Affirmations Under Fire: A Response – The Affirmation Spot for Wednesday June 8, 2009

Ray’s Daily Affirmation:

“Focus on the goal…When I set out to achieve something I eliminate all the negatives and naysayers and focus completely on my goal.”
(Download this mp3 affirmation or 100s of others at The Affirmation Spot)





depressionRecently, a study questioning the validity of affirmations (“positive statements”) was published in Psychological Science. The paper entitled “Positive Self-Statements: Power for Some, Peril for Others” was co-authored by Dr. Joanne Wood, Elaine Perunovic, and John W. Lee.

Today I am going to share my own thoughts on this research and would invite mental health professionals, people in the coaching and self-development fields, or ordinary readers who have used affirmations to comment on the topic.

The researchers conducted a study based on the following premise from their paper’s abstract.

Positive self-statements are widely believed to boost mood and self-esteem, yet their effectiveness has not been demonstrated. We examined the contrary prediction that positive self-statements can be ineffective or even harmful. A survey study confirmed that people often use positive self-statements and believe them to be effective.  

Two experiments showed that among participants with low self-esteem, those who repeated a positive self-statement (‘‘I’m a lovable person’’) or who focused on how that statement was true felt worse than those who did not repeat the statement or who focused on how it was both true and not true.

Among participants with high self-esteem, those who repeated the statement or focused on how it was true felt better than those who did not, but to a limited degree. Repeating positive self-statements may benefit certain people, but backfire for the very people who ‘‘need’’ them the most.

I am always shocked and dismayed by the cynicism that emerges when the subject of positive thinking comes up. This research certainly seems to have awakened a cadre of bloggers and journalists ready to pounce and denounce positive thinking as a sham. I have written often on this blog about the constant stream of disempowering messages that some in media like to produce. I have also written about the whole concept that somehow positive thinking is perceived as less “realistic” than negative thinking. Both of these factors seem to be in play as this story unfolds.

Let me begin by expressing my alarm, not at this study or its results, but at the way it has been heralded in the mainstream and psychological press as empirical evidence that positive thinking is a fraud. Those 20 year old images of Stuart Smalley have been dusted off and pushed front and center to ridicule the practice of thinking positively.

Oprah, Wayne Dyer, and other luminaries in what I would term the “empowered thinking” movement have been chided for their support of such nonsense. Their statements that we human beings are capable of amazing things when we change the way we think have been taken to task as fantasy.

Some Examples of the typical media fair:

Worst of all, people suffering from depression and other negative thinking disorders have been told that thinking positively is bad for them and it should be avoided because it will make them feel worse.

I have been in contact directly with Dr. Wood. It is my belief that she and her colleagues are trying to conduct honest research and find honest answers to honest questions. After reading and digesting the paper that resulted from their research, I am convinced that the flaw lies not in the researchers’ intentions, but in the selected methodology. Dr. Wood, based on her writing, agrees that specific statements may have more efficacy than the general “I am lovable” statement used in the experiments that led to the paper.

“Moment by moment, brick by brick, I am building a life full of things more important to me than my problems.”

This topic is very near and dear to my heart. I don’t speak as an outsider on the topics of affirmations or severe depression. 20 years ago, at the age of 25, I nearly died due a severe depression and undiagnosed Addison’s Disease. The fact is I should have been dead. My electrolytes were below levels capable of supporting life. I had eaten nothing and drank little for weeks and I was down to 96 pounds. My father had to carry me into the hospital emergency room. Every cell in my body hurt and I wanted to die to escape the pain – physical and psychological that I was feeling.

Affirmations were an absolute mainstay in my climb from that deep, dark place. They remain a key part of my success today.

optimismWhen I encounter someone who is suffering from depression, anxiety, or other difficult life situations; it’s not theoretical to me. I understand what they are going through. I know the struggles I had for years after that hospital visit. I know the hard work and determination it took to change my thinking and change my life. My passion is to help people who suffer from these conditions to get better and live the life they came here to live.

That’s why I started The Affirmation Spot. That’s why I spend a couple of hours every day tweeting affirmations for people on Twitter. That’s why messages of disempowerment and “you can’t” being delivered by the media and mental health professionals bother me so much. I know it feels like you can’t sometimes, but you can! It’s not hyperbole, magic, or a scam. It’s the truth. I did it and so can you!

I applaud Dr. Wood and her colleagues for tackling this topic and attempting to put science behind what my experience and that of so many others clearly demonstrates.

However, the study failed to grasp the process required for affirmations (“positive statements”) to impact the thinking of a depressed person. Subjects were questioned about their mood during the cognitive dissonance that is always sure to occur during an attempt to shift thinking. I know this personally, as I have encountered it many times. In fact, every time I use affirmations to pursue some new goal I encounter cognitive dissonance.

