Using Affirmations to Heal Narcissistic Abuse Syndrome
When we grew up in dysfunction, especially in narcissistic homes, we couldn’t do anything right. Whether intentional or not, if we had a narcissistic mother, her “ emotional daggers” hurt us deeply. Long after we left home, that cruel, critical voice stayed with us inside.
We may have tried convincing ourselves that we were over-reacting, that she didn’t mean any harm, or that it never even happened. Denying the reality of our childhood and allowing emotional wounds to remain unaddressed and unhealed leaves us unable to face life’s challenges in an adult manner. Our unhealed triggers and our wounded inner child keep us stuck, perceiving, feeling, and responding like a frightened child.
When we’ve done the work and progressed through the stages of Narcissism Awareness Grief to arrive at Acceptance, it feels as if a burden has been lifted. Suddenly we can see clearly. We are finally able to face ourselves and confront the reality of our past fully. It is as if blinders have been removed from our eyes; we can see our past; where we came from, who we were, who we are, and who we can be. And we’re not afraid or threatened by it. We have a sense of understanding and a new feeling of personal power. We know what to do, and we know we’ll be OK.
We feel a sense of gratitude for allowing ourselves to question those unsupportive inner voices and challenge them. Now, we no longer feel the need to push them away. Now, we can sit with them and observe. And as we watch, we see our story unfold. We write and talk about it. We acknowledge the courageous little child we were, faced with a childhood full of confusion, doubt, and shame, and we feel compassion for ourselves.
Healing Affirmations can help each stage of Narcissism, Awareness Grief, and afterward, set boundaries and replace codependent thinking and behavior with healthy ones.
What are Affirmations?
An affirmation is a simple positive statement made in the present tense. It impacts the conscious and the subconscious minds. By believing in a particular thought and saying it regularly, you begin to attract more positivity and higher vibrational people and things into your life.
The Law of Attraction is a viewpoint proposing that thinking positive thoughts bring about positive results, and negative thoughts bring negative ones. The theory is based on the belief that thoughts are a form of energy. So, positive thoughts attract positive energy; positivity, and success in health, finances, relationships, etc. As the “Law of Attraction” states, “like attracts like.”
“Healing” affirmations are positive statements about your well-being. They are based on the belief that your thoughts influence your physical and emotional health. The best news is that you don’t have to be sick to use healing affirmations!
Saying your affirmations to yourself is all about becoming your “authentic self.” You are more easily able to connect with your authentic self when your vibration is high. When we are not vibrating highly, unhealthy, unsupportive inner dialogue can remain our default way of life.
Positive affirmations work best when they are highly personal. They are a self-talk approach that creates a motivating outlook on life. Affirmations help you elevate your emotional vibration when you’re in a lower vibrational pattern feeling emotions like fear, worry, anxiety, doubt, or powerlessness. Using positive affirmations is one of the quickest ways you can raise your vibration. They are a powerful tool for manifestation and can lift your attitude at the same time.
As you continue to use your affirmations, your vibration will increase, and you’ll notice you feel lighter, happier, and more peaceful. You’ll begin to attain your goals, fulfill your desires, and attract the people and experiences you want.
How Affirmations Work
Affirmations remind us of who we are and who we want to be. They help us to create our most authentic selves and connect us with our higher selves.
The journey out of codependency means finding ourselves, discovering our true selves, our authentic selves, for the first time. When we are caught up in codependent behaviors, we don’t have an authentic self. In his book “Codependency, An Emerging Issue,” Robert Subby says that it results from household rules preventing the “open expression” of feelings. (Pompano Beach, FL, Health Communications Inc.,1984, pp. 34-44)
Listen to your intuition, and your inner voice before you begin writing affirmations. Let your inner compass direct the course of your life. What is your inner voice telling you? What do you need to work on? When we use affirmations, we honor ourselves, listening to our intuition and higher power to become our authentic selves.
Allow the journey to begin because you love yourself.
