Ask BR: How Can I Get The Most Out Of Using Affirmations, And What’s The Difference Between The Subconscious And Unconscious Mind?

Hi Belleruth,

I'm wondering about the most effective use of affirmations. For example, one of mine is:

"Even though I sometimes have suicidal thoughts, I understand that these thoughts are symbolic of me wanting to make significant changes in how I feel about myself and how I see myself in the future. I allow myself to be the person that I have become and I accept where I am in life. I’m willing to grow and change.”

(I’m in therapy dealing with a lot of this so...)

It’s a bit wordy but I try to boil things down to the essentials.

Also, the differences between the subconscious and unconscious parts of the mind seem to get me hung up, in terms of the inner child aspect of the psyche.

Thank you, 
Chris P.

Hey, Chris.

I’m going to answer your question, as asked.  I assume that if you are having firm suicidal thoughts, you are discussing this with your therapist.

Technically, your affirmations are a little too long and too complex to serve as affirmations, or even as tapping messages in an EFT or TFT protocol. An affirmation is you saying how you want to see yourself in the future, but stating it as if it’s happening NOW.  It’s a form of kind, gentle, incremental brainwashing you give yourself, in order to have more positive attitudes, self-talk and results.

What you have here is more an intellectual insight as to why you may be having suicidal thoughts, but it’s not gearing you up for change, just explaining a static situation and justifying your fear. It does not have you imagining a desired end state. So that’s not an affirmation.

You might want to break these down into a bunch of shorter ones that advance you into your hoped-for future. (I would encourage you not to use the term ‘suicidal thoughts’ which is laden with negative emotion and points to an action/behavior which hopefully you don’t want to execute.

So for instance (and these are just one set of possibilities, obviously):

More and more, I can accept my feelings of despair, fear, sorrow, anxiety and disappointment as my reality of the moment. (This is to get you out of your head and into your feelings.) 

I know these feelings come and go.

I salute my desire for self-improvement, and surround myself with support from friends and helpers that sustains those intentions.

I salute my intention to love and accept myself, just as I am, even as I dream to go beyond who I am in this moment.

I embrace the possibility that the anxiety I feel about change can be converted into the energy that drives change.  

More and more, I understand that the anxiety I feel about change can be converted into the exhilaration and joy of making change.

I know that just because I am anxious about changing, this doesn’t mean I can’t or won’t change.

I look forward to becoming the person I know I can be, while loving the person I am in this moment.

As for your concern about conscious/unconscious, psychodynamic traditionalists would say the subconscious is information just below conscious thinking, which can become accessible, either spontaneously or with some deliberate intention, while the unconscious stays out of reach, except during dreams or through deep-dish Freudian analysis.

More to our purposes here, the great hypnotherapist Milton Erickson would say there is no difference between conscious and unconscious – it all registers in the trance state as a positive. So either way, I think your takeaway is that this has no relevance to your task at hand – it’s an intellectual diversion – so again, get out of your head and back to your intention to effect change in your life!

I hope this is useful. Perhaps you can work with this and/or take this back to your therapist to explore further.

My best wishes to you.  Good luck!