Positive affirmations can definitely be beneficial; they can assist us in feeling better, especially when we’re feeling down and in the dumps. However, they also have the potential to pose a great danger to anyone working to manifest their desires; my goal in this article is to explain what this danger is and how we can avoid it so that it doesn’t get in the way of our manifestations.
This great danger is that positive affirmations, if not used carefully, will tend to disconnect us from our real emotions and launch us into a game of pretend that will ultimately be counterproductive to our manifestation efforts. If you’ve read Greg’s book “Grow a Greater You,” you know that our emotions are a key element in playing the manifestation game successfully. But as Greg states, the emotions in and of themselves are not enough; we must be completely connected to them. We must feel them and own them without masking them with other positive emotions, or pretending that they are not there.
Simply using positive affirmations when we’re feeling a negative emotion is like driving a car when the fuel gauge is pointing to “empty” and slapping a happy face sticker over the gauge to avoid seeing it. While the happy face sticker will in fact prevent us from seeing the fuel gauge registering “empty” and will probably distract us little because we’re not looking at it, it’s not likely that we’ll make it to our destination because our car will eventually run out of gas. We’ve only masked the situation; we haven’t really changed it.
According to Greg, it is during the times that we experience negative emotions that we have the greatest power and greatest opportunity to grow a greater version of us; this is where we can experience real growth, rather than pretending that we’ve grown. And we do it by acknowledging and owning our emotions while at the same time telling the best feeling believable story that we can tell at the time.
The problem with just using positive affirmations is that every time we use them we become a little more disconnected from our emotions, and therefore we lose some of our power to grow, and we miss out on taking advantage of the growth opportunity that these situations present to us.
Generally, positive affirmations do help us to feel good in the moment, and that’s probably the reason why we keep using them. However, positive thinking gurus commonly suggest an unrealistic way of using positive affirmations. Let’s take weight loss as an example. Let’s say that we’re doing everything we can to lose the extra 20, 30, 50 lbs. We’re eating healthier and we’re moving more. However, as it is often the case when we’re trying to lose weight, we may tend to dislike what we see when we look in the mirror, or get upset because we can’t fit into our clothes, or become disappointed if we find ourselves out of breath when going up a flight of stairs.
At this point, the positive thinking gurus recommend using affirmations such as “I have my ideal weight!” as a way to move away from the negative emotions and the negative thinking patterns. They recommend saying this affirmation (or others like it) over and over dozens of times, in front of the mirror if possible, visualizing ourselves at our ideal weight and incorporating our emotions by feeling the feelings of being at our ideal weight.
The problem for some people – and I’ve experienced this myself – is that, while we may be able to make ourselves feel better in the moment, our subconscious has not accepted that statement as being true. As I understand it, our subconscious says to us something like this:
“OK, I can see that you feel badly about your weight and you’re attempting to use this affirmation to change your situation. However, this affirmation goes completely against the belief you asked me to store in here for you as your truth, so I can’t let this one through. There are tons of evidence to support your truth (your existing belief) that you do not have your ideal weight, and this evidence contradicts your current statement (affirmation). However, your feeling better is our common goal, therefore I’ll allow you to feel better now while you repeat that affirmation to yourself; but know that I’m protecting your existing belief and I’ll soon bring it up again and point out the supporting evidence to you so that you don’t feel like you’re going crazy.”
Do you see what’s happened? We have simply masked the situation with a story that was “too good to be true” so that we could make ourselves feel better in the moment. In other words, we’ve slapped a happy face sticker over the fuel gauge in our attempt to not look at the warning that our car is running on “E” but we haven’t really dealt with the real issue.
So what should we do instead?
The first thing we need to do is understand that emotions, no matter how negative they are or feel, are not bad. Emotions are nothing more than a feedback mechanism to alert us of how aligned or misaligned our current beliefs are with our desires. In other words, if my desire is to have my ideal body weight but my underlying beliefs regarding my weight are “I can’t have it; it’s very difficult if not impossible; I’ll never look good; everything I eat makes me fat; I don’t deserve to be thin or to look good; other people can but I can’t; if I so much as look at food I get fat”… or any variation of these beliefs, I will experience negative emotions in relation to my weight. But as I said, this is not a bad thing. These emotions are my feedback mechanism telling me that it is time to upgrade my underlying beliefs! Without this mechanism in place, how on earth would we know that there is an issue with our beliefs and that they need to be upgraded? We just wouldn’t know! Isn’t this a wonderful mechanism? Isn’t this something to be grateful for? Sure it is!
It seems obvious then that our primary goal should not be to just make ourselves feel better in the moment, but to tackle the underlying limiting beliefs and upgrade them. And while many positive thinking gurus tell us that that is exactly what affirmations are supposed to do, the truth is that rarely do these limiting beliefs get upgraded by the use of positive affirmations alone; additionally, we have to remember that we run the risk of masking our beliefs and disconnecting from our true emotions, which in the long run will prove counterproductive to our growth efforts.
Another thing to remember is that the successful upgrading of our beliefs – as explained by Greg – takes place gradually. So we have to be wise on the approach that we use to make sure that we don’t end up against a wall as in the example I gave above.
So how do we do it?
In a previous post I talked about my experience with positive affirmations and explained that the reason they don’t seem to work sometimes is because the jump we’re trying to make from where we are emotionally to where we want to be is just too great (read the full post here). Without knowing it, I had stumbled upon one of the key elements of Greg’s approach to upgrading our beliefs, and that is our gradual movement up the emotional scale; and the way we do that is by making statements owning our current emotions, and appending to these statements the best feeling believable story that we can muster up at the time. I’ll repeat this because this is important: we have to make statements where we own our current emotions and also add to these statements the best feeling believable story we can muster up at the moment. Notice I did not say “add a good story,” because the best feeling believable story may not necessarily sound good.
As I mentioned in the post I referenced earlier, a better feeling believable story may cause us to move from depression to anger in the emotional scale. I’m sure we can all agree that anger is not necessarily a good emotion, but we can also agree that it is definitely a better emotion than depression. So the statements that we make owning our current emotional state must include statements that help us to move up the emotional state gradually. Sometimes this process may take a day or two, and sometimes it may take longer. But however long it takes, we must be aware of our improved current emotional state and revise our statements to tell the best feeling believable story from our new vintage point. As we do this we’re going to the root of the issue (our beliefs) and making the necessary changes there. Will we still feel good in the moment? Maybe, maybe not; but we will definitely feel better because 1. We’re owning our current emotions rather than denying them; and 2. We’re upgrading our emotions gradually so that slowly but surely we will be moving up the emotional scale.
I was of the mentality that as soon as I became aware of negative emotions I was supposed to do everything in my power to change them, since negative emotions would interfere with manifesting my desires. Feeling any negative emotion sucks; it’s painful, and we don’t want to experience that pain. I would therefore do what I had learned was the best thing to do in these cases: reach for my positive affirmations and repeat them over and over again in order to not feel that pain, but not realizing that all I was really doing was denying my true feelings and doing myself more harm than good. Why? Because as a result of all the masking and denying, I’ve now had more difficulty connecting with my true emotions, which as I have already stated are the primary mechanism that alerts us when our beliefs need to be upgraded. In other words, I’ve had to work extra hard to be able to identify my limiting beliefs.
I hope this revelation is as helpful to you as it has been for me. If you have any input on this subject, or any questions or comments you would like to share, please do so in the comment box below, or email me directly at email@example.com.
To your success!