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Reforming How We Look at Our Past Could Brighten the Present

As she approaches a milestone birthday, ‘Margaret’ tosses and turns in her otherwise comfortable bed. A thought permeates her mind that keeps her awake in the wee hours, “You are turning 60 and what do you have to show for it?” At that moment, an amusing volley ball game begins as the vibrant, well- toned aspect of herself hurls the ball across the net and lists her accomplishments. “You are well respected in your field. You have earned advanced degrees. You make a difference in people’s lives.”

The ‘yes-but’ deconditioned persona, shrugs and responds, “If you were so good at what you do, you would be making more money and your work would be more visible.”

Player Number One, volleys back with, “Remember how you are solicited by organizations and companies to work for them?”

Player Number Two hurls the ball back with, “There are people who don’t work as hard as you do, who aren’t as reliable who are making the big bucks. Why aren’t you on the big stage? Why haven’t you done TED Talks? Where is your big payoff?”

And on it goes…

If that wasn’t enough, she launches into an exhausting tirade about her relationship status, which at the moment is long single. She has had lovers and short-term relationships but has yet to meet the seemingly elusive love of her life that she has seen others enjoy.

After all these years, Margaret has accumulated a huge tool kit of portable skills that she can bring to the podium when she speaks to audiences and with her clients. As she attempts to drift to sleep, she reminds herself that there is much to be grateful for and that synchronicities and surprises show up bidden and unbidden.

When I look at her situation, I think of it as an extension of ‘If this, then that’ thinking about which I wrote two years ago. It is that self- limiting thought which echoes cause and effect. Sadly, many use it to explain away what they perceive as failures. “If you were all that and a bag of chips, then…”

We are indoctrinated to believe that if we follow the step by step instructions, the scattered pieces will look like the finished picture on the box. In the puzzle of life, it isn’t always as exacting. Sometimes there are missing or misfit pieces. Sometimes the cat jumps on the table and scatters the bits of cardboard to the floor and we need to pick them up and re-insert them. Some pieces go missing. Boredom might set in and we give up with a sigh, saying, “I didn’t really want to put it together in the first place,” or we may get distracted by another project.

A few years ago, a friend introduced me to the concept of Afformations®. Many are familiar with the concept of affirmations which attempt to rewire our thinking as we re-write the narrative. It may be something as simple as repeating a chosen mantra, such as “I am happy and successful.” What happens when we hear that and know that in the moment, we are feeling like a miserable failure? Our mind calls B.S. on that thought. Afformations came to Noah St. John as a shower insight when he was struggling financially, when he longed for a partner, but said he “couldn’t get a date to save my life.” He gathered these ideas into a book entitled The Book of Afformations: Discovering the Missing Piece to Abundant Health.

St. John came to recognize that he was feeding his brain with the wrong messages that spoke of lack and limitation, when he would benefit from asking the right questions. When our mind is busy searching for the answers to what might seem like paradox, it can’t ruminate over what feels unsatisfactory.

He maintains, When your opinion of your past, present, and future tends to be positive, you will be happy. When your opinion of your past, present, or future tends to be negative, you will be unhappy.”

Past, present and future are mental constructs and subject to change depending on our view of them. He suggests changing our outcomes by exploring our beliefs about those thoughts. Journaling is a helpful tool as you list those thoughts you have been holding on to that actually hold on to you.

In Margaret’s case, she might look at the entrenched beliefs that she will never do enough, have enough or be enough. She has described feeling like she must earn her keep in relationships that exceed the expectation of others.  She wants to be sure she over-delivers so that she will not be abandoned. There are times when she has expressed feeling resentful that others don’t show up in support of her the way she does for them. She toggles back and forth between assertively asking to have needs met and feeling embarrassed that she has them in the first place. She has often thought that if she can’t get it for herself, she could do without it.

For Margaret, appropriate Afformations might look like:

  • Why am I so successful?
  • Why are people calling me every day to work with them?
  • Why do I feel so valuable and like I make a difference?
  • Why I am so sought after?
  • Why do I have more than enough money for my needs, wants and desires?
  • Why am I so happy?
  • Why do I speak on stage all over the world?
  • Why do I offer successful TED talks?
  • Why am I enough, as is?
  • Why am I grateful for all that is in my life?
  • Why am in a loving and sustained relationship with my partner?
  • Why do we grow together and experience such love that people remark, “I’ll have what they’re having.’?
  • Why does my life feel so fulfilled?

What will you ‘afform’ to re-form your life?

Reforming How We Look at Our Past Could Brighten the Present

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Edie Weinstein, MSW, LSW

Edie Weinstein, MSW, LSW is a journalist and interviewer, licensed social worker, interfaith minister, radio host and best-selling author.

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APA Reference
Weinstein, E. (2018). Reforming How We Look at Our Past Could Brighten the Present. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 28, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 18 Oct 2018 (Originally: 18 Oct 2018)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 18 Oct 2018
Published on Psych All rights reserved.