The Symbolic Mind – The Affirmation Spot for Tuesday August 10, 2010

Today’s Affirmation:

My world is what I MAKE of it and today I CHOOSE to make it a beautiful place to be.


I find everything related to our minds fascinating. There are three vast unexplored frontiers in our world – the ocean floor, deep space, and the space between our ears. That third one just may be the most vast and amazing of all.

On the way home this afternoon, I heard a very interesting story on NPR’s afternoon news and information program All Things Considered.

Reporter Alix Spiegel did an amazing piece called “When Did We Become Mentally Modern”. The story talks about the importance of symbolic thinking in the way we conceptualize the world.

Listen to the Story

When you think about it this concept of symbolic thinking is very important describing and understanding our mental states. Often thoughts, ideas, and feelings appear in our minds as imagery in symbolic form. Those images and the stories we tell ourselves in support of them are critical to our mental well-being. The story provides plenty for you to consider as you learn to pay attention to your symbolic thinking.

Stay inspired!

Ray

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Perspective – The Affirmation Spot for Saturday July 17, 2010

Today’s Thought:

How small the world we share. How great our foolishness not to see that.

Our disputes can seem so all encompassing. We can become focused on the immensity of our problems. We are obsessed with our differences. Yet, from a distance, we are all spinning around on a very small bluish ball in a very large black vastness. What an important thing to remember.

Stay inspired!

Ray

Perspective:

Ruthless Compassion: An Interview with Dr. Marcia Sirota – The Affirmation Spot for Friday March 5, 2010

Today’s Affirmation:

Today I am just me; no masks and no excuses. Simply me!

One of the goals of this blog is to expose readers to some of the great thinkers and practitioners in the worlds of motivation, self-help, and personal development. Today I am pleased share an interview with Dr. Marcia Sirota MD FRCP (C).

Dr. Sirota is an author, speaker, and founder of the Ruthless Compassion Institute. This conversation was conducted by email between February 21 and March 1, 2010. I’d like to express my thanks to her for her generous attention and thoughtful responses to the questions posed and for sharing her wisdom and ideas with us.

I hope you will find Ruthless Compassion a useful tool in your journey. You will find contact information for Dr. Sirota at the conclusion of the interview.

Stay inspired!

Ray


TAS: Marcia, can you tell the readers a little about your background and what led you to the work you are doing now?

Dr. Marcia Sirota: I have a Bachelor’s Degree in Philosophy, having studied both Western and Eastern schools of thought. I also have a background in the arts; in particular drawing, writing and dance. I’m a board-certified psychiatrist currently doing individual and group psychotherapy with a focus on healing trauma, overcoming blocks to creativity and success, conquering addictions and improving relationships.

TAS: Ruthless Compassion is an attention-getting phrase. How do you define RC? How long have you been practicing and teaching it?

DMS: Ruthless Compassion is a synthesis of loving-kindness and empowerment. It’s a philosophy which promotes the unerring pursuit of the unvarnished truth tempered with an attitude of gentleness and respect toward ourselves and others. It also entails taking personal responsibility for the choices we make and the actions we take in life; recognizing that no-one can or should do these things for us. Finally, it’s an attitude of integrity, whereby we hold ourselves and others accountable for these choices and actions and don’t enable anyone to continue making bad choices.

TAS: I love the idea of a philosophy that combines loving-kindness and empowerment. Often in life one person holding another person accountable can create conflict. How do inexperienced practitioners hold others accountable without eliciting hostility? Do all involved parties have to be committed to the process for it succeed?

DMS: Holding someone accountable for their actions doesn’t always mean confronting them. Sometimes it’s necessary to be more direct and to let them know that their behavior is unacceptable, but often it’s preferable just to give the person the type of consequences that emerge out of you taking better care of yourself. Practicing RC isn’t about “teaching someone a lesson” or bashing them over the head to make a point. It’s about neither enabling someone to hurt you nor colluding with them when they try to hurt others.

If someone gets angry or hostile when you don’t let them get away with their bad behavior, it demonstrates that they are unreasonable, and unwilling to change their ways. It might be disappointing to see this about someone but it’s not a bad outcome. It provides you with crucial information about their character that you’ll need in order to asses whether you want to associate with them or not.

