Self affirmations are positively pointless!

Self affirmations are positively pointless!

Self affirmations are positively pointless!

Just ran across an article  at that references a recent American Psychological Association press release which indicates a recent study found that positive self-statements can result in a lower mood for people with low self-esteem.  The study just really confirms what is intuitively known by most of us.  In fact the absurdity of positivevalidations without any basis in truth was  soundly  lampooned in Al Franken’s pre-Senatorial career) Stuart Smalley skits.   The fact is we need to be able to tell our self the truth.  Saying positive things that have no basis in truth or reality is actually dangerous.  Lying to self does not improve mood. 

So then what are depressed people to do to feel better one might ask?  Well moving away from depressed mood and negative attitudes about self and the world involves first identifying the lies we hold about self.  We all need to ground ourselves in what is true.    You cannot counter one form of self-deception for another.  We always need to identify, test, and discover the truth. 

So what if there are truly awful things going on in a person life, what are they to do?  Well, it is not helpful to lock into an attitude of negative thinking related to hurts, pain and stress.  Besides being grounded in truth we also need to foster an attitude of thankfulness and gratitude.  When things are tough, find the positives to be thankful for.  The greater the pain the harder this is to do, yet it is effective in uplifting the mood, as long as the thankfulness is founded in truth. 

Now, as a Christian it is worthwhile to point out that truth telling and thankfulness have their limits.  If you identify truth and look to the positives in life, yet have not turned to Jesus, there is still something missing.  Now, turning to Jesus doesn’t automatically eliminate depression or any other mental health issue, but turning to Jesus is turning to strength beyond self.  In terms of thanksgiving the Bible directs to rejoice in the Lord, which is to say to look outside of self and depend on God as source and focus on thanksgiving and rejoicing.  It is taking this attitude in spite of what is going on.  The Bible also directs that true peace is found in Jesus.  This true peace is not making everything comfortable but rather changing  of focus that is different then relying on own strength.

If you are depressed and reading this, please do not mistake what I am saying.  The healing process and moving into truth and joy and peace is a process that God can work in you. Many Christians suffer depression and other mental health issues.  The essential point is that it is in Jesus that we find the strength to take on whatever barrier.  Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life and that includes mental health struggles.


7 Responses

  1. I appreciate your comments. I recognize your Christian beliefs. My question to you: Should Christians take antidepressant medications?

  2. Jeffsgirllynds,
    There is no reason for a Christian not to take anti-depressants. There are very real bio-chemical elements at play for some people. An anti-depressant like any other medication can be an effective form of treatment. In regards to depression and other mental health elements there are functions that are about bio-chemical respones and there are other issues as well. Depression is very difficult and while this brief commentary points to some ways to help, the journey is difficult. Regardless of whether anyone turns to Jesus or not, engaging in recognizing the truth and challening un true statements is an important skill. The other important skill is to be able to focus on positives and being thankful. These help regardless of whether anyone turns to Jesus in surrender or not.

  3. I also blogged about this study from a different perspective. Affirmations are a great tool for many people and this research is very preliminary and inconclusive…despite how it’s been played in the press.

    I used affirmations and other tools to climb back from my deathbed at 25. So, I have more than just theoretical perspective on their plusses and minuses and their relationship to depression.

    Our spiritual lives are another invaluable tool in helping people battle difficult life circumstances. Any tool that works is what I believe someone should use to help them get their life back on track when it goes awry.

    I’ve been in touch with the lead researcher and she, it’s fair to say, is a little shocked at the sweeping conclusions that have been drawn from this study.

    Here’s my article. I’d appreciate your thougtful comments and those of your readers.

  4. Ray, I appreciate you feedback. I would generally say that positive affirmations grounded in truth can certainly be affective. If it not ground in truth as lampooned by SNL skits, then you have another story all together. This why I reference telling yourself the truth versus just empty positive affirmations, which to me and in my experience as a mental health professional have always been limited, unless it is a continual reminder of truth. I will take a look at your article.

  5. Let me add that my initial response as well was related to the initial report without further reaction. Once here or see more details can get a better picture of what the study actually indicates there is quite a bit mroe going on.

  6. Thanks for this post. The interesting thing about Jesus is that he promises that the truth will be freeing *for his disciples*. A lot of people think that Jesus teaches that the truth will set you free. He doesn’t. He teaches that *IF* you continue in his word *then* you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. It might be that some truths are better not known until we can be brought to the place that we can handle them.

    If you’re interested, I’ve written more about self-deception and the Christian life here:

  7. I’ve seen a lot of people referencing this study and making some fairly broad statements about affirmations and their impact.

    The problem is that the research doesn’t back the quickly-sketched conclusion. Even the people who did the research have been surprised at the generalizations it has engendered.

    The research underlines what many of us who do believe in the value of affirmations have long known–that they must be constructed and utilized in the right way.

    Part of that is believability, but there are other elements to “doing it right”. I’ve seen nothing in the research to lead me to believe that the best practices advanced for positive self-talk could have adverse impacts.

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