Affirmations are widely promoted as a simple way of changing how you feel or how you are. Many self help books recommend
affirmations as the way to change your life.
Affirmations are positive present tense statements of what you want to have, do or be.
• I am happy
• I am confident
• I feel great
You are supposed to repeat these statements to yourself many times in the hope that the affirmation will burrow down into
your subconscious and neutralise all the conditioning that has led you to your current state and begin to draw you to the
But there is a problem with affirmations like these.
If you are reasonably mentally stable there is a part of your mind that checks your reality. Does what I am thinking fit with my
understanding of what is going on in the external world?
If what you are thinking about is not matched by your circumstances this part of your mind will be unhappy and complain about
the discrepancy between what you actually have and what you are affirming you have.
Insisting on the affirmation in the face of the evidence will cause stress and struggle as you consciously try to overwhelm the
objections by repeating your positive thought.
Have you ever noticed how making an effort to think positive thoughts often provokes objections?
The problem is that we are ascribing a state, feeling, or mood to ourselves when there is evidence against it.
Fortunately there is a trick, a verbal sleight of hand that lets us feel the feelings we want to feel without triggering the
The trick takes advantage of our tendency to ascribe the way we feel towards objects in the world.
You have probably heard people talking about ‘miserable’ weather, a ‘peaceful’ view and an ‘invigorating’ day.
Is weather really miserable? Or is it the feeling we have when confronted with particular local climatic conditions?
Is the view feeling peaceful? Or is it the way we feel when looking on that scene?
Is the day itself feeling invigorated? Or is that the response we bring to it?
We can think quite comfortably in these terms, although weather, views and days are all inanimate we can accept their
‘feelings’ as real. We ascribe to them the feelings that we feel in ourselves.
Here’s the trick. If we can ascribe internal feelings to inanimate objects out there, can we ‘give’ inanimate objects the feelings
of our choice and have them returned to us in a way that is quite natural to us without resistance.
Vikas Dikshit an NLP Practitioner from Pune, India took this idea and used it in a clever way when working with a depressed
About 18 months ago a young lady asked me for help for her depression. She was visiting a psychiatrist and taking some medicine for
depression for preceding few months.
I suggested to her to look around and mentally say… “I am sitting on this happy chair. There is this happy table. And these are happy
windows with happy curtains.” I made her do this for about ten minutes. I suggested she does this every day for about ten or fifteen
minutes. (A happy person leaves in a happy world, a sad person lives in a sad world.)
After fifteen days she called to say that she was feeling great now. After about two months she visited the psychiatrist and he stopped
her medicine. She continues to call occasionally and reports that she feels great now. The most recent one was when she was in my
town about ten days ago.
I am not suggesting it will work with every patient of depression. I am not even suggesting one should use it with every patient. I am
only saying I found that it worked with my patient and it is very easy to do.
He reported later that his client still felt great one year after using this technique and that he has used it with other clients.
If he had suggested to the woman that she repeated to herself “I am happy” she would have undoubtedly rejected the
suggestion because it was obvious to her that she wasn’t. The chair, curtains, windows could all be as happy as they liked and
it would not be untrue, however their ‘happiness’ was contagious and the state she ascribed to those objects began to develop
Because to understand the word happy we need to access our own ideas of happiness to make sense of the word. Touching
on our internal representations and memories of happiness, triggers a little drop of happiness to enter our system (however
fleetingly), repetition turns the drop into a trickle and then a stream.
Not only that, by directing her attention to ‘happy’ things in her environment her attention was diverted from whatever
ruminations were fuelling her depression to being aware of the present moment.
This process is not limited to helping depressed people feel happy. You can use it to elicit a useful state in yourself, by
choosing the opposite of what you are feeling.
For example , switching from:
depressed to happy
angry to accepting
anxious to safe
How to use this process
• Become aware of the feeling or state you want to change
• What is the positive opposite of that feeling or state?
• Scan your environment for inanimate sights or sounds.
• Assign the state to the objects in your awareness.
• Example: for the transition from anxious to safe
• I am sitting in the safe seat
• I am looking out of the safe window
• My feet are resting on the safe carpet
• I am wearing my safe shirt
• I can hear the ticking of my safe clock
• Continue this process for as long as you like and use it during the day to change the way you feel.
Note: it is important to choose inanimate objects when you are assigning feelings. If you call other people happy or calm you
may start to compare yourself to them and feel inadequate in some way, this will not help you to feel happy. It’s unlikely that
you will become jealous of a chair, window, cloud or some other inanimate object.