All parties don’t have to be aware of RC for it to succeed. When someone receives consequences for having made a bad choice, they are being presented (by the practitioner of RC) with an opportunity to learn from their mistakes. They have a further choice to make then: whether to take advantage of the opportunity to learn and grow or to reject it, and perhaps become angry.

If the person chooses to become upset about receiving a consequence, perhaps in the future other people will practice RC with them and eventually they’ll make the connection and learn something; maybe even changing their ways. On the other hand, if they immediately use the consequences to improve their behavior, two things will happen: they’ll make it possible for us to trust them and feel closer to them, and they’ll be learning at the same time how RC works and may choose to use it themselves in the future.

TAS: This may sound like a question for a musician, but who are your psychological influences? Whose work inspired your vision for RC?

DMS: My psychological influences are many and varied: They include all my teachers, whether in my personal life or the ones I’ve studied in books. I especially appreciate Freud and his division of the psyche into Id, Ego and Super-ego, and Transactional Analysis, developed by Eric Berne who translated these concepts into the child, adult and parent parts of the psyche. I’ve taken that idea and run with it in my theories and practice. I also appreciate Jungian archetypes, folk tales and mythology as bases for understanding the complexities of the human psyche and human relationships. I probably take a lot from various schools of Buddhism, as well.

Ruthless Compassion came to me as an evolving concept through my practice and my life. All the above influences as well as my life experiences combined into this new way of looking at things. In observing the suffering of my patients and of people in general, I saw that the old ways of dealing with relationships, work, the environment, money, addiction, creativity and even spirituality didn’t hold, and that a new approach was desperately needed. Ruthless Compassion was borne of this need.

TAS: On your website, you state, “The goal of the (Ruthless Compassion) institute is to enable you to live with greater freedom, empowerment and happiness, to be in constructive, meaningful relationships and to make a positive contribution to your family and community.” How does RC help people achieve these aspirations?

DMS: RC can help people live better lives in that it supports their becoming more conscious. The ruthlessness aspect spurs them ever onward in seeing and dealing with the truth of how things are, who they are, and what the people in their life are doing to them and around them. The compassion aspect allows them to face the truth without beating themselves up, either for the choices they’ve been making or for not having seen the truth sooner.

RC keeps people from being enablers to others’ bad behavior, thus preventing a lot of potential suffering. RC is empowering because it has people living in reality and this makes it more possible for them to achieve their goals. It has people taking responsibility for themselves, while also preventing them from criticizing themselves. This combination is a great motivator for positive action.

TAS: What differentiates RC from other forms therapy or self-development techniques? Are there similarities with some other techniques?

DMS: RC is different in that it’s reality-based. There’s no magical thinking involved that tells people to think the right thoughts and then they’ll achieve their goals, or that if they buy into this quick and easy solution, they’ll fix their problem(s). RC tells you that good things come from working toward realistic goals in a meaningful way.

RC doesn’t promise to change your life or that it will bring you amazing riches, fabulous success or  brilliant romance. What it does do is enable you to let go of a lot of the unnecessary suffering in your life that has come from making poor choices – the choices that were based on false hope, inappropriate expectations or erroneous beliefs. It allows you to improve your relationships by owning your part in them and letting go of the part that doesn’t belong to you; it frees you to pursue real goals, both of personal growth and outer success, based on your real efforts.

RC is also different because it doesn’t ask you to change who you are to practice it. It’s not a dogma, and therefore anyone can benefit from it. It doesn’t require you to change your diet, your religion or your lifestyle. What you do have to change is your attitude and your old ways of looking at yourself, others and the world.

I imagine that RC has similarities with a number of techniques or tools for living, but I also think that it is a unique philosophy in and of itself.

TAS: You mentioned magical thinking and false hope. Of course, there are some very popular “systems” that have come out in recent years giving people the impression that their thoughts are a kind of cosmic ATM card. You think the right thoughts, the claims go, and anything can be yours.

