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It’s the most powerful thing you can say to yourself in a challenging situation.
Just nine little words that work some of the most potent magic there is on some of the toughest challenges we face.
I’m talking about something we can use to shift in the moment when we find ourselves suddenly knee-deep in old trauma, transported back into some past prison of fear and horror. For those of us who know these places, that’s a pretty big deal.
I believe it is all energy.
Having studied and practiced hypnotherapy, I know a lot about beliefs—specifically limiting beliefs—how we end up with these programs in our subconscious mind running our lives, and how to shift them.
The formula for using an affirmation to shift a limiting belief is simply to start flooding the brain with the opposite of the limiting belief once it is discovered. For example, if you realize that the core limiting belief that is coming up in your life is “I’m not lovable,” then you begin using the affirmation, “I am lovable.”
The thing is that when we move immediately to the complete opposite of something we have held to be true for so long, at least part of us is likely to have some strong resistance to this new “truth.”
In time, the practice of saturating with the new belief will work, if we stick with it and are consistent. As we keep bringing the new truth back to the forefront of our minds, our minds will do the thing they do best and start finding examples of that in our day-to-day lives.
(If you want to give this a try, start thinking something like “red car” all day, every day. Most likely you will start noticing more red cars, because you’ve put that in the forefront of your mind. It isn’t that you are statistically necessarily seeing more, it’s just that that’s where you’ve placed your focus.)
But when we are talking about something more personal, like a deeply embedded belief that we are not lovable, which was taken on through traumatic experience, interactions with authority figures and peer groups, and solidified through repetition, it’s not as simple as “just think red car.”
When we start telling ourselves how lovable we truly are, all of the reasons we think and believe we are not lovable will start to come up. Many times we will feel uncomfortable as we begin to tell ourselves we are, indeed, lovable.
If we’ve taken on the limiting belief we are trying to shift through trauma especially, using the exact opposite to shift it will probably feel harsh and overwhelming. That’s because trauma hard wires the nervous system into a hypervigilant state of fear and distrust. If we just reverse the limiting belief to its positive form, it may be too much on the nervous system, because we are “running over” our nervous system’s danger response—to a traumatized nervous system, if we ignore the signals it’s sending, we only create more distrust within ourselves. It has to feel safe. That’s the bottom line.
There are ways to work with the nervous system directly when fight/flight/freeze kicks in. One technique my trauma therapist taught me is something called the 3-3-5 breath. Things like this work when we are healing from PTSD/C-PTSD when logic won’t, because at the point it becomes PTSD, it becomes a biological issue—the nervous system takes over. We have to then speak the nervous system’s language to be able to switch off that response. When this is the case, using affirmations or just telling ourselves it’s okay and using logic won’t work.
Once we have let our nervous system know it’s safe in its own language, however, we can then proceed with using things like saturating the mind with affirmations of the new belief we want to download. In other words, we can go ahead and tell ourselves how lovable we are.
What I’ve found that actually works wonders is to use a little intermediate “baby step” to the big belief reversal when in this situation.
It goes like this:
We know the big core limiting belief we want to shift. We know we have taken on the belief somewhere along the way, probably as a child, that we aren’t lovable. We may even know exactly when it first locked in and what that experience was, and then how it got reinforced by different events over the years.
Most days we find it okay to use the simple reversal of the limiting belief we wish to shift (for example, reminding ourselves over and over, in different situations, “I am lovable”), and we are consistently using this affirmation to reverse the belief. (It takes 21 days to create a new habit, including a thinking habit or a self-talk habit, so that’s the minimum. A 90 by 90 practice is even more effective—that’s 90 times a day for 90 days. Using a mala to repeat the affirmation 108 times is a great practice for this.)
But then we suddenly find ourselves in a situation where we are triggered, literally reliving an old trauma of not being lovable, and frantically repeating over and over, “I am lovable,” is ineffective, or even making things worse.
The first thing to do is step away from the situation, the conversation, the environment. Whatever it is, score safe space immediately, even if it is excusing yourself to go to the bathroom for five minutes. This is really important because it is you showing up for yourself. By getting yourself out of the immediate threatening situation, you are building self-trust by not abandoning yourself.
Once you’ve scored safe space, get grounded. Feel your feet on the floor, your body on the chair, your clothes on your skin. You can also find a favorite object in the room to look at that brings you back to the present place and moment, or if at work or not in your own space, look out the window at a tree. Find something in your space to which you can connect.
Now that you’re safe and grounded, call all of your energy back from all other times, places, people, and events, and breathe your spirit back into your body. This gets you out of reliving the trauma of the past and integrates you back in the present moment, in the here and now, which most likely is actually a safe place.
This is a really good time to do any nervous system exercises for trauma like the 3-3-5 breath, if you know them, too, to tell the nervous system it really is okay. You can also just focus on taking long, slow, deep breaths to calm the nervous system, and making your exhales longer than your inhales.
Now it’s time to work the extra-special magic.
Simply say to yourself, “I open to the possibility of things being different,” and as you do that, in your safe, grounded space, feel your feet on the ground, and engage the lower three chakras, allowing your shoulders to roll back and your heart to open as your head floats up and your chin lifts. Feel your energy truly opening to the possibility, opening to receive the gifts available.
Creating this pause when we are triggered by going to a safe space and grounding and opening is hugely important, because when we are in a trauma trigger, our minds riff off of our energy (as do others) and we can actually recreate the past.
Pausing like this allows us to step out of that and truly open ourselves to the possibility of things being different.
It’s of utmost importance here to get to a safe place first before doing this opening, though. If we open when we do not feel safe, we are only further running over ourselves and creating more trauma.
I promise you, this practice is pure magic—real-life, everyday alchemy.
I’ve used it time and time again, and every time I am able to open to the possibility of things being different, they are, and in the most amazing ways.
The best part is, it lets you take back your power and reclaim your throne and start ruling your realm again, in the most gentle and loving of ways.
Give it a try and see for yourself.