How Spiritual Affirmations Effect Positive Core Change
“Logotherapy” is a school of psychotherapy that takes its inspiration from psychiatrist and neurologist Viktor Frankl’s (1905-1997) concept, “will to meaning.” Frankl, a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps, came to believe that human beings are mainly motivated by an inner drive (or “will”) to attach meaning to their experiences, including situations of suffering. For Frankl, this discovery of one’s life meaning was possible for two reasons: first, life has meaning in all circumstances, even the most horrible ones; second, human beings have the freedom to find meaning in their circumstances, even the most horrible ones.
One way to exercise this freedom to choose what matters to us — what gives us purpose and meaning — is to practice spiritual affirmations. Spiritual affirmations are statements that instill our lives with meaning, and in my work with clients I’ve come to see how a regular diet of these affirmations over time leads to positive core changes that support recovery. What follow are thus some insights from the world of science and from a couple of my favorite spiritual thinkers regarding how spiritual affirmations effect positive core change.
The Link Between Spiritual Beliefs and Health
First, there is new research to support the effectiveness of spiritual affirmations as a method for effecting positive core change. A 2015 study at the University of Missouri revealed a direct link between people’s spiritual views and their health. Strikingly, people who attribute their health problems to unchangeable spiritual forces have more pain and worse mental and physical health. The researchers concluded that targeted interventions that correct negative spiritual beliefs improve overall health and decrease pain.
Two important extensions of this finding are that people can change negative spiritual beliefs —they have the freedom to choose what matters to them, à la Frankl — and that these modifications in spiritual belief result in positive life changes, such as better physical and mental health. Enter spiritual affirmations, as one such “targeted intervention” for effecting positive core change.
The Analogy of the Tomato Plant
Louise Hay, who authored the bestselling book Heal Your Body, has used the analogy of the tomato plant to describe how positive life change happens as the result of planting “tiny, small seeds” in the form of spiritual affirmations. A healthy tomato plant begins with only one tiny seed. That one tiny seed, when planted in fertile soil and cultivated with sun and water, soon develops into a tiny shoot. When that first shoot comes up, Hay writes, “You don’t stomp on it and say ‘That’s not a tomato plant.’ Rather, you look at it and say, ‘Oh boy! Here it comes,’ and you watch it grow with delight. In time … you might have a tomato plant with more than a hundred luscious tomatoes.”
Spiritual affirmations are the seeds that we plant in our subconscious. Over time, as we continue to plant these seeds and nurture them with regular meditation, their meaning takes root in our subconscious mind and begins to enact changes in our lives.
That reality is the source of this affirmation by Hay for her readers: “Spiritual growth often comes in ways I do not expect, so I regularly sweep out negative thoughts to clear the way for the new.”
The same can be true for clients in treatment for drugs and alcohol. A daily discipline of clearing out the negative beliefs that feed an addiction and replacing them with positive affirmations over time can heal your body, mind and spirit.
Spiritual Affirmations From Marianne Williamson
Another spiritual thinker whose work is an inspiration for anyone seeking to make positive life changes is Marianne Williamson. Williamson has written several New York Times bestsellers. Her writings are also a rich source of spiritual affirmations for recovery.
One of the most well-known is this quote from Robinson: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our Light, not our Darkness, that most frightens us.”
Here are a few more to affirm in your recovery:
- “Ego says that once everything falls into place, I will feel peace. Spirit says, ‘find your peace and then everything will fall into place.’”
- “Spiritual progress is like detoxification. Things have come up in order to be released. Once we have asked to be healed then our unhealed places are forced to surface.”
- “The practice of forgiveness is our most important contribution to the healing of the world.”
- “Love is what we were born with. Fear is what we learned here.”