Break the Cycle of Negative Thinking—Why Affirmations Don’t Work and What to do About It
Back to the basic law of attraction, like attracts like. If you examine this law a bit closer, it really boils down to “like thoughts attract like thoughts.” If you have negative thoughts you will attract negative people and things and if you have positive thoughts (positive affirmations) you’ll attract positive people and opportunities. But you have to be careful. You can’t just slap a positive thought on top of a negative thought and expect it to work miracles. This is why positive affirmations don’t always work. For results, you have to eliminate all underlying sources of negativity—otherwise it just won’t work. The negative thoughts will cancel out the positive ones.
Here’s why: your actual experience of something prompts the negative thought, and that thought feels real. Alternatively, the affirmation feels false, like wishful thinking. When you put the two thoughts together, the negative thought cancels the positive thought.
Here is a typical example: one client wanted to have a great relationship. She liked the idea of having someone to share and enjoy life with. And she could picture such a relationship in a positive light. At the same time, she was worried that if she got into a relationship, she would lose her freedom and control. This fear, and her very real need for freedom and independence, was keeping her from reaching her goal of being in a great relationship. Rather than launching her search for an eligible man, the first step was to completely fulfill her need for independence so that it effectively vanished and didn’t prevent her from attracting a relationship. And, she needed to experience the fact that being in a relationship didn’t have to restrict her freedom. With the right partner, she might have felt even more free because she had his love and support behind her.
One of my own needs is independence so I set about becoming as independent as I possibly could. I owned my own car, house and business and could do whatever I wanted. I was happy being a solo entrepreneur except for one hitch: I didn’t want to have children without a loving and supportive husband. Now that I’m married and have two little munchkins, I’m especially glad to have his support as it has enabled me to enjoy being a mother and get at least some sleep! Having my husband’s support has also helped me relax about my finances, since I’m not the sole provider. This has freed me up to focus on riskier ventures and more creative projects, such as writing another book. I won’t be the first woman to say there isn’t much freedom when you have kids (travelling is much trickier, for one thing), but since it was my choice to have them, I was prepared. What I didn’t expect was how much freer I feel now that I am married to a truly wonderful, supportive man. You can find out what your top 4 personal and emotional needs are by taking the free Emotional Index Quiz here.
What negative thoughts are blocking you from reaching your greatest goals and dreams? Challenge your assumptions. It helps to have an objective, and well trained life coach challenging your limited or negative beliefs. Often we don’t see those limiting beliefs until a professional helps to identify them. Eliminate negativity at its source and you are on your way!
Why Positive Affirmations Don’t Always Work
I’ve often heard people say that though their thoughts may be positive, their underlying feelings are negative. What do you do if you are in a negative situation? Do you say positive things about it though the truth is that the situation is not positive at all? Isn’t that a bit fake and artificial?
If your feelings are negative, they will definitely color your thoughts, and my guess is that your thoughts aren’t as positive as you may think. This is the problem with affirmations. It doesn’t do much good to say, “Rivers of riches are flowing to me” if the very next thought that goes out is, “Yeah, right. I’ll never get out of all this debt.” The negative thought effectively cancels out or at least diminishes the positive thought because you actually believe the negative thought. You believe it because, in your experience, it is real—it is the truth for you at this time. Denying the reality of a situation is useless. Your debts will not magically disappear if you utter endless affirmations. If your experience were the reverse and you had money coming in from unexpected places, then it would be easier to think positively. It is a classic Catch 22. Which is why, when I’m working with clients, we work on eliminating all the little sources of negativity in their lives—I call them petty annoyances (Tip 1 from Coach Yourself to Success)—anything that you are tolerating or putting up with from that missing button on your shirt to the run down heels on your shoes to that scratch on your car. Each and every one of these little annoyances is draining your energy, whether you realize it or not.
As a past example, my husband arranged for the fellow who built our kitchen cabinets to come and fix the ones that were sticking and not closing properly. We must have been living with this annoyance for at least a year and in one afternoon it was handled. I had gotten so used to them that I hadn’t even realized how much I had been tolerating the fact that the doors didn’t completely close. He didn’t even charge us so all it cost us was one phone call. Oddly enough, all these petty things can create an overall feeling of negativity. This is why I ask my clients to make a list of the 60-100 things they are currently tolerating or putting up with in their lives and then get to work on that list. Once you handle these things you’ll be amazed at how much more energy you have to work on your bigger, more exciting goals and projects.
Now for the second question—what if you are in a negative situation? Rather than pasting a false affirmation over it, it helps to ask yourself, “What can I learn from this situation?” Or, “How is this perfect?” (See Tip 9 “It’s All Good, Even the Bad Stuff” from Coach Yourself to Success.) When you start to see what you can learn from the situation, it helps you to make the changes you need to make to improve the situation—whether that is to create a plan to eliminate your debt, to clear the clutter in your home or to learn how to manage an unpleasant boss or colleague. There is always something to learn. The first step is to figure out how to perfect the present situation. Once you’ve learned how to handle something, then you’ll quickly attract a new and better opportunity.
This week make a list of all those petty annoyances and write them down. Set aside a few evenings or a weekend morning or two to get rid of them. This is the very first step to having more positive thoughts without even trying!
P.S. Find out what your top 4 personal and emotional needs are by taking this free Emotional Index Quiz here.