Do affirmations* really work?

As good a question as it may seem, to my mind, it is kind of vague. For anyone to be able to answer it, some clarifications are in order.

First of all, what do we mean by “affirmations work”? What are affirmations supposed to be the miraculous “cure” for? What do we expect them to do? What is the desired outcome of using affirmations? 

After some research online on what affirmations do, among other things I found that they:

  • can rewire our brain or trick it into believing things that may or may not be true 
  • can help us raise our vibrations and set the law of attraction in motion helping us manifest the reality we desire
  • can motivate us and keep us focused
  • can serve as a reminder of our values

Here are my views on each claim.

Affirmations rewire our brain or trick it into believing things that may or may not be true

Having studied and practiced Hypnotherapy for a number of years, having tried Neuro Linguistic Programing, having been an avid fan and practitioner of Yoga, Yoga Nidra and meditation and having worked as an energy healer for a significant number of years, I can tell you, not only what textbooks say, but also how people actually react to suggestions/affirmations from my personal experience.

Shadow judgments or limiting beliefs that some people claim affirmations can “erase” exist in the subconscious mind. In our everyday lives, we don’t have direct access to the subconscious mind. That’s why, in order to attain access to it, we seek altered states of consciousness. 

Affirmations alone cannot, in most cases, bypass the subconscious. Repeating affirmations cannot work on our subconscious mind unless we have created the right conditions that give us access to it. This can be achieved with hypnosis, NLP, yoga nidra, meditation or any other practice that can put our brain in Alpha, Theta or ideally Delta state.  

Some people argue that kids believe what they hear and then do it, therefore we have this innate ability to access our subconscious mind at will. 

What these people might not know is that this ability is present only up to a certain age (ranging from 5 to 11 depending on the generation), when a child’s brain is still “pliable” and can learn and believe new things without questioning them by taking everything literally and at face value, especially when the information comes from an “authority” figure, notably the people responsible for their survival. 

If what we are trying to affirm is incongruent with a deeply held negative belief or with our reality, then what can come out of repeating affirmations that make no sense to our conscious or subconscious mind is an inner struggle, guilt and frustration (click here to read my article on the pitfalls of positive thinking).

Nevertheless, something extremely valuable can come out of this resistance or inner conflict. Resistance or inner conflict can serve us as a red flag! They are warning signs and they alert us to the fact that, even if we thought that we were past some things, some issues may have not been resolved. (Click here to watch my video on “Red flags, an ally for change!”.)

Hence, resistance to affirmations can be the catapult which, if used wisely, can propel us to the life we deserve.

Manifestations help us raise our vibrations and set the law of attraction in motion helping us manifest the reality we desire

This can be true on condition that there is no conflict with our conscious or subconscious mind. 

By repeating manifestations, and creating images of ourselves in the desired state/situation, we can trick our mind to produce “happy” hormones that can raise our vibrations helping us to set the law of attraction in motion. They can put us in a mental and emotional state that can have us believe that anything is possible, thus opening our eyes to opportunities and possibilities which we are ready to seize.

Affirmations can motivate us and keep us focused

By repeating affirmations, we don’t lose sight of our goal. They can serve as a constant reminder of what we really desire, of our profound needs. Some people, especially people pleasers (empaths, helpers, givers) can easily lose track of what they set out to do when encountered with the struggles/difficulties of another person. 

Affirmations can serve as a compass keeping them on track of what we want to attract in our lives and not let us get sidetracked by our own compulsions.

Affirmations can serve as a reminder of our values

Affirmations can work wonders as reminders of our values as there can be no inner conflict when it comes to that. Our values are hard wired in us and repeating affirmations can serve an aide-memoire of our values, stopping us from doing things that go against them.

To conclude

Repeating affirmations is only part of the process. Affirmations can rarely work without any other practice that paves the way for them to work. Affirmations should be used as a call to action. They should be one of the many tools we use for our growth, as they serve in so many ways, but they cannot be the only one. 

If you are looking for easy fix, and you think that repeating affirmations in your head will help you get the life of your dreams without putting in any real effort, I’m afraid you are in for a lot of disappointment and frustration.

*affirmations are short statements which you mentally repeat to yourself daily, or many times throughout the day, to help you achieve something, or feel better about yourself. Examples of affirmations could be “I am perfectly healthy”, “I am worthy of love”, “I have the job of my dreams” etc.

Photo by Marcos Paulo Prado on Unsplash

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