Unfortunately, those ideas have caused damage to the demonstrated benefits of positive thinking and positive visualization. How do you differentiate magical thinking from positive thinking and what role, if any, does positive affirmation play in RC? How does one differentiate false hope from real hope?

DMS: Magical thinking is deciding that something is so, just because you want it to be. It has no basis in reality. Positive thinking is seeing the reality of a situation and maximizing its potential.

False hope is the hope for something that could never be; for example that if you try hard enough you could get someone who doesn’t like you to love you. Real hope is grounded in what is actually possible, like the hope that you could become a happier, healthier person.

There is definitely a role for positive affirmation in RC but for it to be meaningful, it must be reality-based. This means we recognize our own limitations and the limitations of reality, and instead of trying to affirm the impossible (which renders our affirmations absurd) we affirm our inherent qualities and strengths.

Positive affirmations should remind us that we’re entitled to be happy and free; that we’re lovable and valuable as we are, and that we’re more likely (although not guaranteed) to succeed if we give something our best effort.

When affirmations are disconnected from reality, they are ridiculous at best and destructive at worst. When they are reality-based, they encourage us and support us in pursuing and achieving our goals.

TAS: What kinds of results have you witnessed? Are you able to share any anonymous success stories that really demonstrate the power of RC?

DMS: Practicing RC is a very effective way of improving your life. I’ve seen many example of people making positive changes in their relationships, at work, in overcoming addictions and in developing self-esteem. I’ve had a few patients whose marriages were in crisis and through the practice of RC, they are now in a much better place.

I had one patient who was being exploited and disrespected at work, even though they were an excellent employee. Through the practice of RC they’ve become a lot more strategic in the workplace, and while they continue to do excellent work, they are now setting appropriate limits on what is asked of them as well as commanding respect from supervisors and colleagues.

TAS: Where does RC go from here? Do you feel like the concept is fully developed or ever-evolving?

DMS: I see RC as an ever-evolving way of thinking and being. As I evolve as a person, and as the people who are using it evolve, we’ll be able to see where we can take this philosophy of empowerment, personal responsibility, self-accountability and integrity.

Rigid ideology tends to devolve into dogma; even fanaticism. I want RC to be a living, breathing philosophy that can grow and develop as we do. In order to be valid, it must be able to tolerate questioning and be amenable to change.

TAS: Yes. We have seen dogma and fanaticism result from many well-meaning philosophies in the past. Does RC have a future beyond this generation? Do you see it as a movement or philosophy that will transcend your current work? Are there other teachers learning and teaching it? Does someone need to be in counseling or a group to practice it or can someone practice on his or her own?

DMS: RC is in its nacent form, and it’s my hope that more and more people will begin to embrace it and experience the benefit of practicing it. Like any new movement, people need to find out about it and I plan on giving seminars (webinars) and workshops in the near future to teach people how to apply the principles of RC in their daily lives.

I don’t think that RC needs to be learned or taught in a therapeutic setting, but I do believe that whoever teaches it must be very well-versed in the theory and practice, in order that they neither dilute nor distort the message. Along the same lines, those who want to learn it must be sincere, open-minded and well-taught, so that they don’t go off with a partial or confused understanding of the principles of RC.

TAS: If TAS readers are interested in learning more about RC or your work, how can they do that?

DMS: TAS readers are welcome to visit my website: http://www.ruthlesscompassioninstitute.com where they can view videos and read articles about the practice of RC. The “About” section of the site also discusses the meaning and purpose of RC. I am on Twitter: @rcinstitute, where I regularly tweet original content that represents my philosophical point of view.

TAS: Marcia, thank you so much. We look forward to hearing more about RC in the future.

Collective Mental Empowerment Parts I & II

Today’s Quote:

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

~George Santayana

chemtrailsky1_louisburg_2015Last summer I posted a two-part series on the importance of mental empowerment. The first article discussed all the ways the mental environment is polluted with negativity and fear. That fear is often the result of disinformation, a lack of transparency, and outright corruption and tyranny by the powers that be.

The second article discussed ways to deal with it and overcome it.

They caused quite a response when I posted them originally. Thought I’d post them again.

Collective Mental Empowerment Part I

Collective Mental Empowerment Part II

Empower Your Mind!

