Affirmations, Visualizations, Meditation and Positive Self-Talk

As I’ve said here and in the books, I have never asked a reader or a client to do anything I haven’t done. I have never asked anyone to do anything that I didn’t do myself and know it worked. If it’s in the book, I did it. If it’s in the book, I recommended it to clients for years and years. If it’s in the book, I researched it as a graduate student. If it’s in the book, it’s tried and true and works. No matter how “New-Agey” it might sound. If it’s in the book, it’s been vetted by me over many years not just as a therapist but as a client (my apologies to hair restoration ads).

The bottom line is that I was doing affirmations in 1989 and gratitude lists in 1987 long before anyone else mentioned them. Gratitude lists are a 12 step concept that comes from the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous Bill Wilson who said in the 1930s: “A grateful heart will never drink.” and “Have an attitude of gratitude.” and was passed onto me by my therapist who made me write gratitude lists every night when I was terribly depressed over what I had lost in a separation and divorce. And the lists helped me a lot.

I started doing affirmations in 1989 when I certified as an “Investment in Excellence” facilitator and was taught, by Lou Tice himself, how to actually make them work and the science behind them. Lou Tice gives the very best explanation as to how and why they work and I didn’t know if I believed him but I started them anyway. Guess what? When done right, they work!

I started meditation and visualization when I went to a Stephen Levine weekend workshop in 1992. It had a profound effect on me. I am living proof that they work in conjunction with everything else and they’re not there just because I ran out of words in the middle of the book. Please see GPYB Recommends for many of the products (Stephen Levine/mindfulness meditations/grief process) mentioned on this page.

The books have received overwhelmingly positive critical reviews. GPYB has become a classic in less than 10 years and routinely lands on “Best Breakup Books” list, and remains riding on the Amazon best-seller list for over 8 years. There was one review that called the Affirmation section of GPYB, “New-agey and Oprah-esque.”  No idea why that was a problem for this reviewer.  This is not to say that the reviewers are not entitled to their own opinion. They are. But I do find people skipping over these things probably thinking “New Age-y” and “Oprah-esque.” And even if you think so, that is not reason enough to not try them. They WORK. I didn’t devote the space in the book to them just for filler. Positive self-talk and affirmations WORK. And I explain WHY they work in the book (because I had to know when I was doing them and researched it…I’m a lawyer but long before I was a lawyer I had to know WHY with regard to EVERYTHING). Please read and re-read the section in the book.

I’m not taking a defensive tone but want to impress upon my readers that nothing is in the book is filler. It’s all there for a reason. A well-thought out reason. I also state, in the book, that most of the material is not original to me but is presented in an original way. But, for me, affirmations came from Lou Tice, gratitude lists from 12-step programs and therapists familiar with that, meditation and visualization originally from Stephen Levine but after that I explored a lot of Eastern meditations.

So what I want to impress upon my readers is that I had twice as much material for the book than is in the book. I had to choose and choose carefully. I put in the book: a) everything I did and b) the core of what works.

I could not raise my self-esteem with the negative garbage that continued to float around in my head. I had to do affirmations for years before a positive self-image took place. And along with it came confidence and maturity and the end of victimhood.

I did gratitude lists for years to help me out of the “wha wha wha” victim shroud that I tended to keep around me. It not only helped back then, but helped me keep an attitude of gratitude when things went well. And when Michael died, I returned to my gratitude lists because I wanted to hurl myself off a building, I was in so much pain.

Visualization is something I just started doing on my own, as it says in the book I did it every night as I was falling asleep and most of the things I visualized, including penning a book, has come true. So take it or leave it; but it’s there to help you.

As I mentioned in a bootcamp last year, I went to a Stephen Levine grief workshop in the early 90s. (not sure if it was 92, 93 or 94) and it changed my life. I had been very very much set against it when I walked in and saw everyone in kaftans and Birkenstocks with their own meditation pillows. I thought this is NOT for me. I grew up a tough kid on the streets of the Bronx and still exude that persona to some degree.

When I walked in I thought, I don’t want to take my shoes off. I don’t wear sandals. I am not at ease here.

Everyone is sending out peace love granola and kum-ba-ya vibes. Nice, but not for me. I thought, clearly I don’t belong here.

Then I remembered a friend of mine said prejudice is “Contempt before investigation” which is also from the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous. So not wanting to be prejudiced, I investigated a bit. I thought to myself, “Okay I’ll check it out, and THEN I’ll be prejudiced.”

I had paid my money and I sat in the seat. And did some of the meditations very reluctantly (at first thinking “Oh this is so stupid.”) But there was a healing there that I could not deny. A centering. A coming into my “self” that happened that day and I couldn’t deny that.

