Letting Go of Suffering- Week 6: Using Affirmations to Heal

I often ask my psychotherapy clients what they would think and feel if they overheard a parent berating a child with the negative messages that they dump on themselves, e.g. “You are so stupid.” “Can’t you do anything right?” “You are selfish.”  “You are a disgrace.”

Clients often respond that they would feel angry and think that the child was being abused. I tell them when they speak that way to themselves, it is as if they were the parent who is abusing the child. In this case the child is their inner child. That awareness is often jolting enough to motivate clients to learn what they need to learn to stop the negative self talk.

Affirmations are positive statements which can be used to replace the negative messages you tell yourself. By using these positive statements, as one might use a mantra, i.e. saying them over and over, you can fill yourself with positive supportive energy instead of negative, discounting energy.

Below you will see two styles of affirmations. The affirmations in the first style are phrased so that you affirm the beliefs you want to have. These affirmations are stated as if they were already true. For example:

I belong

I am worthy

I am enough.

I am a competent, capable adult.

I am love.

I am lovable.

My needs are important.

I am learning and growing.

I deserve support.

The other option is to pick an affirmation that the healthy parent part of you says to your inner child. For example:

I love you.

Your needs are important to me.

I will teach you and guide you.

Pamela Levin and Jean Illsley Clarke created sets of developmentally based affirmations. Their affirmations use the parent to child style.

Pam Levin’s can be found her her book Cycles of Power. Some examples of her affirmations:

You have a right to be here.

You don’t have to hurry, you can take your time.

You don’t have to suffer to get your needs met.

Jean I. Clarke’s are in Growing Up Again. Here are a few of hers:

I’m glad you are you.

You can know what you need and ask for help.

You can learn when and how to disagree.

Creating Affirmations from Think Structures

You can use the Think Structures you wrote in Week Four and Week Five‘s Letting Go of Suffering assignments to create personalized affirmations. (The Think Structure and this affirmation structure are processes created by Pam Levin (Cycles of Power.)

I will show you how to create affirmations using this Think Structure:

  1. I am scared
  2. That if I ask for what I want
  3. I will be ridiculed or punished
  4. Instead of being heard and supported
  5. So I pout, isolate and don’t ask for what I want.

To form the affirmation, you will use the 2nd and 4th line of the Think Structure.

So my affirmation would be:

I do ask for what I want and I am heard and supported.

Create affirmations from some of the Think Structures you wrote during the last two weeks. If you have not seen or done those assignments, consider going back to those lessons and completing them.


If you like, you can use your Think Structure affirmations when you do the affirmation exercise I will describe in the next section of this post.

Another way you can  use your Think Structure affirmations is to set up life situations that will facilitate your healing. Using the example above, I could let my friends know that I am focusing on asking for what I want and would like to practice doing that with them. I could also let them know that when I ask for what I want, I would like to be heard and supported. (Being heard and supported doesn’t mean they will give you whatever you ask for. A long time ago, I practiced this exercise with someone by asking him if he would pay for my Masters of Nursing degree. He was very honoring of my request but, of course, did not agree to fund my education!)

Using the Affirmation

Pick one of the affirmations from this lesson, or create one of your own. For the rest of the week say it at least 1000 times a day; 5,000-10,000 would be even better! It is fine for you to say it internally, going as fast as you want. (A short mantra can be repeated 1,000 times or more in 20 minutes.) You can count using a tally counter from an office supply store or an app such as iPhone’s Counter +.

Even though this lesson only lasts a week, it would be best if you continue to say the same affirmation for 21 days. If you say it in the higher range (i.e. 10,000 a day or more) you may find that it starts flowing through your mind automatically. You may even wake up during the night and realize you were saying it in your sleep. Imagine what it would feel like to be listening to positive thoughts throughout the night instead of your self-critical ones.

What if my mind is fighting the affirmation?

Sometimes a particular affirmation is so far from what you believe, you may find yourself very resistant to saying it. If that is the case, take a piece of paper and make two columns on it. On the left side write your affirmation and on the right side write the negative response that comes to your mind. Keep doing that until you have written the positive one 50 times. Here is an example:

Positive affirmation               Discount

My needs are important…      No they aren’t

My needs are important…      I should be needless and wantless

My needs are important…      It isn’t safe for me to have needs

My needs are important…      No they aren’t

My needs are important…      No they aren’t

My needs are important…      That statement is nonsense


Do this two column affirmation exercise for several days if you need to and then start saying the 1,000 repetitions of the positive affirmation each day. Or do the 50 written affirmations in the morning and then say the affirmation during the rest of the day. As you continue to write and/or say the affirmation, the negative messages will decrease and then stop.

Another thing you can do when you find negative thoughts coming into your mind when you say the affirmation is to speed up the rate you are saying the affirmation. Speed it up until you drown out the negative message.


Take a few minutes each day this week to write about your experiences with the affirmation.

Day 1


Day 2


Day 3


Day 4


Day 5


Day 6


Day 7


See you next Monday for the seventh lesson.

To find the lessons in this series that have already been published, click here.

Self-Care or Selflessness?