Follow your bliss. Experience your bliss. Become your bliss.

Ray

Ray Davis is the founder of The Affirmation Spot and an advocate for the potential of the human race.  He’s the author of the breakthrough novel Anunnaki Awakening: Revelation – order your signed copy today at AATrilogy.com

anunnaki_cover_full_colorAnunnaki Awakening: Revelation is turning heads and opening minds. Humanity’s past is checkered, secret, and dangerous.

White House Correspondent Maria Love is on to the story of her life and with the help of an Anunnaki leaders seeks to unravel and reveal history’s biggest conspiracy. The Awakening has begun!

Our Thoughts Filter Our Experiences – The Affirmation Spot for Monday December 14, 2009

Check Out My Affirmation Apps. 15-minute meditations or workout tracks with affirmations.

Check out our affirmation apps for Apple devices or search i-mobilize on the iTunes store. The Affirmation Spot is developing these motivation apps in partnership with i-mobilize. Click an app to view it – Love Magnet, Business Success, Make A Difference Affirmation, or Full Body Scan, Rising Star Cardio Affirmation, and many more.


One of the reasons it is so important to work on the way you think about your life is that your thoughts are the filter through which you see every event in your life.

Let’s take a simple example of how the exact same event can be dramatically different based on what you think about the situation.

April: You’re watching your favorite baseball team play a spring training game. It’s bottom of the ninth and two outs. Your team is up 3-2 and the opposing team has runners at second and third. The hitter hits a ground ball right to your shortstop. It goes right between his legs allowing the winning runs to score.

How do you feel? You’re probably upset for a little while, but then you have the thought, “Well, it’s just a spring training game. It’s not that important.”

July: You’re watching your favorite baseball team play their arch rival. It’s bottom of the ninth and two outs. Your team is up 3-2 and the opposing team has runners at second and third. The hitter hits a ground ball right to your shortstop. It goes right between his legs allowing the winning runs to score.

How do you feel? You’re probably a lot more upset than you were about the spring training game. It might ruin your night. You might spend much of the next day commiserating with other fans of your team on how they let that game get away against the big rival.

Objectively, this is the exact same situation. The difference is your thoughts about it.

November: Your team, despite a shortstop who can’t field ground balls, has made it to the World Series. You’re watching game seven. It’s bottom of the ninth and two outs. Your team is up 3-2 and the opposing team has runners at second and third. The hitter hits a ground ball right to your shortstop. It goes right between his legs allowing the winning runs to score.

How do you feel? You’re thinking, “We just lost the world series because on play that should have been handled and we could have won.” Again, the events are objectively precisely the same as the other two situations. However, you might have a crummy few months during the off season constantly thinking about the World Series victory that should have been. If you’re a big fan, it might even impact other parts of your life. You’ll probably still be talking about it in 20 years.

Of course, this scenario is just for example purposes. But how many things do we do this with in life? You could choose to see all three events as, “Well, it’s just a baseball game and these things happen.”

I’m not saying that’s the way you should see it or that you shouldn’t have passion for things. I’m saying that the only difference in the three scenarios is your thoughts about the situation and its relative importance.

We all do this constantly. Our thoughts, not people or events, create our mood and our mindset. Obviously, outside circumstances serve as triggers, but ultimately it comes down to how we choose think about the event.

Today notice the times in your life when you make everything the world series situation instead of being willing to see life as a kind of spring training game where you and the people around you are all working to get better.

Stay inspired!

Ray

2009 Affirmation

“This year I am absolutely committed to being the person I came here to be!”

Affirmations Under Fire: A Response – The Affirmation Spot for Wednesday June 8, 2009

Ray’s Daily Affirmation:

“Focus on the goal…When I set out to achieve something I eliminate all the negatives and naysayers and focus completely on my goal.”
(Download this mp3 affirmation or 100s of others at The Affirmation Spot)





depressionRecently, a study questioning the validity of affirmations (“positive statements”) was published in Psychological Science. The paper entitled “Positive Self-Statements: Power for Some, Peril for Others” was co-authored by Dr. Joanne Wood, Elaine Perunovic, and John W. Lee.

