Affirmations are dumb.

July 24, 2010 § 1 Comment

I don’t know when I became such a cynic.

I believe in self-analysis (a blogger I love tags posts with “An Unexamined Life is Not Worth Living” – One of my all time favorite tags). I believe it’s the only way to grow… And I do believe in growth. Why are we here otherwise? To love, help each other out, experience joy – just thoughts… And growth seems inherent in this process of living. We all come with baggage of one sort or another, some heavier than others, some more complex – and figuring out how to carry it, manage it, or maybe even open & unpack it seems like the way to do the best loving, to help the most, to make the most happiness.

But lately I’ve been shocked and a little rattled (and on the other hand, a little self-righteous), in the strength of my reactions to some things. I’ve talked about the yoga*, and the work I’ve been doing…  A lot of reading, too much thinking, a ton of writing and processing. And I’m telling you, when words like “self-love” “interdependence” “non-judgment” and “spirituality”, “God” even (with it’s own special set of knee-jerk reactions) start showing up (or getting tossed around, which may be part of my issue, these are heavy words), I start to feel my gag reflex kicking in. My open minded self (I know you are still there somewhere) has been bumping squarely into my cynic (arms crossed/frowny face). Where the hell did she come from? Wasn’t it just a few short years ago (more than a decade if you must know, my defensive cynic would like me to clarify) that I was young and doe-eyed and working through “The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People” (it would help me do well in business and in life you know)? Or, slightly more recently and because it seemed like 4 might be easier than 7 – “The Four Agreements”?

Now anything vaguely self-helpy tends to make me want to throw up. And as I’ve been working through this latest emotional storm… trying to understand this dichotomy and why it seems to be such a very big deal (I know that really it’s not)…. Why my skeptic is bothering me so much, why she’s angry at my young self – why my innocent self is feeling a little bruised… And I think that I’m beginning to understand (please jump in and help a girl out here if this makes any sense to you). Of course these words get used (and abused) How many people do YOU know who have it all figured out? How many people do you know who would like to understand what we’re doing here and need a little help working through that? (Maybe a lot of people DON’T think about it… Maybe a lot of people don’t bother with these things. I often think that would be nice. Just live, stop analyzing.) These are all just words right?

But I’m tired of empty words. I’m a little exhausted with my young self who keeps looking for that turn of phrase, that piece of wisdom or perspective that puts it all in it’s right place (I keep forgetting that on some level I already know it, it makes me calm whenever I remember. I’ll share it some other time when I’m feeling brave and I’m not spouting off about empty words). And I’m a little frustrated with the cynic who keeps teaming up with my adolescent to make gagging noises. Why bother? What’s the big deal anyway? I can be all this. I AM all this. I don’t have to have it all figured out – in fact I’m quite sure I never will. This thing (the yoga thing, the meditation, the writing – I have to call it a “thing” see? It makes it less threatening to my cynic) is all about having good tools, I keep telling myself (and I do believe that). Even better to ask questions while I’m learning, right? A healthy dose of skepticism is a good thing, right?

These are the times that I wonder what it is I think I’m doing. That I question my decision to go ahead with teacher training when I am so cynical about these things (not to teach, yet… To study, to learn, to yes, “Grow”) My cynic may say that self-acceptance is a whole lot of fluffy garbage, but my self, the one that has a hard time speaking sometimes when she feels passionately about something, the one who still seems to be looking for approval – the young one, the one that needs to know that it all MATTERS (even while I believe that 90% of it all is really just MATH), is a little tired of all the drama. I’ve started to recognize in recent years that beating myself up is a waste of time (as much as is self-pity. I will indulge myself many things, but that one truly makes me ill). And while that doesn’t stop me from periods of self-flagellation (Drama, drama), I do keep working on it. And every time I have a little moment of calm inside, every time I am able to say aloud what I feel without freaking out, (without looking away from your eyes while I say it) without chastising myself or replaying it for hours (days, weeks, months…..) – even in the most benign of situations, even the most basic of words “I’m uncomfortable with that”, I know that there is something here for me (with the yoga-thing). That even though I want to puke** saying it, I’m starting to get the idea that it’s my own approval that I may need more than anyone else’s. That I have learned this behavior, and I can unlearn it. And that until I can give this to myself, well, the cynic will keep antagonizing the seeker. Shit. Did I just called myself a seeker? Sound effects please!!

*“The primary aim of yoga is to restore the mind to simplicity and peace, to free it from confusion and distress.” (BKS Iyengar), the physical poses we’re most familiar with is just a part of it. This is the stuff I’ve been digging into, along with working my thighs & abs (&, &, & – even tiny muscles in my hands…)

**and even though I’ve had to go looking for synonyms for the word “vomit”…  You are most welcome to leave your suggestions for additional options in the comments!

§ One Response to Affirmations are dumb.

  • heatherknits says:

    I’m struggling with this right now. I just finished reading Norman Peale’s The Power of Positive Thinking (originally published in the 1950s?), which is predicated on Christianity, memorizing Bible passages, and trusting in God – AND repeating affirmations.

    Sort of as a personal challenge, I finished the book. At the end, he says, go back to the beginning and put into place the steps he advised throughout. Well – I just don’t think I’m going to do it. On the other hand, is there something key that I’m missing by not actually verbalizing the positive thoughts that I want myself or the universe to put into action?

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