The Power of Optimism
Affirmations are written and designed to promote an optimistic mindset. Optimism is a powerful attitude! Affirmations have been shown to help reduce the tendency to dwell on negative experiences (Wiesenfeld et al., 2001.)
When we replace negative thoughts with positive statements, we create a whole new hopeful and flexible narrative around “who we are” and what we can accomplish.
There are three main ideas underlying self-affirmation theory, and correctly written affirmations work according to this theory:
First, by using positive affirmations, we can change our self-identity. Affirmations reinforce our newly created self-narrative; that we are flexible, moral, and capable of adapting to different conditions (Cohen & Sherman, 2014.)
Instead of viewing ourselves in a “fixed” or rigid way, for example, as “lazy” or “selfish,” when we are flexible, we can see ourselves as much more. We can adopt a wider range of “identities” and roles, which means we can define things like “success” differently. This means that we can view the various aspects of ourselves as positive and adapt to different situations more easily (Aronson, 1969.)
Second, self-affirmation theory maintains that self-identity is not about being exceptional, perfect, or excellent (Cohen & Sherman, 2014). Instead, to be moral, flexible, and good, we need to be competent and adequate in areas that we value (Steele, 1988.)
Third, we maintain our self-integrity by behaving in ways that genuinely deserve acknowledgment and praise. This means that we say an affirmation because we want to live that particular personal value.
What the Research Indicates
Affirmation research focuses on how individuals adapt to information or experiences that threaten their self-image. Claude Steele, a social psychologist and emeritus professor at Stanford University, promoted self-affirmation theory in the late 1980s (Steele, C. M. 1988, Cohen, G. L., & Sherman, D. K. 2007). Today, self-affirmation theory remains well-studied throughout social psychological research (Sherman, D. K., & Cohen, G. L., McQueen, A., & Klein, W. M. 2006).
Using self-affirmations can help us cope with threats or stress and can be beneficial for improving academic performance, health, and well-being. (Cohen, G. L., & Sherman, D. K. 2014).
Self-affirmation theory has led to research in neuroscience, investigating whether we can “see” how the brain changes using imaging technology when using positive affirmations.
MRI evidence suggests that specific neural pathways increase when we speak our affirmations (Cascio et al., 2016). The “ventromedial prefrontal cortex,” involved in positive valuation and self-related information processing, becomes more active when we speak positively about our values (Falk et al., 2015; Cascio et al., 2016).
Falk and her colleagues focused on how we process information about ourselves. They found that when we practice positive affirmations, we’re more able to perceive “otherwise-threatening information as more self-relevant and valuable” (2015: 1979). This can have several benefits.
Evidence suggests that using positive self-affirmations is beneficial. Here are six examples from the experiential research:
- Positive affirmations have been shown to decrease health-related stress (Sherman et al., 2009; Critcher & Dunning, 2015.)
- Positive affirmations have been used effectively in Positive Psychology Interventions (scientific tools and strategies used for increasing happiness, wellbeing, positive thinking, and emotions, (Keyes, Fredrickson, & Park, 2012.)
- Positive affirmation may help change the perception of otherwise “threatening” messages (Logel & Cohen, 2012.)
- Positive affirmation can help us set our intention to change for the better (Harris et al., 2007) and eat more fruit and vegetables (Epton & Harris, 2008.)
- Positive affirmations have been positively linked to academic achievement by lessening GPA decline in students who feel left out at college (Layous et al., 2017.)
- Positive affirmation has been demonstrated to lower stress (Koole et al., 1999; Weisenfeld et al., 2001.)
As we’ve seen, positive affirmations can provide health benefits by helping us to respond in a less defensive or resistant way when we perceive real or imagined threats. One study found that when using affirmations, smokers responded less dismissively to graphic cigarette packet warnings and conveyed the intention to change their behavior (Harris et al., 2007).
But more generally, using affirmations allows us to create an adaptive, broader self-concept, making us more resilient to life’s struggles. Whether it’s social pressure, health, or healing our trauma, a broader self-concept is an extremely helpful tool.
When implementing any change, to be successful, you must be aware of the change you want to make throughout the day, every day. You must intentionally commit to making the change daily. We’ll talk more about intentions and intentionality later.
