The power of affirmations

What ever Tyler Durden from Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club may say, I am a beautiful and unique snowflake.

You see, your reality is your delusion. Whatever your outlook on life, yourself, or others, it’ll always be subjective. You may align your outlook with thousands or millions of other human beings, but their observation of the universe will also be subjective. In essence, you can believe what you want to believe. Obviously, if you stray to far from the collective reality then bad things will start happening, like bankruptcy if you believe you are materially wealthy beyond your means, or being committed to an institution if you start proclaiming yourself as Jesus. However, small deviations from what your mind (and especially your insecurities) might initially tell are actually incredibly powerful.

I’m a firm believer in the mind being part of the body. You can believe things about soul, or spirit, but your existence is intricately tied to how your body, and in particular your brain works. The brain is a neural network, neural networks work through updating the connections between neurons based on feedback of whether they were useful to activate at a certain time (in an extremely abstract and slightly incorrect summary). Another feature of the brain’s neural network, is that connections are established and only reinforce themselves if they are actually used. Thus if you repeat an affirmation, you are literally making yourself believe it. It doesn’t matter if you initially don’t believe it, the fact that the sentence… for example “I eat healthy foods”, might not apply immediately, doesn’t matter. Purely by parsing and processing THAT idea, it’s becoming part of your consciousness. If you repeat this 100 times a day “I eat healthy foods” becomes a stronger connection (indeed, VERY strong, since most ideas we have are not repeated so frequently unless we are studying or whatever) and more ingrained in your psyche. Later, even if you don’t consciously perceive that thought, it’s still being activated and used at an unconscious level.

Now, I’m not going to claim this will suddenly change you, but like anything worth doing, it takes time. In particular, intermittent learning is a lot more powerful than swatting for an exam and forgetting everything afterwards, and the same applies to affirmations. Doing affirmations for a couple of days won’t make much of a difference (although it’ll plant a seed).

Since most of this post has been me spouting knowledge which I’m too lazy (oops, this is a negative identification… I’m not actually lazy, I’ve just got more pressing matters to attend to then searching the net to support one of my mind dumps) to find references for, here is something related. The idea of affirmations could be made even more powerful by watching your brain in real-time as you make the statement, and compare it to the reaction of other statements you either believe to be stronger true or false as recently seen on TED.

Your mind can never change
Unless you ask it to
Lovingly re-arrange
The thoughts that make you blue
The things that bring you down
Only do harm to you
And so make your choice joy
The joy belongs to you

Massive Attack – What your soul sings


#1   Vladimir Nesov on 06.26.08 at 12:48 pm

You learn from the whole impression from the stimulus, not just from its surface. If every time you hear “I eat healthy food”, you also think “but not really”, you’ll learn “but not really” part too. When you are tired, or sour from endless repeating, you may loose the ability to supply deeper interpretation or recalled associations, in which case you become suggestible and will indeed learn even things that contradict what you knew.

#2   Joel on 06.26.08 at 5:24 pm

Hmm, this is true. I guess this is why paraliminal hypnosis mp3s are somewhat more effective. Since they make you relax and generally you avoid concentrating on what’s being said, even though it still gets processed.

Also, the paraliminal systems I’ve used have different hemisphere specific statements for each ear, so even if you concentrate on one set of statements, it’s difficult to pay attention to the other unless you consciously shift your attention to it.

#3   Jonathan Dotse on 07.13.08 at 3:16 am

Being trapped inside one state of mind has a paralyzing influence on the mind. From my personal observations, people are are more drugged up than they can possibly imagine. The only way to find reality is to drift in between the many worlds, and identify the artifacts that remain the same in all of them, because they are the ones we can cling to as reality.

#4   Joel on 07.15.08 at 3:11 am

@Jonathan: Yeah, if something maintains it’s truth regardless of which particular world view you are using, then there’s a good chance it’s a somewhat objective truth.

#5   electric consciousness on 07.15.08 at 9:21 pm


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