Photo Credit: Wikimedia

As I mentioned in a previous post, I have a long history of overdoing. At one point in my life, I was holding three jobs at the same time. When I have become involved with organizations, I have often done more than is reasonable for one person to do. My overdoing has led to serious illnesses that have been breaking points, where slowing down became a necessity rather than a choice. I believe it was this pattern of overdoing that led to me to having Chronic Fatigue Syndrome for five or more years in the mid to late eighties, and to the high blood pressure I am dealing with today.

To some degree, the types of overdoing I am referring to were caused by a pattern of rescuing.  In his Drama Triangle construct, Stephen Karpman describes the Rescuer in this way:

“The rescuer’s line is ‘Let me help you.’ A classic enabler, the Rescuer feels guilty if he/she doesn’t go to the rescue. Yet his/her rescuing has negative effects: It keeps the Victim dependent and gives the Victim permission to fail. The rewards derived from this rescue role are that the focus is taken off of the rescuer. When he/she focuses their energy on someone else, it enables them to ignore their own anxiety and issues. This rescue role is also very pivotal, because their actual primary interest is really an avoidance of their own problems disguised as concern for the victim’s needs.”

Jean Illsley Clarke once taught me five questions to ask myself when I think I might be rescuing.

  • Was I asked to do what I am doing?
  • Do I want to do it?
  • Am I doing more than my share?
  • Do others appreciate me for what I am doing? (Rescuers are often not appreciated.)
  • Am I doing something for someone that they can do for themselves?

Answering yes to one of those questions does not mean that I am rescuing, but if yes is the answer to many of them, the chances are that I am. So shifting my pattern of rescuing was an important part of my healing journey.

From a therapy perspective, focusing on self-care by stopping rescuing makes sense.  Even though I valued being in service, it was still my job to keep myself healthy.  When I began to look at self-care and selflessness from a spiritual perspective though, I started to have doubts. There are many who have forsaken their health, their comforts and sometimes even their lives, to live a life of service.  They have shown us what is possible for one person to accomplish in a life time.  They have been, or will be, a source of inspiration long after they are gone from this world.

To me, Amma, my spiritual teacher and mentor, is one of those people. Her form of blessing is through a hug. Amma has hugged more than 34,000,000 people in her lifetime. She needs almost no food or sleep. If she is not giving darshan (hugs) she is serving humanity in some other way, including her massive network of humanitarian projects known as Embracing the World. Her life is a model of selflessness.

When I thought about people present and the past who have inspired others through their selflessness, the following individuals came to mind.  All have taught the importance of serving humanity.


John 13:34 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another.

Acts 20:35 “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

Matthew 25:35-40: ”For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,  I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’  Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’ And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’”

Mahatma Gandhi :

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

Martin Luther King Jr.:

“Everybody can be great…because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

St: Francis of Assisi:

“O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand, to be loved, as to love.”

Mother Theresa:

Prayer in action is love, and love in action is service.” 

As I pondered the importance of self-care versus selflessness, I could rationalize that I am not Amma, Jesus, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, St. Francis or Mother Theresa and therefore could not expect myself to serve at that level.

My thoughts on this topic took another turn, though, in the late 90’s when I read a book, A Promise is a Promise, by Wayne Dyer. It was an account of a teenager who in 1970 asked her mother to promise that she would never leave her. Soon thereafter the 17 year old slipped into a diabetic coma, one she never came out of. The mother kept her word and, with help, cared for her daughter until she herself died 25 years later. (A Promise is a Promise was written while the mother was still alive.) Then others cared for the daughter until she died on November 21, 2012, forty-two years after she became comatose.

Reading that book had a profound impact on me. I still remember Dr. Dyer saying that walking into their home felt like being in the holiest of temples.

When I first started reading A Promise is a Promise, I made the judgment that the mother was not taking care of herself appropriately. But as I continued to read, my attitude began to change. Her actions seemed like unconditional love, perhaps the highest form of spiritual practice. While I wasn’t aware of it at the time, I now see that her actions actually conformed to the guiding questions I had learned from Jean Clarke:

  • The mother had been asked and had agreed to what she was doing
  • She wanted to do it
  • Even though she devoted her life to caring for her daughter, she had help.
  • Her daughter would have undoubtedly appreciated her efforts
  • She was clearly doing something for her daughter that the girl could not do for herself

Reading about a “regular” person who was so selfless, presented me with another dilemma. When I lived a life of uncontrolled doing, even if when it was in the spirit of service, I became sick to the point I couldn’t function.  How do I know when to focus on self-care and when to make service the priority?

I continue to ponder that question to this day. I believe for me it has to be about balance. I must practice good self-care by nourishing my body, mind and soul and at the same time make sure that I am not over-committing or over-stressing myself.  I must also continue to watch out for my tendency to rescue.  I can be in service to others and still do my best to keep myself healthy.

Written for Dungeon Prompts: Breaking Point

Struggles with Conflict – Part 2

On April 17, 2014, I wrote a post called Struggles with Conflict. That turned out to be the second most popular post I’ve written.   After reflecting some more about the topic, I decided to share some techniques you might find helpful when you are faced with conflict.

When someone is very angry with you, if you start defending or explaining, you may make the situation worse by giving the person more ammunition to use against you. While the problem may need to be discussed in depth, a positive outcome is not likely when one or both parties are escalated. In those cases, consider using one of the techniques I list below.  That may be all that is needed.  If not, then you can always set a later time for a serious discussion. Continue reading “Struggles with Conflict – Part 2”