(Walking a Fine Line) Affirmation or Superstition?

(An excerpt from Walking a Fine Line: Being Professional in the New Age, a book I wrote in the early  90′s that’s been living in my closet.)

Once I had a client who was so dedicated to thinking positively that he suffered from major paranoia.

One day, he read that thoughts were powerful creative tools in some New Age book, and the next day, he was out of control.  He had so much respect for the power of his negative thoughts that he was practically terrified of thinking.

If, for example, he was walking down the street and had a critical thought about himself, he felt sure that some attacker or mugger would pick up on his weakness and pounce on him instantly.  If he planned an outdoor birthday party and was obsessing over the possibility of rain, he just knew that his negative expectations would whip a hurricane into shape.

When I suggested that he write down his negative reactions and associations to the positive thoughts he was trying to integrate so that we could learn more about the nature and the source of his unconscious fear-filled thoughts, he refused to do it.  He was simply too afraid to write down his responses — for fear of giving them too much of his energy.

Convinced that every negative thought was instantly heard, processed and put into motion by the universe, this poor man was paralyzed with fear and an over-inflated sense of power.  If his negative thoughts had any power in the beginning, they were given even more power by the time he was through with his doom-filled expectations.

Of course, this man’s case was extreme, and the intensity of his fear a reflection of a deeper problem which required more than a few techniques in positive thinking to heal.  Still, I have witnessed a similar kind of superstition surfacing among many New Age explorers.

Although much of what goes on in the “New Age” is less extreme than the one described, many people misunderstand and overestimate the powers of their thinking, and they do it so that the very tools meant to be supportive turn into something destructive.  There is a very fine line between healthy mind work and rigid superstition.

If you are a spiritually oriented counselor, coach or teacher, and your clients’/students’ attempts to think more lovingly or positively wind up giving them more stress than anything else, help them relax, reevaluate, and put things into the proper perspective — before you just tell them to “change their minds.”

If they really want to understand how it all works, then let them know that the results they create in their lives are first of all, not purely their own creations.  Remind them that we are co-creators here on earth, not the sole creators.  No matter how much power their personal thoughts possess, they probably do not have as much power as they think they do — when they are in a panic state, that is.  Their thoughts, for example, most definitely do not have enough impact to bring on a hurricane, or make it disappear for that matter.

Let them know that thinking highly and self-lovingly can enhance their lives tremendously.  Emphasize that enhancing is not the same as controlling!  Besides, what is the fun of being here if we can control the whole show?  Where is the surprise, the suspense?  Appeal to their sense of adventure.

Who knows?  If they do their homework, they may end up being on a business trip to Utah when a hurricane strikes their home in Florida, or they may be able to get home just in time to save their cat and return to safety.

Or, they may have managed to buy a house especially designed to withstand the destructive force of hurricanes.

Even better, their high thinking my lead them into the very center of the hurricane with a camera.  They may then be inspired to take the most artistic photographs ever taken of a hurricane which end up in National Geographic and launch a new career in photography.  Anything is possible.

Still, no matter what they expect or fear, chances are pretty good that a hurricane is going to stick to its original agenda regardless of their thinking.  If your clients/students have been carrying the weight of the world on their shoulders for a long time, your “disillusioning” news just might bring them the relief they need.

I do not underestimate the power of thought, and believe the results in our lives reflect the total of all the thoughts (feelings and attitudes) we’ve had up until now — in combination with the total of the thoughts (feelings and attitudes) of those around us.

Since we are talking about both conscious and unconscious thoughts, however, it is important that we fear none of our thoughts and are willing to look at the less fluffy ones lurking in the dark corners of our psyche.  The thoughts your clients/students do not know they have or are trying to push away are the essential ones to see.  It is safer to look at them than it is to ignore them.

If you can help your clients/students to perceive their most horrid thoughts as teachers, as the key-keepers to their human potential, the thoughts can reveal to them the old wounds in need of healing.  When they can do this, things go a lot more smoothly.  Thoughts will not go away by denying their existence or by forcing them back into the shadows with a shiny affirmation.  Denial distorts and adds energy to the twisted version of the thoughts and only makes things worse.

As we encourage those we help to choose, energize and integrate higher thought forms or more positive attitudes, let us also be gentle and patient.  Let us choose appropriate affirmations that match the moment instead of racing ahead to something none of us can relate to.

If it feels right, let clients/students affirm the following:

It is safe and innocent for me to have negative thoughts every once in a while. 

I appreciate myself even when I forget to appreciate myself. 

I am actually thinking much higher thoughts than I think I am. 

I’m a human being, and I now allow myself to be a pain in the ass every once in a while.

God/dess loves me (or I love myself) even when I think negatively.

These are good places to start.  If we expect our thinking to be absolutely “immaculate” from the start, we will never learn to love ourselves when we think we are unlovable.  Loving myself even when I’m driving myself crazy, loving life even when it feels painful, loving another human being even when we are having an argument is the essence of living a spiritually successful life.

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