November 19 conversation with Barbara:
BUT I SHOULD BE BETTER
That’s not a statement that meets the “truth test” nor the “workability test”.
Barbara argued for her case that she was not as good as she should be.
In meeting with old high school friends who were doing wonderfully in their relationship and their lives, her statements to herself were: “Oh, I’m not like them. I have all these problems!” See her I'm not good enough. This was enough to set off the chain of thoughts, leading into one of her top 10 laments: “I can’t have people in my life because I feel so bad and anxious around them, so therefore I’ll be miserable and lonely.” See Barbara’s TOP 10 TUNES (Top 10 Repeated Beliefs).
The above segues into “I’ll never be better, so I’ll always be miserable.”
The question comes up, how do we stop the chain and the spiraling earlier in the process, preferably at the beginning?
The answer for this “in the moment” lies in these two pieces:
THE COPING STATEMENTS
Barbara originated a coping statement, which was a new practice for her, as she most often would focus only on justifying how terrible something was and how black and white and absolute it was.
She said that she should tell herself: “Yet I can’t get myself down about it.”
She also originated an “awareness, acknowledging” statement: “I’m getting into ‘poor me’.” That was good, as it prompts the awareness that the path should not be continued.
She also originated a statement that was on the side of “self consoling”, which is a new practice for her and one that would best be expanded. “OK, so I’m a little disappointed because I am not yet where I want to be.” I don’t recall whether she followed and reinforced that or not.
She could have added something to be more complete about that consoling, as if consoling a small child, as that “figuratively” (metaphorically) is what she is doing here. (Such as in those where one brings in "loving allies" or the "caring, feeling presence". I would recommend assuming the role of Rational, Nurturing Adult to talk to oneself.)
Something like this affirmation would be a possibility: “I (or you) will eventually get there by practicing these new things I am learning. Yes, it does take time, but I can rely on myself doing what is necessary. Be patient and just keep on keepin’ on!”
I would recommend that she be aware that her voices in her head are saying "you" instead of "I". It is time that she started using the "I" more, in recognizing that it is her own brain (Dumb and Dumber) saying those things and that there is no separate entity.
And then she stated two of her affirmations, which was a positive addition for her.
She asked if those were ok, apparently picking up on my hesitance, and requested that I give her some feedback on those.
Her affirmation: “I’m creating a great life”
Basically a good one, because it has her doing the work (creating) to cause the result and it is about being “in the process” and having it be ok that she is, by implication, in the process even though she hasn't "arrived" yet. [Not arriving at where she wants to be is one of her main conversations, essentially saying I am not happy until I arrive at ___ (filled in with a non-specific goal) and I take the position that I won't be happy unless I reach that goal of all my "okness" goals being met.]
My only question about that is what she means by “great life”. I think it would be good for her to write out a description of what would be sufficient for her to say she was having a great life.
My concern here is that her normal viewpoint was such that she set a very difficult to reach standard, one that was philosophically the opposite of what works for happiness.
What I mean by that is that she normally is doing exactly what the Buddha (and any wise leader or counselor would say) identifies as the cause of suffering (and unhappiness). (See How To Create Unhappiness.)
She wants “more” and the “more” she wants is more like a “must”, as she is implying that she will not be happy until she gets to satisfying the (insatiable) “more”. This, in turn, is the equivalent of saying “I am not happy now” (because I will only be happy when I get “there”).
She is basing her happiness on what other people do and on circumstances – exactly the opposite of the strategy for happiness. She is basing her life on everything “out there” aligning to what she wants so she’ll be ok “in here” instead of generating her happiness from the inside out. The “I must get it from out there” viewpoint is a common practice of people who still haven’t given up holding onto (the fiction of) being a dependent, powerless child.
So, the affirmation is ok and positive, AND it is necessary that she go deeper and more specific on what it would take for her to have a great life. And after she does that, then we’ll have some specifics to talk about, so we can close the “happiness gap” by either adjusting the “too high” standards and/or upping the accuracy of her assessment of herself.
Her affirmation: “I am able to create great relationships.”
The same comment as above.
Breaking this into specifics would be helpful. This would help her better plan how to “get there” (defining what “there” is). Note that negative conversations thrive on ambiguity, mainly because there is nothing to nail down and have clarity about. Power lies in specificity and clarity…and then intention and setting up a game plan – leave out any of them, and power is diminished.
CREATING MORE EFFECTIVE AFFIRMATIONS
The test of an affirmation is whether it works or not for the individual. What may work for one person might not for the other, and vice versa.
Barbara would best take the following (and the others from the site's Affirmations section) and consider what will work for her and then either adopt them as is or create her own. It would be best if she skipped the step of talking about “how these won’t work for her” (and give up asserting that in any conversation, ever, for the rest of her life) – and take the responsibility to create what will work for her, recognizing that this may involve several iterations (tries) to get to the one that works best – and that’s merely life in the real world.
Some possible alternatives that might create some good ideas:
I am quite capable of learning to and having a warm, loving, workable relationship. (I hesitate to insert “great” in there, for the reasons discussed above.) I am quite happy to be working on these, though I am also excited and can hardly wait to learn all of this. I will be patient and I will be supportive of myself in this noble endeavor.
I am intelligent and I am quite capable of learning and applying what I need to create a life that I love. I choose right now to do all I can to love the life I live right now and to see that it has all I really need. Yes, I have inserted some dysfunctional things in there that take away from it, but I will remove those and see the gem that life is. I will follow this path to peace of mind. I will add the practices that create peace of mind, as I realize these actions are needed to cause this to happen.
Technically, the initial sentence of each item above is the affirmation itself, but full affirmations affirm all that underlies and supports the one sentence affirmation.
Affirmations must always be affirmations of what is true, what is honestly intended, and/or what is reasonably possibly true in the future.
The “I intend” affirmation should state something the equivalent of “I intend”. “I intend to do a great job of learning this.” “I see that this is something I must work toward and I am committed to doing that until it is completed to my satisfaction.” This has a different flavor and level of truth than stating "I am x" already, plus it recognizes that she is sourcing it all.
Reasonably, possibly true
The “reasonably possibly true” statement would be something that would meet the “workability, achievability test”.
“I will make $250,000 in the next 90 days” would for most people be pure fantasy, relying on magic (which is not a principle of workability).
“I will have an unconditionally loving, perfect relationship” is also more like a fairy tale hope, akin to wishful, magical thinking (which is characteristic of the beliefs we have at age 8).
But it could be reasonable to state:
“I will find a person with whom I will have a good relationship that is satisfying for me – and I’ll be so happy about that. I realize it is up to me to learn how to and to be loving, in control of my emotions, knowledgeable, and progressive in creating the relationship – and I am committed to creating that. I am so happy that I am creating that!” meets the test. It is feasible that if one becomes the type of person who would be good in a relationship that one will find somebody who is suitable and with whom he/she could work out any temporary barriers. It is based on “being at cause” rather than “being at effect”, which is hoping that the outside circumstance or other person will deliver what is needed. It recognizes that “if it is to be, it’s up to me”, which is kind of the initial slogan in taking responsibility for one’s life.