After that I started doing Mindful Meditation and Stephen’s “Soft Belly” meditation (it’s to keep you from being tense and holding in all the tension in your stomach) and it helped a great deal. After a few years I stopped doing a daily meditation but when I get strung out, I go back to it. Stephen is not, of course, the only one who does mindfulness but his spoke to me at the time. There are so many out there. Check out the “Recommended” section up top for meditations.

After Michael died, I downloaded Stephen and Ondrea’s The Grief Process: Meditations for HealingThe Grief Process” (click to get on Amazon and was thrilled to find it to be the exact same workshop I attended in the early 90s. Every night I played it and fell asleep before the first meditation was done. And in the morning I felt better. Meditation is NOT sitting in a corner going “Ohm” Siddhartha style…but listening and allowing yourself to just drift. It’s not even important that you stay focused on what is being said…it is being absorbed. It’s calming and relaxing and so important in grief. I did not realize, for a few weeks, how much it was helping me even though I fell asleep so fast each night.

iTunes carries a podcast of Stephen’s “Soft Belly” meditation and a few other items but the Grief Process workshop changed my life (it is listed under the “GPYB Recommends” products up top).

I just wanted to repost this to touch base with readers who might be reluctant to explore these avenues if you’ve seen the negative labeling of these things. They are in the book for a reason. They work. They calm and they heal and they change your self-talk and self-image.

When we have issues or emotions or behaviors that we don’t like, it is not helpful (in fact it is hurtful) to say “What a jerk I am….” or “How weak I am…” or whatever. If you’ve read the Affirmation chapter in the books — both Getting Past Your Breakup and Getting Back Out There have chapters on Affirmations but the WORKBOOK (instant download HERE) is the best place to go to create and practice your affirmations.  If you’ve done your reading,  you know that the subconscious takes these statements as truth. The reason that positive affirmations work is that you can reprogram your subconscious given time (at least 30 days) and effort (taking the negative self talk out and putting the positive self talk in).

It’s really tough to recognize and see that this “severing off and judging” of our less-than-attractive emotional parts that “should be better” undermines our progress. When we feel fear or we start thinking about our ex or we do something like drive by his or her place of work and then say, “I’m so stupid. I’m so weak. I’m such a jerk. I’m such a baby. I can’t believe this bothers me…I suck.” we sever off those parts of us that feel fear or feel longing or feel “less than” and we judge them as unworthy and shoo them away. Thus the severed part can never be integrated and never be healed. We are unproductive when we do this.

We allow our fear to say: I can’t, I won’t, I can’t help it, I will not make it, the world is too cold and lonely for me, I’m too damaged, I’m too weak. This walk out of darkness is for others. Not me. I can’t do it.

We don’t see or choose to not see how we are keeping ourselves chained to a horrible reality by using these self-defeating statements. We are so focused on what “might” happen, that we choose the devil we know. And we pretend and rationalize that it’s the right thing to do.

When we finally do acknowledge it, we say “Oh I suck to have all these negative thoughts…” and the cycle continues. Self-defeatism turns into self-berating and we cycle back to how we must deserve this hell because we suck.

Looking at our behavior that hurts us and being shocked by it and the message it sends to the world (“I’m a doormat.” “I’m a victim.” “I can’t do anything.”) is Step One. But unless we are appalled by what we have become, we are not going anywhere. We need to recognize what we are doing but STOP saying “I can’t help this…” or “I guess that is the way I am…” or “I’m too afraid to do anything else…” Because we are just reinforcing all of our crap.

And that needs to stop.

Step one needs to get honest about what you’re doing and then step two is to give yourself empowering, not defeating messages.

We need to respond to ourselves with loving thoughts and actions and realize that if we’re fearful we need support for that fear. We need to talk about it and embrace and say “Hey, I’m afraid!” Healthy fear is a good thing. We cannot cannot cannot sever off the parts of us that feel fear. We need those parts to be soothed and to feel safe. We can CHANGE the parts of us that feel fear to the point where we are frozen or unable to live life, but we cannot change it if we sever and separate it. It’s like cutting off your damaged arm, putting it in the garbage and wondering why it doesn’t work or it’s not working as it should or why you’re still a one-armed person. The arm cannot heal if it’s severed and tossed and hated. And that is what happens when you loathe a part of you that actually needs attention and caring and healing.

The GPYB Power Affirmations! course is being re-vamped and coming back in 2018.  Join our mailing list to get notifications!

The GPYB 2018 Power Affirmation course is about to be rolled out!  Stay tuned!

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