By Steve Wells
Here’s something that might surprise many of you: Positive affirmations don’t always produce positive results. In fact, they can – and often do - produce negative results for some people. We have known this for some time from our workshops, where we ask people about their experiences with affirmations. Our consistent finding has been that affirmations only work for a small percentage of people.
In previous blog posts I have written about how affirmations don’t actually work for most people who use them and how so-called negative thinking and negative feeling ain’t always so devastatingly bad as you may think (You can see those previous posts at: https://www.eftdownunder.com/?p=8 and https://www.eftdownunder.com/?p=9 )
Now there is some research which supports the contentions I made in those previous posts and also points to why our PET approach works so well.
According to a recent study in Psychological Science (as reported in Science Daily), individuals with low self-esteem can actually feel worse about themselves after repeating positive self-statements. The researchers, psychologists Joanne V. Wood and John W. Lee, asked participants with low self-esteem and others with high self-esteem to repeat the typical self-help book phrase “I am a lovable person”, then measured their moods and their momentary feelings about themselves.
The participants who had low self-esteem felt worse after repeating the positive self-statement compared to another low self-esteem group who did not repeat the self-statement! On the other hand, the individuals with high self-esteem did feel better after repeating the positive self-statement, but only slightly.
In a follow up study where the participants were allowed to list negative self-thoughts along with positive self-thoughts, the paradoxical finding was that low self-esteem participants actually had better mood responses when they were allowed to have negative thoughts than when they were asked to focus exclusively on positive thoughts!
The following quote taken from the Science Daily Article raises an issue which should be of concern to all who are still routinely using the same EFT set-up phrase with every client:
“The psychologists suggested that, like overly positive praise, unreasonably positive self-statements such as “I accept myself completely” can provoke contradictory thoughts in individuals with low self-esteem. Such negative thoughts can overwhelm the positive thoughts.”
(Journal Reference: Wood et al. Positive Self-Statements: Power for Some, Peril for Others. Psychological Science, 2009)
This was our consistent finding when using the self-acceptance phrase in EFT. In another controversial article on our blog I wrote how when we were using EFT we discovered that using the self-acceptance phrase actually causes many people to “tune into” their self-acceptance issues (i.e. it puts them in touch with their lack of self-acceptance!). For these people, we achieved consistent positive results by having them repeat a seeming “negative” phrase instead, such as, “I deeply and completely reject myself!” Of course we would do this with the characteristic humour of the PET style. (That article can be found here: https://www.eftdownunder.com/?p=17 )
In our workshops we’ve frequently demonstrated that having a person repeat aloud their negative belief often results in a lift in their energy state (or what I call a “yes” response) where they clearly accept that statement as “true”. Then having them repeat an opposite, positive belief often results in a disturbance in their state (or “no” response), where they clearly energetically and emotionally reject that statement. Therefore, rushing to the positive side and having them repeat this can overwhelm them and be an invalidation, similarly to simply telling a depressed person to “cheer up”. As Marianne Williamson has said, it is our light, not out darkness, that most frightens us.
Paradoxically, a lack of willingness by the practitioner to work with the dark side may prevent some people from being able to more easily approach the light!
The research mentioned above very much vindicates the approach we take in PET which, by joining with the client’s negative beliefs, validating them, and tapping on them, leads to positive shifts away from attachment to the negative belief, and more acceptance of the positive alternative.
Now of course as the research from Psychological Science points out, those who already have high self-esteem and who can accept the positive belief statement without having the energetic equivalent of a hernia can go straight to the positive side. In PET, when we see an energetic “opening” where the client is ready that is when we know we can deliver positive messages without provoking a repulsion or rejection response… This stage is often reached only after a lot of tapping whilst focusing on the negative belief and it’s antecedents.
But there is a level beyond releasing negative beliefs or accepting positive alternative beliefs., and this can be achieved often only after continued tapping on both sides of the belief continuum and on all the emotional attachments to these beliefs, whether negative or positive. This is the transformative step where we start to realise that none of these beliefs are real, they are all just ideas from the vast sea of ideas. They are not us, we are not them. This is a move towards the place of peace, the land beyond duality, where the concept of positive or negative is no longer necessary or relevant.
To end, one of our favourite quotes from Rumi:
“Out beyond ideas of right-doing and wrong-doing there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”
Click this link to find out how you can attend a life-changing workshop with Steve Wells and Dr. David Lake: http://www.eftdownunder.com/events.html
What do you think?
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