Comments on
Happy Thoughts Could Make You Sad

By Therese J. Borchard
Associate Editor

mirror.jpgYou know how I’ve been telling you all to head to the mirror and say to the gorgeous creature staring back at you: “I’m good enough, I’m strong enough, Gosh darn it, people like me!” Yah, well, forget about …

7 Comments to
Happy Thoughts Could Make You Sad

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  1. I would think the main thing would be for someone to actually have a positive self-perception. You would need to believe in the positive talk or it probably would be pointless to just say positive things to yourself. You have to actually have faith in your own words. So changing that core self-perception is probably a lot more challenging than just voicing things to yourself over and over again.

    I’d be worried, though, that some might get the wrong impression from this study. Positive thinking has personally helped me a great deal, but I truly believe in my own words now.

  2. Several years ago during a hospitalization I was given a list of positive affirmations to say to myself. I agree that that’s not helpful when a person is that depressed. Of course, I can’t see myself ever sitting in front of a mirror and telling myself all that stuff. Weird.

    In fact, when we were given the list I looked over at a guy who was equally unimpressed and said, “Do you feel like you’ve suddenly become part of a bad Saturday Night Live skit?” We started laughing and shaking our heads. Maybe, that’s why people became less depressed after being given a list of self affirmations. It’s so ridiculous that you end up laughing at it leading to an improvement in mood.

  3. I think the study was flawed and I worry that seeing this kind of news will discourage people from trying affirmations. The idea behind affirmations is that we are trying to overcome the negative programming in our heads. In my own case, I was overcoming negative thoughts about myself that I had held since childhood. I am talking about mean things I said to myself constantly and for many years.

    The affirmation I used the most was “I love and approve of myself.” This is so basic: it’s hard to argue that anyone should not feel this way about her/himself. I said this affirmation to myself literally tens of thousands of times before it started to stick (as opposed to the paltry few times people in the study said their affirmations). I still need occasional “tune-ups” where I repeat it hundreds of times. I tried to say it whenever I had bad thoughts about myself, I said it when looking into mirrors, I said it when I was in my car, I said it silently when I was running and swimming. The new “programming” eventually overcame the old.

    Naturally, I didn’t agree with it at first and felt like I was lying to myself. But the beliefs I held about myself being bad were actual lies! Everyone should grow up feeling loved and when we don’t, we have to learn to do it ourselves. And affirmations can be a very helpful tool in this endeavor.

    –Catherine

  4. “You’re damned if you ruminate on negative thoughts, and you’re damned if you tell yourself lies.” No kidding…you shouldn’t lie to yourself. Yes, it’s hard to give yourself “positive self-talk” in the midst of depression. The affirmations need to ring true, they need to be true and ones that the person comes up with when they aren’t depressed. Once you’re depressed, it’s total tunnel vision, something that rings true can be the light at the end of the tunnel. No one says you have to fully believe it in the moment of depression, but even if you believe it just a tiny little bit, that can make a difference. Overcoming depression takes little steps; no one asks for full recovery in one minute.

  5. One more thing…If you do except full recovery quick, that might also be contributing to your depression. Unrealistic expectations and attempting to reach them is a hallmark of depression

  6. In my book, “Emotional Honesty & Self-Acceptance”, the premise was that how we acknowledge and deal with four core “Emotionally Wounding Experiences” (loss, rejection, betrayal and humiliation) affects one’s “sense of self”. Emotional honesty, not repeating self-affirmations, is a coping maxim that enables our brain to name, claim, reframe, then tame and heal one’s painful emotional wounds. The late psychotherapist David Viscott found that his clients who made poor progress were helped by listening to audio taped sessions. They had break throughs after recognizing how often they lied about their own feelings in therapy (supposedly where it is the most secure and private opportunity to speak their own emotional truth. Unfortunately “faking it” (emotionally) means we adopt a facade which keeps us strangers to our real underlying feelings. It is indeed hard to accept our self when we reject or feel others control what we feel.

  7. I have found moderation to be helpful in darker times. Instead of saying “I am a loveable person” I could start with something I did believe “It is possible that one day I will realize I am loveable” for instance. Instead of “I love myself unconditionally,” I went with “I believe I can learn to love myself.” This helped me greatly, as it was not a lie but more hopeful – and thus a step in the right direction – than I was feeling at the time.

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