Affirmations are an incredibly powerful tool to use that can be used for so many different purposes. I learned this through experience and practice. It took me almost ten years to find the strength inside of myself to truly desire to use this practice.
I dismissed myself as unhelpable!
When I was sixteen, I started going to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).
My therapist began to explain the concept behind this type of therapy. She told me that you can change your feelings by altering your thoughts, and ultimately transform your behaviours. In CBT, negative thought patterns are identified and replaced with “positive” ones.
My therapist essentially asserted that if I used a self-affirming thought instead of self-defeating one, I could feel better. I dismissed her. I argued with her. How dare she tell me that I could just change my thoughts or my feelings.
My thoughts were a valid assessment of my undesirable life circumstances, and my feelings were MINE! At that time, it seemed like all I had to ground me.
My identity was all I had, and it was that of a broken, hurt child. I clung onto this. The resistance I felt was overwhelming and it manifested in therapy in many ways, including the ultimate result of me no longer engaging or seeking a new therapist when mine left to have a baby. I felt abandoned, and I did not use the skills she gave me.
I was given a thought record to complete. I identified the thoughts that came up, the feelings, and how I acted. I could not see a reason to let go of the thoughts. I was scared to change. I was scared to let go of my identity as it seemed like the only solid thing in my life at the time.
I convinced myself at this time that I was some sort of exception, and the trauma that I had experienced was enough to prevent me from being able to receive any benefits from this type of therapy. Intuitively, I knew CBT could help people. I dismissed myself as unhelpable. I equated myself as separate from “people.”
Understanding that you can learn new beliefs and unlearn negative beliefs!
This attitude pervaded for years until I faced a mental health crisis almost ten years later.
Riddled with panic and anxiety, an adult version of myself remembered this experience. In those ten years I witnessed people change their feeling and thinking. In those ten years I gave CBT to youth who felt like me and saw it work for them. I saw that it was not an overnight solution, but that it could work more quickly than I previously believed.
Leading up to my mental health crisis, I met someone who was living very simply. He gifted me the book “The Autobiography of a Yogi” and modeled elements of spirituality that I had previously dismissed.
Following the crisis, I reconnected with him and learned how he had transformed his trauma and negative beliefs about himself. I began to read about yoga, about affirmations, about spirituality and buddhism and so many more things. I quickly became overwhelmed.
The voices in my head kicked in again, “You’ll never learn all this,” “You don’t know what you’re doing.”
This time I stopped. I did the CBT homework with an open mind – ten years later.
Where is this thought coming from – “I’ll never learn all this.” What’s the underlying belief? The layers run deep. I believe I can’t learn this. Why? Because I can’t change. Why? Because I’ve experienced too much trauma. Why does that matter? Because it taught me I can’t accomplish things, that I do not have worth, that I am not capable. Wait. I learned that. So maybe… I can learn new thoughts!
Learning about chakras
I had received an ‘aura reading’ about a month after the crisis. She wrote that I was healing my root chakra.
At this time I began to believe that I needed to learn more about chakras and set my intentions towards healing them. I found information online that went through each chakra, divulging their distinct elements; how they influence the body in physical and emotional ways, their seeds sounds and more. For each chakra there was a set of affirmations.
Using affirmations with chakras
I spent seven weeks on the road driving around North America. I drove from Toronto to Vancouver Island on the west coast of Canada, and back in the span of a month, and then I drove from Toronto to Miami, Florida. Remembering the power of replacing thoughts from what I witnessed and learned about CBT, I decided to focus my intentions on chakra balancing.
Each week I would focus on a chakra. I chose a few of my favourite affirmations. My favourites were those I experienced the most resistance to.
I started with Muladhara (root) Chakra. “I feel safe and secure.”, “I am connected to my body.”, “I am grateful for the challenges that helped me to grow and transform.”
My experience was extraordinary. I typically would sit in a meditative stance and focus on a body of water.
I would say the affirmation aloud. The first time I would hear myself say it, I could feel the resistance. I could feel the youth inside of me clinging to her ego identity as a person who is NOT safe and secure, who feels victimized by her life’s challenges. My whole body resisted and tensed.
I would say it again. And again and again until my body relaxed. I found that on the third repetition, part of me believed this to be true. I would practice that set of affirmations daily and sometimes twice a day until my body no longer resisted it upon the first repetition.
I started to believe. I started to FEEL safer and more secure. I started to FEEL more grateful.
These feelings and thoughts started to translate to my daily life. I saw underlying value shifts in my behaviours and decisions. Those seven weeks on the road changed my life. I began to follow my intuition, which lead me to sign up for a yoga teacher training without researching the type of yoga being taught.
When I arrived I found that I was learning Sivananda yoga, a type of yoga that uses a sequence specifically intended for chakra balancing and healing.
My intentions to heal myself by understanding my chakras continued to manifest!
These experiences were over a year ago. I returned home from my yoga teacher training in Mexico to a cold and dark Canada. I faced external challenges. This was a great time to again use affirmations to change my thoughts, feelings and behaviours. I was successful at times, and not in others. It is an ongoing practice because I’ve had so many years of practice of letting the dismissive thoughts take priority, and resisting change that I know can make me feel better.
Affirmations are powerful!
Just the other day, I was lying in bed. I heard my internal voice saying, “I can’t get up. I’m sick. I’m too tired. I don’t want to get up. I should just rest today.” I noticed this. I remembered affirmations. I challenged myself and told myself, “I can do this. I will feel better when I am up. This is temporary. I can believe different thoughts. These thoughts are not my identity.”
I felt my body relax, and I felt strength to face the day. It is not always easy, but I have the tools to change my internal voice and how I react to situations. I learned the power of affirmations.