Testing is a Good Sign

by Adrian W. Hall, MFT, ATR

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"Once we begin using an affirmation, our bluff is called.  Choices arise that test its mettle.  Do we really mean it?  If we affirm "I let go more and more", perhaps losses ail come our way since our unconscious has been instructed that we are ready to let go" (p. 212).

I want to talk about this section of David Richo's book today because I find that we talk about this a lot in conversations about challenges: well, maybe the universe is testing me.  This always seems like a half hearted attempt at feeling hopeful about whatever hardship is occurring.  What David Richo explains in this passage is actually really reassuring.  If you look at the quote that started last week's post, Affirmations for Alignment:  "An affirmation is a positive declaration of what is already true in the unconscious and now is ready to be manifested in conscious life" (p. 209), this makes a lot of sense.  We are sending a message to our unconscious minds that something is true.  And, what will come forward is evidence that it is true.  However, we often times get upset how this alignment shows up.

If the affirmation is that you love more everyday, situations will show up where are called to love more.  That sounds beautiful, right?  Well, maybe it shows up through a co-worker you find annoying approaching you more often or trying to be friends with you.  The situation is calling you to love more.  Love that person more, meaning being compassionate for where they developed their traits that cause them to be annoying to you.  Or, love yourself more and kindly decline their invitation to spend more time together.  Or, love yourself more by taking the opportunity to look inside about why this particular person pushes your buttons.  Does it reflect something about you that you need to love more about yourself?

See, we have the power to affirm what is already true inside us, to align ourselves with who we already are inside.  However, we don't have the power to control how that alignment manifests.  So, next time you are experiencing a challenge, check to see if it has anything to do with the affirmation you have been employing.  Sometimes when I see the affirmation inside the challenge, I know I got it because it makes me laugh.  The realization makes me laugh because it usually seems so literal.  I was using the affirmation recently of letting go of control and something literally slipped out of my hands and caused a big mess.  So, yes, I literally 'let go' and the result of a big mess being created was 'out of my hands'.  The universe really has a sense of humor sometimes.  When these challenges come up and you see the connection with an affirmation you have been using, take it as a signal that it is working and you are actually headed in the right direction!

As within, so without

-Hermes Trismegistus

*This post is written in response to a section in David Richo's book "When Love Meets Fear: Becoming Defense-Less and Resource-Full".  

Affirmations for Alignment

by Adrian W. Hall, MFT, ATR

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“An affirmation is a positive declaration of what is already true in the unconscious and now is ready to be manifested in conscious life” (p. 209).  In this section of the book, David Richo talks about affirmations as a tool to live more fully into our essence.  To me, our essence is who we really are, it is the core part of us that is already whole, perfect and complete.  Over the course of our human lives, that part gets covered by fears, stories and other coping strategies devised by the neurotic ego.

In many previous posts, I have talked about what David Richo believes are the main systems of powerfully functioning in our human lives:  assertive effort and the grace of allowing.  David Richo proposes that we connect our systems of power through affirmations:  “We expend the effort to cultivate our potential, we are open to receive the graces of the universe, and we trust the inner zeal for evolution that makes us want to live and grow” (p. 209).  The effort is creating the affirmation and spending time repeating them to yourself, the allowing is the space created to let the affirmation manifest and the internal drive toward growth is what is held in our essence. 

Ok, now that we have the context of an affirmation, let’s get into the practical aspect of all this. 

Think about this: we all have an inner voice talking to us all the time.  Yup, it is talking right now about what you are reading.  It is saying whether you like what I’m saying, it is making a connection to something you already know, it is thinking about how much longer you will keep reading…you hear it? Ok, why not begin to shape that inner voice to align with the wholeness that is already inside and wants to be expressed in our consciousness?  There are plenty of moments in the day where we could choose what we are thinking about.  Like when you are driving?  Waiting in line?  On hold?  Going to sleep?  Why not put your mind to positive use instead of thinking about your to do list or, worse, things that are worrying you?

Alright, perfect.  Now, how do you pick an affirmation?  David Richo suggests paying attention to things that already call your attention.  Is there a symbol or animal or quote that you have been drawn to recently or that you have seen multiple places?  Is there something that reoccurs in dreams?  Look into the meaning of that for you.  What does it make you think about?  What message does it have for you?  In the last several months, I have seen dragonflies during important moments or during periods of time where significant things are happening.  So I googled the spiritual meaning or symbolism of dragonflies and was blown away by the accuracy of the meaning of it and what has been happening in my life.  That was a great place for me to formulate affirmations to support what was already trying to come through into alignment.  You can literally google “affirmations about ___” and a lot of options will come up.  Healyourlife.com is a great place to start.  Pick a couple that really draw your attention.

When picking your affirmation, remember that you are making a connection between your conscious and unconscious mind.  The unconscious mind does not understand the negative.  Meaning, it doesn’t understand: “I don’t want” or “no”.  So, “I don’t want to be in debt” only affirms debt.  Further, David Richo says:  “The unconscious mind has no past or future or wish.  It understands only here, now, is, am and yes” (p. 212).