Today I am going to share my own thoughts on this research and would invite mental health professionals, people in the coaching and self-development fields, or ordinary readers who have used affirmations to comment on the topic.

The researchers conducted a study based on the following premise from their paper’s abstract.

Positive self-statements are widely believed to boost mood and self-esteem, yet their effectiveness has not been demonstrated. We examined the contrary prediction that positive self-statements can be ineffective or even harmful. A survey study confirmed that people often use positive self-statements and believe them to be effective.  

Two experiments showed that among participants with low self-esteem, those who repeated a positive self-statement (‘‘I’m a lovable person’’) or who focused on how that statement was true felt worse than those who did not repeat the statement or who focused on how it was both true and not true.

Among participants with high self-esteem, those who repeated the statement or focused on how it was true felt better than those who did not, but to a limited degree. Repeating positive self-statements may benefit certain people, but backfire for the very people who ‘‘need’’ them the most.

I am always shocked and dismayed by the cynicism that emerges when the subject of positive thinking comes up. This research certainly seems to have awakened a cadre of bloggers and journalists ready to pounce and denounce positive thinking as a sham. I have written often on this blog about the constant stream of disempowering messages that some in media like to produce. I have also written about the whole concept that somehow positive thinking is perceived as less “realistic” than negative thinking. Both of these factors seem to be in play as this story unfolds.

Let me begin by expressing my alarm, not at this study or its results, but at the way it has been heralded in the mainstream and psychological press as empirical evidence that positive thinking is a fraud. Those 20 year old images of Stuart Smalley have been dusted off and pushed front and center to ridicule the practice of thinking positively.

Oprah, Wayne Dyer, and other luminaries in what I would term the “empowered thinking” movement have been chided for their support of such nonsense. Their statements that we human beings are capable of amazing things when we change the way we think have been taken to task as fantasy.

Some Examples of the typical media fair:

Worst of all, people suffering from depression and other negative thinking disorders have been told that thinking positively is bad for them and it should be avoided because it will make them feel worse.

I have been in contact directly with Dr. Wood. It is my belief that she and her colleagues are trying to conduct honest research and find honest answers to honest questions. After reading and digesting the paper that resulted from their research, I am convinced that the flaw lies not in the researchers’ intentions, but in the selected methodology. Dr. Wood, based on her writing, agrees that specific statements may have more efficacy than the general “I am lovable” statement used in the experiments that led to the paper.

“Moment by moment, brick by brick, I am building a life full of things more important to me than my problems.”

This topic is very near and dear to my heart. I don’t speak as an outsider on the topics of affirmations or severe depression. 20 years ago, at the age of 25, I nearly died due a severe depression and undiagnosed Addison’s Disease. The fact is I should have been dead. My electrolytes were below levels capable of supporting life. I had eaten nothing and drank little for weeks and I was down to 96 pounds. My father had to carry me into the hospital emergency room. Every cell in my body hurt and I wanted to die to escape the pain – physical and psychological that I was feeling.

Affirmations were an absolute mainstay in my climb from that deep, dark place. They remain a key part of my success today.

optimismWhen I encounter someone who is suffering from depression, anxiety, or other difficult life situations; it’s not theoretical to me. I understand what they are going through. I know the struggles I had for years after that hospital visit. I know the hard work and determination it took to change my thinking and change my life. My passion is to help people who suffer from these conditions to get better and live the life they came here to live.

That’s why I started The Affirmation Spot. That’s why I spend a couple of hours every day tweeting affirmations for people on Twitter. That’s why messages of disempowerment and “you can’t” being delivered by the media and mental health professionals bother me so much. I know it feels like you can’t sometimes, but you can! It’s not hyperbole, magic, or a scam. It’s the truth. I did it and so can you!

I applaud Dr. Wood and her colleagues for tackling this topic and attempting to put science behind what my experience and that of so many others clearly demonstrates.

However, the study failed to grasp the process required for affirmations (“positive statements”) to impact the thinking of a depressed person. Subjects were questioned about their mood during the cognitive dissonance that is always sure to occur during an attempt to shift thinking. I know this personally, as I have encountered it many times. In fact, every time I use affirmations to pursue some new goal I encounter cognitive dissonance.

