Positive Affirmations and Adaptive Thoughts from Therapy
"I am innocent of the illness that befell me." "I am strong. I am brave." "I am worthy of self-compassion." These are a few of my positive affirmations, said aloud or in silence, to help (re)train my brain. When I started therapy to treat trauma-induced anxiety and panic, these words were hollow and represented nothing more than wishful thinking. As my treatment progresses, adaptive thoughts, similar to my affirmations, are integrating themselves into what I believe about myself.
Positive Affirmations May Seem Like Lies at First
I am generally an optimistic person who tries to live life from a place of positivity, tolerance, and curiosity. Having said that, it wasn't until recently that I introduced positive affirmations into my self-care regimen. It may seem odd to say they're an aspect of self-care. Practicing positive affirmations is part of my treatment strategy, insomuch as they're part and parcel of the work I'm doing to get well.
I don't know if others feel this way, but, at first, saying positive affirmations was hard for me. The affirmations seemed forced. Not only that, I didn't believe a word of what I was saying.
Imagine the metaphorical angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other, where I am the angel, and my troubled psyche is the devil.
Me/Angel: "I am innocent of the acute anxiety illness that befell me."
My Psyche/Devil: "You're joking, right? Everything that happened to you is your fault. And, it's going to happen again."
Me/Angel: "I am strong. I am brave."
My Psyche/Devil: "You're a weak coward. Go crawl back under your rock where you belong."
Me/Angel: "I am worthy of self-compassion."
My Psyche/Devil: "Get off your high horse, you selfish loser."
Like any self-care treatment, whether it's psychotherapy, physiotherapy, massage, or, as in this case, positive affirmations, the benefits take time. As I progress toward wellness, the devil on my shoulder is diminishing. It's not altogether gone, but its voice isn't as overpowering, and its messages to me are less toxic. I am starting to take my positive affirmations as truth. Essentially, I am learning to trust myself again, which, I can assure you, is a hard-fought battle.
Adaptive Thoughts Resulting from Therapy
I had to ask my psychotherapist what adaptive thoughts were within the context of therapy. I asked in response to a statement she made several weeks ago where she said she was observing more and more adaptive thoughts from me during our sessions.
I interpret this to mean that I am making more positive statements about the trauma I suffered and the resulting persistent panic and anxiety than I was before. During painful and fear-filled recollections, I am no longer solely focused on the incidents as they played out and whether or not they may occur again. Instead, I am considering alternatives to how and why things happened as they did. I am still retelling the events as they occurred, but I am learning to be impartial in some aspects and to second guess my negative thoughts and replace them with positive assertions. In short, my thoughts are adapting.
Positive affirmations are stated with intention and forethought. With the hope that someday I'll believe it, I think or say:
"I am innocent of the illness that befell me."
Adaptive thoughts are stated on impulse. There is no forethought. The things I say are spontaneous.
When I first started therapy, I would say:
"What if this (the trauma and resulting anxiety and panic) happens again?"
After several therapy sessions, I now say:
"If it happens again, I'm better prepared. I have more tools and strategies to cope now."
My psychotherapist didn't prompt me to say this. My brain adapted.
Learning to Trust Myself Again
I fully trusted my instincts before the trauma happened, yet the trauma still happened. I struggled with why it happened for a long time and was plagued by the belief that I was responsible. I wrote about it here. That's why one of my affirmations is: "I am innocent of the illness that befell me."
As time passes and my therapy progresses, I am slowly learning to trust myself again. I am coming to terms with the fact that some things are simply out of my control. That's why another one of my affirmations is this: "I do the best I can with the tools at my disposal."
I try. Sometimes I stumble. Sometimes there is pain and anguish. Still, I remind myself that I have survived 100% of the challenges I have faced. That last statement, by the way, is, itself, an adaptive thought.
Scott, L. (2022, June 1). Positive Affirmations and Adaptive Thoughts from Therapy, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2023, December 8 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/anxiety-schmanxiety/2022/6/positive-affirmations-and-adaptive-thoughts-from-therapy
Author: Liana M. Scott
Thanks, Lizanne. It's been a long haul but the benefits are bubbling to the surface.
Beautiful words, Liana, and an important distinction! It is not easy to let go of guilt but through self-compassion, we do adapt.