The research apparently took place in a single instance. Affirmations take time, repetition, belief, and commitment to impact and replace negative thinking. There is no evidence that study participants had any commitment to change their feeling of “not being lovable” by use of the affirmation. They certainly did not have time for repetition to have its effect.

The measurements in this study were akin to measuring the muscle growth of someone after one workout in the gym.

As someone who turned my life around using affirmations and other tools and now works to help others do the same, I can state that this research is preliminary, incomplete, and far from conclusive.

My view is that the research should continue and that a methodology conducive to a true study of this question should be devised to examine the validity of these findings. I suggest the following criteria as a starting point.

  1. Clinical Trial – conduct a real clinical trial using real psychological patients rather than grad students. There should be a controlled group or perhaps even a comparison against other treatment options.
  2. Decision – participants should be people with a a commitment to changing their negative beliefs, thoughts, and habits. Affirmations are just wishful thinking without a decision to change. Without this commitment, neither affirmations nor most other treatment courses will work.
  3. Time – affirmations are just like an exercise program. It takes time for the results to be seen. The affirmations have to be used, as with any other treatment, over a period of time and progress in mood and behavior monitored for positive change.
  4. Targeted Change and Affirmations – both the thoughts, beliefs, or behaviors to be changed must be identified and affirmations specific and appropriate should be used. “I am lovable” is a nice sentiment, but a a weak affirmation to produce real change. The goals to be achieved, obviously, have to be realistic.
  5. Multiple Content Types – The affirmations should be delivered audibly, verbally, and visually to account for varying learning styles. I also recommend what I call holographic affirmations – first person, second person, and named affirmations. First person affirmations are said to obtain ownership of the affirmation. Second person affirmations are used as thought replacement because the overwhelming majority of negative thoughts come into our minds as “you” statements. Name affirmations get the person’s attention by using the sweetest sound in the language – their name – as a cue.
  6. Reinforcemnt – progress must be reinforced to solidify the positive, empowered thinking we want to achieve. There are a lot of competitors to fill the voids of our thoughts and emotions media, family, religion, government, etc. If we are not encouraging and reinforcing the thoughts of our choosing, someone else will fill that void. That is how most people wound up being LSE in the first place. They listened to others about how they should feel and think about themselves

This study and the media feeding that has followed leaves millions of depressed people with the impression that thinking positive, empowering thoughts is not a viable solution for them. I am living proof that this is not so.

The idea that these people should be left to wallow in the realism of their depressive thoughts is a sad and unwarranted message. Yes, change is hard, but change is part of human potential. To tell someone obsessed with negative thoughts that thinking better thoughts is “dangerous” or “fruitless” (as many articles about this study have) is the height of irresponsibility.

I would hope that this research continues along the lines described above and that studies measuring the true efficacy of affirmations as a tool can be conducted. 20 years of my life and my interactions with many, many people tell me that such research will demonstrate that sensible positive thinking is an option and a way to the light for those suffering, as I once did.

In closing, I have one simple question. Regardless of the situation you are facing in life, are you going to have better results facing it with the burden of negative thoughts or with the empowerment of positive thoughts? The answer is clear. Positive thoughts are not the enemy. Negative thoughts are the problem. We need to keep that in perspective.

Stay inspired!

Ray

2009 Affirmation

“This year I am absolutely committed to being the person I came here to be!”

It’s About You – The Affirmation Spot for Wednesday September 17, 2008

I did an absolute no no in the blogging world today. I purposely tagged this article with the names of a number of famous people to shamelessly attract you to it. My reason will be clear in a moment.

We are a culture that invests a lot of time and energy on fame and celebrity. We’re obsessed with the latest fashions worn by stars and by stories of their luxurious lifestyles or tragic slips. We are obsessed with sports stars, movie stars, singing stars, and Dancing with the Stars.

We’d never consider missing the big game. In fact, we’ll rearrange our lives to watch it. But spend three hours quietly reflecting on our lives, where we are, and where we’re going? Well, maybe we’ll have time for that next week or next month or when we’re older.

You visited this article in the hopes of finding out some little tidbit about the celebrity you were searching. Instead, I’d like to hold up a mirror and remind you that your life is about you not about them.

There is nothing wrong with diversions. In moderation, they are actually quite normal and healthy. The danger comes when they prevent us from doing the one thing we are here to do.

The truth is you are here to learn about you. You are not here to be a follower; having your thoughts downloaded to you every day by talk radio or becoming a slave to this season’s fashions. As long as you are, you will never be free.

You are here to take the circumstances and abilities you have and make the most of them. You are here to express the uniqueness that no one else living on this planet can. You are here to think for yourself and be yourself.