The research apparently took place in a single instance. Affirmations take time, repetition, belief, and commitment to impact and replace negative thinking. There is no evidence that study participants had any commitment to change their feeling of “not being lovable” by use of the affirmation. They certainly did not have time for repetition to have its effect.

The measurements in this study were akin to measuring the muscle growth of someone after one workout in the gym.

As someone who turned my life around using affirmations and other tools and now works to help others do the same, I can state that this research is preliminary, incomplete, and far from conclusive.

My view is that the research should continue and that a methodology conducive to a true study of this question should be devised to examine the validity of these findings. I suggest the following criteria as a starting point.

  1. Clinical Trial – conduct a real clinical trial using real psychological patients rather than grad students. There should be a controlled group or perhaps even a comparison against other treatment options.
  2. Decision – participants should be people with a a commitment to changing their negative beliefs, thoughts, and habits. Affirmations are just wishful thinking without a decision to change. Without this commitment, neither affirmations nor most other treatment courses will work.
  3. Time – affirmations are just like an exercise program. It takes time for the results to be seen. The affirmations have to be used, as with any other treatment, over a period of time and progress in mood and behavior monitored for positive change.
  4. Targeted Change and Affirmations – both the thoughts, beliefs, or behaviors to be changed must be identified and affirmations specific and appropriate should be used. “I am lovable” is a nice sentiment, but a a weak affirmation to produce real change. The goals to be achieved, obviously, have to be realistic.
  5. Multiple Content Types – The affirmations should be delivered audibly, verbally, and visually to account for varying learning styles. I also recommend what I call holographic affirmations – first person, second person, and named affirmations. First person affirmations are said to obtain ownership of the affirmation. Second person affirmations are used as thought replacement because the overwhelming majority of negative thoughts come into our minds as “you” statements. Name affirmations get the person’s attention by using the sweetest sound in the language – their name – as a cue.
  6. Reinforcemnt – progress must be reinforced to solidify the positive, empowered thinking we want to achieve. There are a lot of competitors to fill the voids of our thoughts and emotions media, family, religion, government, etc. If we are not encouraging and reinforcing the thoughts of our choosing, someone else will fill that void. That is how most people wound up being LSE in the first place. They listened to others about how they should feel and think about themselves

This study and the media feeding that has followed leaves millions of depressed people with the impression that thinking positive, empowering thoughts is not a viable solution for them. I am living proof that this is not so.

The idea that these people should be left to wallow in the realism of their depressive thoughts is a sad and unwarranted message. Yes, change is hard, but change is part of human potential. To tell someone obsessed with negative thoughts that thinking better thoughts is “dangerous” or “fruitless” (as many articles about this study have) is the height of irresponsibility.

I would hope that this research continues along the lines described above and that studies measuring the true efficacy of affirmations as a tool can be conducted. 20 years of my life and my interactions with many, many people tell me that such research will demonstrate that sensible positive thinking is an option and a way to the light for those suffering, as I once did.

In closing, I have one simple question. Regardless of the situation you are facing in life, are you going to have better results facing it with the burden of negative thoughts or with the empowerment of positive thoughts? The answer is clear. Positive thoughts are not the enemy. Negative thoughts are the problem. We need to keep that in perspective.

Stay inspired!

Ray

2009 Affirmation

“This year I am absolutely committed to being the person I came here to be!”

Cognitive Therapy for Stress Relief – The Affirmation Spot for Friday June 12, 2009

Today’s affirmation is:

“Life is good. Things are going my way. The people around me are noticing a difference in me and I am noticing a difference in myself.” (click the affirmation to hear the mp3 version)

About.com’s stress management expert Elizabeth Scott M.S. recently focused her blog on the mind’s power to deal with stress. She reposted three of her previous articles on how our thinking creates and can help us deal effectively with stress in a blog post titled “Mind Tricks for Stress Relief”

Great stuff!

Stay inspired!

Ray

2009 Affirmation

“This year I am absolutely committed to being the person I came here to be!”