A recent study revealed that positive affirmations may actually make some people feel worse instead of better. Psychologists Joanne V. Wood and John W. Lee from the University of Waterloo, and W.Q. Elaine Perunovic from the University of New Brunswick found that people with low self esteem who recite affirmations such as "I am a lovable person" or "I will succeed" may end up feeling less lovable or less likely to succeed.

Wood and colleagues noted that in effect, heightening awareness about issues in which people with low self-esteem feel deficient simply makes these people feel more deficient. On the other hand, people with higher self-esteem find the reinforcements of positive beliefs helpful.

Affirmations provide a strong positive influence for changing our thoughts and emotions. Pairing a positive mental and feeling focus with a problem focus leads to diminishing of the intensity of the negative one. Generic positive affirmations are suggested in the use of WHEE (Wholistic Hybrid derived from EMDR and EFT) to counteract whatever is troublesome in people's lives that they wish to change. You can fill in the blanks with whatever is relevant to your situation:

Even though I feel ___________
When I think about ___________

And then you add a Counteracting affirmation, such as:
I still love and accept myself, wholly and completely; and/or
God (Spirit/ The Infinite Source/ My higher Self/ My family…INSERT WHAT FEELS RIGHT TO YOU) loves and accepts me, wholly and completely and unconditionally

The positive affirmation neutralizes the negative thoughts and feelings. The stronger the affirmation is perceived to be, the more potent it is in facilitating changes in the problem focus. Most people need to repeat this several times in order to completely neutralize the negatives.

Dolly suffered with migraines for years. Her headaches occurred several times a week and could last up to three days. They were markedly worsened by stress and during her menstrual periods. At times they were incapacitating and she was forced to retreat to her darkened bedroom for a day or two to recuperate. Medications provided minimal relief and were plagued with unpleasant side effects.

Dolly responded rapidly to WHEE, as do most people with migraines. She found that adding "The Holy Spirit supports me on my path of healing" markedly enhanced her counteracting affirmation. WHEE enabled Dolly to stop her migraines, particularly if she used it as soon as they started. After two months she was migraine free for the first time in over 10 years.

Problems with affirmations
Sometimes a person feels that the affirmation does not match their belief system. As noted in the research above, some people feel they cannot honestly say, "I love and accept myself." Others find that their spiritual or religious beliefs are not strong positives, or may even be negatives for them. For them to say, "God [or etc.] loves and accepts me" may even be counter-productive, producing an even more negative feeling.

Greg was a twice-divorced businessman who struggled with a drinking habit for years. An auto accident in which he severely injured an elderly woman literally sobered him up to the dangers of his drinking problem. His childhood parental abuse had left him without much self-love, and his father's hypocritical Bible-thumping insistence on strict rules for the children while he himself drank and womanized also left Greg with a dim view of religion and a disbelief in a caring God. The generic WHEE affirmations were therefore totally ineffectual for him.

His saving grace in childhood had been his loving grandmother, who had done her best to offer love to Greg and his two brothers. She had to restrict her caregiving to times when their father was away on business, as he did not tolerate his wife's family interfering in his strict child-rearing. Though she had died when Greg was only eight, he still had warm memories of sitting in her lap while she read adventure stories to him. This memory served well as Greg's conteracting positive affirmation: "I know my grandmother loved and accepted me and did everything she could to help me." Using this, he was able to control his alcohol cravings and to deal methodically with his memories of childhood abuses and low self-esteem.

Where people have no recollections of positive, nurturing experiences, it may be a challenge to find a strong counteracting positive feeling memory. In some cases, memories of being moved when listening to music or being in nature can serve these purposes.

Ever on the search for varieties of wholistic healing, I came across the following Russian YouTube item. It is wonderful to see how healing can be shared in a universal language. Watch patiently, as this is a slow starter... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQ5boOTyz_4&feature=email
Several clients have found this a helpful positive memory for use as a counteracting positive.

Replacement affirmation
Having released the troublesome memories, it is helpful to install positive awarenesses around the same issues. This is a standard portion of EMDR treatment, from which WHEE is partially derived. For instance, a person dealing with agoraphobia, the fear of being in strange, new, unfamiliar places and situations might say, "I enjoy being with new people in new places."

Generically, this takes the form of:

[Positive statement _____________] that counters the negative, after it has been released. e.g. after releasing fear of [heights/ mice/ spiders/ your issue]:
I am comfortable [looking down from any height/ looking at, being near mice/ spiders/ your issue]
And I love and accept myself, wholly and completely
And God (or etc.) loves and accepts me, wholly and completely and unconditionally

Once the replacement positive is installed, the negative is far less likely to return.

In conclusion
To state that affirmations may make people feel worse is actually incorrect. When a positive affirmation does not produce a positive effect, it is an invitation to explore why this is so. Such explorations can then lead to deeper clearings of negative beliefs and negative self-image issues.

Author's Bio: 

My bio summarizes my ongoing search for ever more ways to peel the onion of life's resistances, to reach the knowing

(with the inner knowing of truth which has the feel of rightness) that we are all cells in the body of the Infinite


While my unique area of expertise is spiritual awareness and healing, my principal work is through wholistic healing –

addressing spirit, relationships (with other people and the environment), mind, emotions and body. I am using WHEE, a

potent self-healing method, with children and adults who are dealing with PTSD and other forms of stress, psychological

and physical pain, low self-esteem, cravings and other issues.

Daniel J. Benor, MD, ABIHM, is a wholistic psychiatric psychotherapist who blends in his therapy elements from

intuitive and spiritual awareness, spiritual healing (as in Reiki and Therapeutic Touch), WHEE - Wholistic Hybrid

derived from Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), transactional

analysis, gestalt therapy, hypnotherapy, meditation, imagery and relaxation (psychoneuroimmunology), dream analysis,

and other approaches. Dr. Benor has taught this spectrum of methods internationally for 35 years to people involved in

wholistic, intuitive, and spiritual approaches to caring, health and personal development.

Dr. Benor founded The Doctor-Healer Network in England and North America. He is the author of Healing Research, Volumes

I-III and many articles on wholistic, spiritual healing. He is the editor and publisher of the peer-reviewed

International Journal of Healing and Caring - Online and moderator of

WholisticHealingResearch.com , a major informational website on spiritual

awareness, healing and CAM research.

He appears internationally on radio and TV. He is a Founding Diplomate of the American Board of Holistic Medicine,

Founder and Immediate Past Coordinator for the Council for Healing, a non-profit organization that promotes awareness

of spiritual healing, and for many years on the advisory boards of the journals, Alternative Therapies in Health and

Medicine, Subtle Energies (ISSSEEM), Frontier Sciences, the Advisory Council of the Association for Comprehensive

Energy Psychotherapy (ACEP), Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) and the Advisory Board of the Research Council for

Complementary Medicine (UK), Core reviewer for BioMed Central, Complementary and Alternative Medicine Online.

Additional Resources on Pain Management can be found at:

Website Directory for Pain Management
Articles on Pain Management
Products for Pain Management
Daniel J. Benor, MD, the Official Guide to Pain Management
Dr. Benor’s website, www.paintapsg.com