What do you want to change about yourself? Do you have characteristics that you criticize, judge, and scorn? Maybe you have habits or perceived shortcomings that you’d like to give up? Is there an aspect of your life that you want to develop? Your answers to questions like these can give you ideas about the kind of positive affirmations you could use.
Thoughts Become Things
Our subconscious minds accept repeated affirmations as truth, even when the affirmations are negative. Become aware of your negative thoughts.
We want to use positive affirmations to change the way we think. If they’re created with a high vibrational frequency, we are more able to attract the things we’ve always wanted but believed we couldn’t have.
But if you don’t write your affirmations correctly, it can be an absolute waste of time. The key to writing successful affirmations to achieve the life you want is to be confident that what you are saying will actually happen.
When you’ve learned how to write and use affirmations correctly, you can start manifesting your goals. It takes some practice and a bit of trial and error to figure out what works.
Short, Clear, Concrete, Positive and Present Tense
Affirmations that work the best are short, clear, concrete, positive, and in the present tense.
Use only a few words in your affirmations to make them easier to remember. To accomplish this, begin with a short phrase like:
I clearly see, hear, do…
I look forward with joy to…
I look forward to the opportunity that______provides for______.
Your affirmations should be authentic, meaning that they feel doable and true. Our quantum self (our “self” at the molecular level) recognizes the truth contained within our affirmations.
The above affirmational statements are concrete. They are solid, assertive, for a reason. If you use words like “I feel,” it implies that your affirmation is temporary because feelings are temporary. Do you ever feel confident when you wear a certain item of clothing? What happens when you take it off? Do you see what I mean? The feeling of confidence may decrease or disappear altogether. When you say “I am,” it implies that it’s permanent, no matter the time, place, or situation. It says that you OWN IT.
Know What You Want
What is it that you want to achieve? What do you want to change about yourself?
Ask yourself questions to find a concrete answer to include in your affirmations. For instance:
“How can I _______________?” vs. “I can’t because ___________. “
Do you see the difference between these two approaches? Asking questions prompts your mind to start looking for concrete answers, consciously and unconsciously. Asking questions opens up possibilities. When you tell yourself you can’t, it stops your mind from considering solutions. It prevents new ideas from forming. You can see how this would not be a good approach for trying to change your thoughts, beliefs, and mindset. So ask the questions and write your answers. Write the first thing that comes to mind without censoring or editing. I recommend this because the first answer often comes from our higher self or intuition, and is the purest, and often a most concrete form of your answer.
Think about the goals you want to achieve, then write short statements that resonate with you.
Write them as if the desired outcome has already happened.
For more information on how to use Healing Affirmations to heal emotional abuse, read book #3 in the Lemon Moms Series, Life-Altering Affirmations: Change Your Self-talk, Change YourSELF, available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.
More tools for healing:
Learn to set boundaries
Learn about dysfunctional family roles
Understand trauma bonds
Learn about codependency and maladaptive coping skills
Understand the Narcissistic Abuse Cycle
More resources to guide you in healing from childhood trauma, abuse, or neglect. Available on Amazon and wherever books are sold. (ebook, audiobook, hardcover, and paperback.)
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About the author
As a result of growing up in a dysfunctional home, and with the help of professional therapists and continued personal growth, Diane Metcalf has developed strong coping skills and healing strategies. She happily shares those insights with others who want to learn.
Her books and articles are the result of her education, knowledge, personal growth, and insight regarding her childhood experiences and subsequent recovery work.
Diane holds a Master of Science degree in Information Technology and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology. She has worked in numerous fields including domestic violence and abuse and is an experienced advocate, speaker, and writer about family dysfunction. Currently, she writes about recovery from narcissistic victim syndrome and symptoms of C-PTSD on The Toolbox and has authored three books in the “Lemon Moms” series. Visit her author’s website here.
She is no longer a practicing Social Worker, Counselor, Program Manager, or Advocate.
This website is intended for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional therapy.