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Positive-affirmations are statements that affirm one’s positive qualities, abilities, or goals. They are often used as a self-help technique to boost self-esteem, motivation, and wellbeing. But can positive-affirmations also help us transcend our self-centred perspective and connect with something greater than ourselves? In this article, we will explore the role of positive-affirmations in fostering self-transcendence, which is the ability to go beyond one’s personal interests and concerns and experience a sense of unity with others, nature, or a higher power. We will review the theoretical and empirical evidence on how positive-affirmations can enhance self-transcendence, as well as the potential benefits and challenges of using this practice. We will also provide some practical tips and examples on how to use positive-affirmations for self-transcendence in your daily life.
What are positive-affirmations?
Positive-affirmations are statements that affirm one’s positive qualities, values, or goals, such as “I am loved” or “I let go”. They are often used to cope with stress, boost self-confidence, and achieve personal objectives. However, positive-affirmations can also have a broader impact on one’s sense of self and relation to others and the world. self-transcendence is the phenomenon of experiencing one’s self as expanding beyond the present moment and the individual ego, and feeling connected to humanity, nature, the cosmos, or a higher power. self-transcendence can enhance wellbeing, meaning, purpose, and optimism, and reduce depression, neuroticism, and isolation.
Some examples of positive-affirmations are:
- I am worthy of love and respect.
- I have the power to create positive change.
- I am grateful for all the opportunities in my life.
- I trust in the divine plan for me.
- I am connected to the source of all life.
The evidence on how positive-affirmations can enhance self-transcendence
There are several theoretical perspectives that can explain how positive-affirmations can enhance self-transcendence. One is based on Maslow‘s hierarchy of needs, which proposes that humans have a basic need for Self-actualization, or the realization of one’s full potential. Maslow later revised his theory and added self-transcendence as a higher need that goes beyond Self-actualization and involves service to others, spiritual growth, and peak experiences. According to this perspective, positive-affirmations can help individuals satisfy their lower needs (such as physiological, safety, belonging, and esteem needs) and free up their cognitive and emotional resources to pursue their higher needs (such as Self-actualization and self-transcendence).
Another theoretical perspective is based on terror management theory, which suggests that humans cope with the existential threat of death by creating and maintaining a cultural world-view that provides meaning, order, and value. However, this world-view can also create self-image concerns and conflicts with others who hold different world-views. According to this perspective, positive-affirmations can reduce the need for defensive reactions to mortality salience (such as prejudice, aggression, or conformity) and increase the openness to alternative world-views and experiences that can foster self-transcendence. Positive-affirmations can also enhance symbolic immortality, or the sense that one’s life will have a lasting impact beyond one’s death.
A third theoretical perspective is based on self-affirmation theory, which posits that humans have a fundamental need to maintain a positive and coherent self-image. When this self-image is threatened by negative feedback or events, people tend to engage in self-protective strategies that can impair their performance, health, and relationships. According to this perspective, positive-affirmations can buffer against these threats by affirming one’s core values and identity. This can increase one’s self-integrity and self-worth, and reduce the need for ego-defensive responses. Moreover, positive-affirmations can enable one to transcend self-image concerns by increasing other-directed feelings (such as empathy, altruism, or gratitude) and existential concerns (such as the meaning of life or future death).
The empirical evidence on how positive-affirmations can enhance self-transcendence is still limited but growing. Some studies have found that positive-affirmations can increase prosocial behaviour (such as helping others or donating money), empathy (such as perspective-taking or empathic accuracy), gratitude (such as expressing appreciation or counting blessings), spirituality (such as belief in God or transcendental experiences), and cosmic connection (such as feeling part of nature or the universe). However, these effects may depend on various factors, such as the type, frequency, timing, content, and delivery of the affirmations; the personality, mood, motivation, and goals of the individual; and the social and cultural context in which the affirmations are used.
The potential benefits and challenges of using positive-affirmations
Positive affirmations can have potential benefits and challenges for the people who use them. Some of the possible benefits are:
- They can help reduce negative self-talk and cognitive distortions that may undermine one’s self-esteem and well-being.
- They can enhance one’s emotional regulation and coping skills by fostering a more optimistic and resilient mindset.
- They can increase one’s motivation and commitment to pursue one’s goals and aspirations.
- They can create a positive feedback loop that reinforces one’s beliefs and actions.
Some of the possible challenges are:
- They can be unrealistic or incongruent with one’s actual situation or abilities, leading to frustration, disappointment, or self-deception.
- They can trigger a defensive reaction from one’s subconscious mind that may counteract or negate the positive effects of the affirmations.
- They can become a form of avoidance or denial that prevents one from addressing the underlying causes of one’s problems or difficulties.
- They can create a discrepancy between one’s self-image and reality that may impair one’s social relationships or performance.
Therefore, positive affirmations are not a magic bullet that can solve all of one’s issues or guarantee success. They are a tool that can be used with caution and moderation, along with other strategies such as goal-setting, action-planning, self-reflection, feedback-seeking, and professional help if needed.
If you are interested in learning more about how positive affirmations can be part of a self-transcendence practice, here are some weblinks with URLs for further reading:
13 Positive Affirmations for When Life Becomes Too Much : This article offers some examples of positive affirmations that can help us cope with stress, anxiety, and negative emotions, and explains how they activate neural reward pathways in the brain.
20 Positive Affirmations for a Fulfilling Life : This article provides more examples of positive affirmations that can help us improve various aspects of our lives, such as health, relationships, career, and happiness.