“I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like me!” This, the tag-line of comedian Al Franken’s character of an ironically insecure character of a life-coach on the sketch comedy show “Saturday Night Live,” is perhaps most people’s idea of conscious self-talk, or “affirmation.” But the fact is, self-talk is not an oddball activity in the slightest. We are talking to ourselves all the time, engaging in “discursive thought,” whether we are conscious of this fact, or not. And the words we say to, and about, ourselves, shape our mental and emotional states, and with them, our habits, our lives and our destinies. Consciously altering our habitual self-talk, changing the way we talk to and about ourselves, may sound humorously awkward at first. We may even experience frustration and irritation as internal psychological shifts in attitude and perception begin to take place. But despite the fact that our own minds may at times seem to betray us with negative emotion, insecurity or despair, we can use verbal affirmation to make a friend and ally from the former adversary that was our negative or fearful mind.
Self-talk, like the related practice of visualization, addresses and puts to use the immense power of the subconscious mind. It would be a mistake to view the subconscious as a kind of rug under which we sweep and thereby ignore undesirable thoughts and feelings. Rather, the subconscious is a vast, natural inner world, within which conscious commands and suggestions can germinate, take root, grow and eventually bear fruit – in the form of established new feelings and thought patterns, habits, and even external surroundings. Consider the complexity of the world of dreams, the convincing reality of the characters one may encounter there. Consider the soul-shaking power of a nightmare, or the haunting ecstacy of magically lifting off and flying over the housetops of our private dreamland. The energy and power of this inner sensorium, and all its hidden dramas, still exists when we awaken; it doesn’t leave us, we merely cease to immerse ourselves in it as we go about our day.
Leaving aside any debate about the specific meaning of dreams created in the subconscious mind, or the wisdom that may or may not be discovered there, we have to admit that that the sucbconscious contains a dazzling creative power and vital energy. And this humble view, of our conscious, waking identity as a kind of ship captain on a vast, deep and powerful ocean, is the first step in utilizing self-talk for practical changes in life and personality.
When other duties and therapies had failed him, the French psychiatrist Emile Coue found great success with his patients by coaxing them to repeat to themselves daily the simple phrase “Every day, in every way, I am getting better and better.” Coue’s clinical success establishes for the power of self-talk in the clear light of day, so that we may begin to rationally prove its worth by our own experimentation. The daily affirmative statement of our choosing, like the power of gently flowing water, can now begin to wear down the rock of accumulated habit and conditioning, revealing the inner gold beneath, from which our words of power may continue to hammer into being, day after day, the bright new dreams of our own conscious choice and design.
Some Suggestions – and a Few Rules
First, try to become aware of your current self-talk patterns. Be gentle! It would be absurd to judge yourself about judging yourself. You are making friends with, or deepening your friendship with yourself, which takes time, patience and good will. Negative self-talk may reveal itself in an obvious way, for example, saying out loud “I’m such a mess!” when grappling with obstacles or disorganization. You can listen to these without judgement, and use them as a guide to formulate your own positive, consciously chosen alternatives. In this case, “I’m such a mess!” can be replaced with “I can sort this out,” or “I can do this.” It’s a good idea to honor old, negative patterns, even as you resolve them. They were your mind’s way of protecting itself, of adapting to a traumatic situation or a hostile environment. Don’t dwell on them, just gently begin turning them around and replacing them with a healthier alternative, as above.
Phrase self-talk postitively. Think always of the state or condition you desire, not the one you wish to eliminate. You would avoid a statement like, “I am no longer ill,” prefering instead the formulation “I am whole, healthy and strong.” For releasing anxiety about wealth and programming the mind for success, I have found no better affirmation than Bob Proctor’s “I am so happy and grateful now that money comes to me, in increasing quanties, from multiple sources, on a continuous basis.” Bob Proctory, Shakti Gawain, Napoleon Hill and Wallace D. Wattles have all written admirably about self-talk and related methods of creating postitive life changes of all kinds.
Do it every day, at the same time, preferably in the same place. This sets up a powerful rhythm that increases the effectiveness of your affirmations. Working in front of a mirror is recommended, but certainly not required. You might put up a dedicated calendar to encourage regularity and to chart your progress as your practice gathers momentum.
At first, your practice may feel as awkward and laughable as that of “Stuart Smalley.” Then you may experience a kind of feedback or resonance, an inner response to your self-talk. At last, the repeated positive phrase is almost palpable as a bright, spinning wheel of uplifting energy in the mind. Once you do gain momentum, and really “connect” with an affirmation, you might experience it as a kind of inner storage battery of power that you can tap into, or a lantern to light your way in periods of confusion or difficulty. You will see changes in yourself, and then in your environment as well. Once you reach this point, you will understand that your hours spent pouring effort, passion, sincerity and faith into your self-talk practice are not wasted, and you will probably survey the landscape of your life for more areas to improve with your new-found power. Through gentleness, repetition and persistence, the deeper mind has ceased to become an adversary, and is now a powerful, magical ally, who can transform you and your circumstances, according to your desire.