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When Affirmations are not Enough

    As part of your healing process you may find yourself being drawn to things like affirmations and motivational messages. You notice them. You pay attention to them. You seek them out. You buy the little book of daily affirmations. You sign up to get a motivational message sent to your email every day. You cut out each inspirational anecdote you come across and stick it in your scrapbook.

    You�re trying to move along in your healing and it seems like doing this will help. Sometimes it does, and the positive changes are lasting. Sometimes it helps, but only temporarily. And sometimes it just doesn�t work at all. The $15.95 you spent on the book seems wasted. When wonderful words about strength, belief, possibility, and triumph don�t seem to help pull you past the difficulties in your life, how does that make you feel? Like a failure? Weak? Lost? Hopeless?

    Don�t put the burden of judgement and blame on yourself. That won�t help you. That would be punishment for trying to heal. Instead, understand there is a reason it didn�t work. You need a deeper level of healing.

    Affirmations and motivational messages are great, and they can help. But think of them this way. They are agents of healing just like a standard size Band-aid is an agent of healing. When there�s a minor cut on your skin, a Band-aid works well. To help heal a large, deep gash, it�s next to useless.

    On their own, affirmations are most effective when you have healed to the point that your emotional wounding is comparable to a surface scratch. You feel the pain, but you�re not in agony. For the deep cuts, the antidote is careful, patient nurturing of new positive experiences that can range from things like building open, honest relationships to achieving more concrete goals like landing a good job. This is what will instill strength, courage, belief, and possibility. This is what ultimately transforms the deep wounds of the past. Words alone are not enough.

    Was the money wasted on the book? Was your effort all for nothing? Absolutely not! Anything and everything you do in an attempt to heal is worthwhile. The positive thoughts of others will fit into your healing process in a helpful way when the time is right � that is, when you�re ready to receive them. When your healing has brought you to that point of readiness, you will find meaning in words that once seemed hollow.

    So don�t get down on yourself when affirmations don�t have the effect you were hoping for. Look forward to the healing experiences that await you and know that they will move you closer to the wholeness and wellness you are seeking. When the time is right, you may start remembering some of those affirmations and find yourself opening that little book once again!

    � Sally Scott, M.A., R.C.C.


    Information, encouragement and hope for people recovering from trauma,