We’ve begun the task of identifying our old patterns of behavior and thought processes. We’ve come to realize the reasons for the way we’ve behaved and that it was neither our fault nor our choice.
One of the most common destructive behavior patterns we follow is avoiding being emotionally intimate in relationships. We act this out in many ways: by creating a drama, by taking care of others’ needs and by not our own or acting out with excess drinking, sex, work etc. All these patterns enabled us to hide our true selves so we wouldn’t have to own up to our real feelings. We examine these particular patterns in another step.
For now we must begin the journey towards developing enough self-respect so that when we catch ourselves getting drawn back into familiar ways - we can stop. We aren't telling ourselves how bad we’ve been; we’re telling ourselves that we are smart to want change and grow through understanding what brings suffering to us and what brings us happiness.
We start with some gentle affirmations that help us to join together all the previous exercises. These affirmations are like positive brainwashing techniques that will, if done on a regular basis, begin to challenge old, negative thoughts. The old thoughts come from a critical voice with which we grew up. This voice is usually our parents' and is full of judgment. We learn to squeeze out that voice and replace it with a voice from the person we really are and not from the person we were told we were.
The affirmation exercise involves writing positive affirmations about 20 times twice a day. Upon writing the affirmation, we often hear a negative response from within our thoughts. Just allow the response to be and don’t try to change it. Once it fades away, continue writing the affirmation. Each time a negative response arrives, watch it fade away and then continue writing. Each time you do this you are bringing the negative responses out of your unconscious.
We were given these negative responses over and over as children. For example, consistently hearing ‘you should be grateful for what you get’ becomes imbedded in a child, as ‘you’re not worth anything’. By repeatedly writing the positive affirmation ‘you have a right to ask for and have your needs met’, you are catching the old message off guard and embedding new thoughts into your subconscious. See in the table for examples of old messages and their opposite positive affirmations.
Begin with some similar positive affirmations that fit into your critical thinking. Listen carefully to what thoughts come out and then write their polar, positive opposite. Do this 20 times, twice a day for 21 days. Research shows that it takes 21 days for an old habit to be replaced with a new habit. We will do more affirmation exercises further along in the Program.