Here is a challenge. This week spend as much time on you as you do following sports scores, fashion, the music charts, or celebrity gossip. You may just rediscover this amazing person full of potential and ready to take on new dreams.

Fame and celebrity, even for the few lucky enough to catch it, are a fieeting morning mist. You cannot grab it and hold it because the Sun burns it off in the blink of an eye.

You, however, are substantial and worth time and effort you now put into other things.

Stay inspired!

Ray

Oprah’s Big Give Comes to Denver – The Affirmation Spot for Monday March 10, 2008

Thank you for visiting The Affirmation Spot. Your comments on the blog or this article are always welcome. What do you think? Please click here to comment on today’s blog.




ray_launchpad.jpgWhat Ray’s reading right now:

April and I are reading A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose. This is the latest Oprah’s Book Club selection. Oprah and the author Eckhart Tolle are hosting a 10-week online course covering this book. The next session is Monday March 10 at 9:00 eastern, 8:00 central time in the U.S. This week’s session covers chapter 2. You can register for free at Oprah.com



Download 2 Affirmations, Get 1 Free!

Take your positive thoughts with you wherever you go. During the month of March Download any two mp3 affirmations from The Affirmation Spot.com and get a third mp3 affirmation free. There are no limits! Simply type the word “blog” into the coupon field at checkout. Thanks for getting your audio affirmations at The Affirmation Spot! Click here to view, hear excerpts, or download affirmations.

Today’s featured affirmation is:

“I believe wholeheartedly that I am part of the solution in my life and in my world.”
Hear an audio mp3 version of this affirmation right now.




oprah.jpgAfter last week’s first episode of Oprah’s Big Give, many critics expressed discomfort with people in need being “used” as part of a competitive reality TV show. Episode 2 continued to prove the critics fears are misplaced. This week people all over Denver benefited from the giving generated by the show. Real people received real help for real needs.

Big Give rolled into the Mile High City and taped the episode under tight secrecy in July, according the The Rocky Mountain News.

The nine remaining contestants had 48 hours to find someone in need in the Denver metro and “give big or go home.” With one giving experience under their belts, the contestants really cut loose to truly demonstrate their passion for and commitment to helping others.

Contestants Stephen Paletta (Contractor), Eric Klein (Model), and Cameron Johnson (self-made millionaire) teamed up to raise over $283,000 for the Denver Childrens’ Home. The donations included a new playground and cash and contractors’ time and materials to remodel the home.

Contestant Kim Prentiss worked with the Denver Broncos to identify Boys and Girls Clubs as her charity for the week. In addition to donating iPods, computers, and other goodies, she secured a football autographed (and delivered) by Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler and two of his Bronco teammates. The ball was to be given to one deserving child based on school performance.

Olusegun “Sheg” Aranmolate practiced old-fashion giving by finding individuals in need and handing out money to help them with those needs. He probably made a personal difference in the lives of more people than any other contestant this week.

However, the contestant of the week has to go to TV producer Carlana Stone. Stone found a family in need by talking to people on the street. Her target family included Blair, a 16-year-old girl, struggling with disabilities that made it impossible for her to verbally communicate with others and her older brother Bryce needing financial help for his goal to attend college.  In two days, Stone raised enough money to help the family purchase an electronic device that will allow Blair to speak to her family for the first time and additional money to be used towards helping Bryce go to college.

This week’s big twist came when Oprah asked the contestants to give away the Ford Edge they had been driving. Carlana, herself a paraplegic, had  a car specially equipped. She was able to donate her car to a paraplegic man just leaving the hospital after recovering from his injuries. The man lacked the means to purchase his own car.

Two weeks into the show and hundreds of people already helped by complete strangers on a mission to do good. I suppose the show’s critics can and will continue to attack Big Give. Let them! Real people are receiving real help for real needs. Don’t look now, but Big Give might just change the image of reality TV.

Be peaceful Be prosperous!

Ray

The Affirmation Spot.com

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A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose – An Update

Thank you for visiting The Affirmation Spot. Your comments on the blog or this article are always welcome. What do you think? Please click here to comment on today’s blog.


Big March MP3 Affirmation Sale!

Take your positive thoughts with you wherever you go. During the month of March Download any two mp3 affirmations from The Affirmation Spot.com and get a third mp3 affirmation free. There are no limits! You can download 20 and get 10 free. Simply type the word “blog” into the coupon field at checkout. Thanks for getting your audio affirmations at The Affirmation Spot! Click here to view, hear excerpts, or download affirmations.

Today’s featured affirmation is:

“Achievement. It is not the mountain I conquer, but myself. I am reaching for the top of the mountain and my day in the sun is here.”
Download the audio version of this affirmation set to music from The Affirmation Spot.



213frkycoul__aa_sl110_.jpgAs many of you have probably noticed the past couple of weeks, my wife and I have been reading Eckhart Tolle’s new book A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose.

