A Balancing Act
I was employed as a counselor for 27 years in the chemical dependency field, and several of my treatment approaches were based on a cognitive model of therapy. When any therapist deals with cognition as it relates to chemical dependency, they are usually addressing automatic negative thoughts that have contributed to continued relapse and otherwise destructive behavior. One of the suggested cognitive approaches to counteract negative thinking is the use of affirmations. Affirmations are positive self– statements that are consciously introduced into a person’s stream of consciousness. The belief is that if an individual uses affirmations consistently, that negative thinking will eventually be significantly reduced. It also stands to reason that if the person is feeling more positive about him/herself, then their actions will also be more positive. As a result, a fulfilling and balanced lifestyle can be attained.
The Voice of Forgiveness
Initially, it is recommended that affirmations be rehearsed daily, several times per day. They can be spoken out loud in front of a mirror or into a tape recorder. They can also be repeated silently to oneself. Recording affirmations can be a very powerful tool. Imagine hearing your own voice affirming a part of you that was hurt, wounded or otherwise damaged due to trauma. The voice of forgiveness is most powerful and life changing when it emanates from ourselves.
The Need to Sit With and Honor Our Pain
I believe that a person can affirm strength following a crisis situation only if he/she is willing to sit with it and let the pain and/or other emotions associated with it permeate the core of you’re his/her very being. After my daughter Jeannine’s death at the age of 18 in March of 2003, affirmations were one of the tools that allowed me to find renewed purpose in life again. The affirmations that I developed were a direct result of what I discovered from sitting with and eventually honoring my pain. It would be desirable to affirm our strength from a crisis without experiencing the raw, emotional pain associated with it. However, I do not believe that we can effectively and authentically affirm what we haven’t allowed ourselves to first experience.
I have developed several affirmations that have helped me survive and thrive after Jeannine’s death and find meaning again. Here are a few of them:
- “Though Jeannine has died, I will eventually experience joy again.”
- “Today I will make it.”
- “ Jeannine works with me and through me, therefore she is still a part of me.
- “ I am loved and supported by those people who truly matter to me.”
It is imperative that we develop affirmations that are individualized and meaningful to us. I have never bought into “canned affirmations” because they are the projections of someone else’s experiences. The affirmations that you develop need to be a product of your own unique grief experiences. Embracing and affirming our grief experience is also the key to leading empowered and transformed lives after the deaths of our children.