Finally, it is important to remember that affirmations are suggestions, so try not to apply the practical mind to them.  No need to worry about getting super literal.  You are blending your effort (conscious) and some allowing to make a connection to what is already perfect in your essence (unconscious).  All you are doing is creating a path for it to come to the surface and for you to live in alignment with it rather than living in fear and the drama/pain of the neurotic ego. 

Like all things, this is a practice.  It requires your attention and some grace (meaning:  you don’t have to try super hard).  You will get better at it over time.  A cool side effect of this practice is that you start to realize the things you are saying to yourself and sometimes it is not very nice!  You start to realize that you can choose your thoughts, which means you realize that you can actually create your reality.  Notice how things around you change as you choose your thoughts more wisely. 

*This post is written in response to a section in David Richo's book "When Love Meets Fear: Becoming Defense-Less and Resource-Full".  

Get closer or move away?

by Adrian W. Hall, MFT, ATR

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Sometimes it is hard to tell whether we should honor and stay with our difficult feelings or to distract ourselves and not focus so much on them.  Generally speaking, as a therapist, I am in support of honoring and staying with feelings, especially since most us of naturally employ avoidance tactics.  But what about when that is causing more suffering than necessary?

In the next section of the book, David Richo talks about affirmations.  Earlier in my life, my association to affirmations was that they were a way to bypass reality and ignore/avoid.  It is my understanding that David Richo suggests using affirmations in a meaningful way that supports creating a reality and state of being that is your choice, drawing from the best parts of you that already exist.  But before we get into that, I want to talk a little bit more about the question about staying with or moving away from feelings because this comes up a lot for clients and friends.

Feelings are agents of our emotional system that deliver messages to us.  They are meant to make a delivery and move on. Just like the FedEx guy comes and drops off your package (signature required, this is fancy mail!) and leaves.  He doesn’t stay and chat for the rest of the afternoon or move into your place, right?  Ok, same deal.  As soon as you sign for the package, that feeling is on its way out because it did its job.   If you don’t sign and acknowledge the feeling, the guy is going to have to come back.  The messages help us know what to do or not do, say or not say, get closer or move away.  Get good at opening the door and being there to sign when those packages come in.  It is important to honor real feelings.

Now, there are time when your tricky brain is not telling you the truth.  Your brain is actually doing something that it thinks is more important, which is protect you.  Sometimes your brain will send up the alert system, fear, in order to help you avoid experiencing pain that you have experienced before.  If there is something that has hurt you before, and it has, since we are humans living in a human world, your brain will do you the favor of trying to make sure that never happens again, without you even knowing.  Usually, the fear being activated is illogical and, what David Richo calls, “neurotic fear”.  How do you know if it is neurotic fear?  You can do a little test.  Ask yourself 1.  Is this true? (meaning: is the thought causing the fear true?)  2.  Is it helpful?  If you get “no” on either one, that is illogical fear that you don’t need to get into.  It needs to be acknowledged, but you don’t need to spend a whole lot of time on it.  Here’s an example:  Is it true that there could be a big earthquake?  Yes.  Is it helpful to walk around every day thinking about the fact that it could happen any second?  No.  You can prepare reasonably.  But obsessing about it is not going to help you.

So, what do you need to do?  You can reframe it.  For example: “I know that an earthquake is not happening right now and it is not probable” or “I know this fear is not real.  I am completely safe right now”.  And/or, you need to start thinking about or doing something else.  Literally, get into something else.  Call someone and ask about their day, listen closely and get absorbed in what they are saying.  Play a videogame.  I really don’t care what you do as long as you are super into it and it is safe.

Another situation when it is better to move away from your feelings (after acknowledging them, you can tell the FedEx guy he has the wrong address) is when you have a false belief going on that is giving you some really unpleasant feelings like fear, hopelessness, anxiety, shame.  Here’s how you know this is going on:  you have had this thought or some version of it going on for a long time.  It causes regular suffering.   You can ask your friends if your worry is a familiar theme.  They likely know.  There probably is some pain in there that comes from your past that you need to pay attention to and work out at a certain point.  However, if you have already worked on it, this thought/feeling cycle might just be a habit.  You need to stop poisoning yourself and get off that racetrack.  There’s a good chance that the thoughts and feelings around that false belief are not only unpleasant, but also reinforcing more of that theme to show up in your life.  Why do you want to reinforce negative things that are not even true?  You don’t.  So, that is another time when you need to acknowledge that thought/feeling pattern and back away, get into something else.  Catch yourself in the act and move away from it.

If you want to read more about neurotic fear and identifying it, check out Distinguishing Types of Fear.  To know more about the system for healthfully processing your feelings (i.e. opening the door, signing for and unpacking your delivery), readBuild Your Bridge.

*This post is written in response to a section in David Richo's book "When Love Meets Fear: Becoming Defense-Less and Resource-Full".