwise, use something that feels a little closer to home.
- Alan Tutt
Exceptional Personal Development for Exceptional People.
Alan Tutt, author of /Choose To Believe: A Practical Guide to Living
Your Dreams/ and a leading expert on the Power of Belief, helps people reach their full potential. For more information, or to sign up for one of his free gift offers, go to www.PowerKeysPub.com
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