The book is the latest Oprah’s Book Club selection. She thought so much of this book that she put together a 10-week global interactive webinar to share it with the world. The live webinar takes place each Monday night at 9 p.m. eastern, 8 p.m. central. In between classes, people can work on personalized workbooks and discuss the class online. 

April and I registered for the class that started last night. We’ve been reading the book together. Right now we’re on chapter 3. Based on what I’ve read so far, I heartily recommend this book. If you are far along on your spiritual path, this book is going to remind you of some very important things that you may have forgotten or overlooked. If your journey is just beginning, this book provides a great foundation.

Last night during the live webcast there were a lot of questions from Oprah’s Christian fans about whether this book is “new agey” and fits with their Christian outlook. Several Christians gave testimonials as to how the book was strengthening and deepening their faith.

Eckhart Tolle, the author, provided some fantastic insight into the issue for Christians or others concerned about how the book meshes with their faith. Obviously, these are decisions that each believer must make for himself or herself.

The book is outstanding. Week one of the webcast was wonderful (with the exception of some technical issues). This morning the report on Oprah’s website was that 500,000 people were logged in simultaneously last night making it the largest single event in the history of the Internet. Oprah reported on her show yesterday that people from 139 countries had registered for the course.

The bandwidth (for those of you not familiar with how the Internet works, this is huge) was pushing 242 Gbps. That caused some technical issues. They are working to get the issue corrected for next Monday night’s session.

 It’s Not Too Late

It’s not too late to become part of this historic global webinar and get the benefits of the author’s insights as you read the book. Last night’s  first session can be downloaded to day from either Oprah.com or iTunes.

You can also still register for the webinar at on the registration page at Oprah.com.

Be peaceful Be positive!

Ray

The Affirmation Spot.com

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Oprah’s ‘Big Give’ is a Big Winner – The Affirmation Spot for Monday March 3, 2008

Thank you for visiting The Affirmation Spot. Your comments on the blog or this article are always welcome. Please click here to comment on today’s blog.




ray_launchpad.jpgWhat Ray’s reading right now:

April and I are reading A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose. This is the latest Oprah’s Book Club selection. Oprah and the author Eckhart Tolle are hosting a 10-week online course covering this book beginning Tonight Monday March 3. They recommend reading the book before the class. You can register for free at Oprah.com



Big March MP3 Affirmation Sale!

Take your positive thoughts with you wherever you go. During the month of March Download any two mp3 affirmations from The Affirmation Spot.com and get a third mp3 affirmation free. There are no limits! You can download 20 and get 10 free. Simply type the word “blog” into the coupon field at checkout. Thanks for getting your audio affirmations at The Affirmation Spot! Click here to view, hear excerpts, or download affirmations.

Today’s featured affirmation is:

“I make my world. My world is what I make of it and I choose to make it a compassionate place to be.”
Download an audio version of this affirmation at The Affirmation Spot.com.


 


I hope you’ll indulge me for a moment today as I wish my mom a happy 64th birthday. Happy Birthday, mom!oprah.jpg

Hats off to Oprah Winfrey. Her new reality show – ‘The Big Give’ – is a big winner. This show might just redeem reality TV as something capable of delivering real value. The genre seems riddled with people back-stabbing, lying, and cheating their way to some giant cash prize.

‘The Big Give’ is quite different. The first episode aired Sunday evening on ABC. Once again, Oprah renewed her credentials as America’s matriarch of the heart.The show’s premise is simple. 10 contestants were divided into five teams. Each team was given a person’s name and photograph, directions to his or her house, $5,000, and five days to make as big a difference as possible in their assigned person’s life.

The recipients ranged from a woman with two small children who had lost her husband in a tragic retail store shooting just six weeks before to a homeless mother of two teenagers who had left an abusive relationship and was trying to get her life on track to a graduating UCLA medical student from the inner city determined to give back and inspire kids from the inner city that they can make something of themselves.

Each week one person is eliminated until ‘The Biggest Giver’ is crowned and is awarded a $1 million dollar prize as a reward for the giving they create during the series. The contestants do not know they are vying for this prize. Each contestant is on the show because they are committed to making a difference.

‘Give’ leaves the viewer feeling good and ready to go out and contribute something in the world today. Perhaps the show’s most important gift, though, is that it reminds all of us that we are not alone. When the need is real and request sincere there are always people willing to step up and help us.

I’m sure those who make a career out of despising Oprah will find some way to criticize giving people a reason to demonstrate generosity and concern for their fellow human beings. When they do shame on them!

Our world is full of givers. With ‘The Big Give’, Oprah is capturing that generosity in an entertaining and inspiring way.

Be peaceful Be positive Be prosperous!

Ray

The Affirmation Spot.com

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