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Do affirmations work ?

Do affirmations work?

1. Introduction

“I will never be good enough!”- The thought echoed through Jennifer’s mind as she made yet another mistake at work. With sheer will power and after a cup of coffee, she pulled herself together and kept repeating the affirmation to herself – “I am the best, I am good at my job”.

However, it had been three years since she had got this job with no sign of a promotion. Every mistake led to further self-doubt and the affirmation that she had read in a self-help book seemed less and less believable.

Affirmations have long been used by self-help books and psychologists to help people challenge negative or unhelpful thoughts. Whilst they are popular, do they really help in overcoming systemic issues in people’s lives ? Why did Jennifer’s faith in affirmations begin to wane ? At the end of the day, the reason why we all use tools such as affirmations is we want sustainable solutions to overcoming life’s issues. The question is – are affirmations the answer to this ?

2. What is an affirmation ?

Affirmations are positive statements that can be repeated mentally. They can help to overcome negativity, build self-confidence and start seeing positive changes in ourselves, overall. By taking affirmations regularly we start thinking and acting differently. To enhance their effectiveness, some other aspects such as visualisation, breathing exercises, meditation, conscious life changes, setting some specific goals, etc. are also used.

The following are some aspects to keep in mind when framing positive affirmations.

  • We should choose our words carefully when framing affirmations as words have an impact on the mind.
  • Thus, we should only choose positive words in affirmations.
  • Affirmations should be framed in the present tense.
  • Making them realistic helps to have desired effect.
  • Also, they should be said with some feeling.
  • Affirmations help to reassure ourselves with a positive thought irrespective of the actual circumstances.

3. Some examples of affirmations

Given below are some examples of affirmations.

  • I am in perfect health, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually
  • I have inner peace and contentment
  • Everything I do today will be successful

4. Different types of affirmations

There are different types of affirmations that can address practically anything and everything which we want to overcome or improve. They can be taken for love, health, money, mental health, anxiety, success, for children, etc.

5. Benefits of taking affirmations

Taking positive affirmations helps to break the negativity of the mind. To some extent, it can boost confidence and propel one to act positively. If the mind is left to its own devices, then it can dwell on negativity. The mind by itself is stubborn in nature. So, just reading positive affirmations helps to give some positive direction and enthusiasm. It can create the base for developing a positive mind.

Usually affirmations are framed at the psychological level. However, when the spiritual element is added to the affirmations, they become even more effective. Some examples of spiritualising affirmations can be :

  • Due to God’s grace, my nature has become very open, easy going and blissful.
  • Due to God’s grace, I am able to forgive the people who have hurt me.
  • Due to Guru’s grace, I have become free from any worries that I have.
  • With God’s grace, my mind is always in a positive state.
  • With God’s grace, I am able to learn any new thing very easily.

6. Do positive affirmations work ?

6.1 Background information

Many psychologists advocate affirmations as a means for improving mental health and people’s responses to life situations. However, what is not so commonly known is that the responses that people have to situations is intrinsically linked to how the subconscious mind of that person reacts to the situation. So, in light of this, it is important to understand what can influence the effectiveness of affirmations and whether affirmations can overcome the various obstacles in a person’s psyche. Let’s take a step back and review some background information :

  • About the mind : 90% of the mind is made up of the subconscious mind, which is out of a person’s conscious awareness, while only 10% of his mind consists of the conscious mind. The impressions in the subconscious mind have developed over lifetimes and have a spiritual element to them . When anything (such as an adverse response to a situation) has a spiritual aspect to it then it needs to be addressed at the spiritual level. Refer to the article on the nature of the conscious and subconscious minds to learn more.
  • About one’s personality : Numerous impressions in a person’s subconscious mind make up his personality. Positive impressions that are helpful to a person in his life or spiritual practice constitute his qualities, while impressions that are harmful in his life or spiritual practice constitute his personality defects. Please refer the article about personality qualities and defects.
Thus, in order for a psychological technique such as taking affirmations to effectively solve problems at the psychological level, the technique would need to address the impressions of defects in a person’s subconscious mind.

6.2 Limitations of affirmations

Taking into account the spiritual nature of the mind, through spiritual research we have found the following to be some limitations of affirmations :

1. Affirmations only address the conscious mind – When a person gives an affirmation, its impact is primarily limited to the conscious mind. However, the conscious mind makes up only 10% of the mind. So, affirmations have a limited impact in terms of overcoming negative traits in an individual as they address only the conscious mind.

2. Affirmations are general and not specific – The mind always works in terms of specific incidents. So, when we say general statements to the mind, it does not accept them fully.

For example, consider the following incident :

‘I was feeling inferior at the party where I felt all my friends are rich and I am left behind.’

Now, if I give myself the affirmation, ‘I am rich’ or ‘I am worthy and deserving of money’, it does not address the specific incident. In this case, the incident was the party where I felt inferior to my friends.

So, the impression of the personality defect of inferiority remains untouched and is not worked upon. Thus, my mind continues to dwell on the incident and feel upset about it, thus reinforcing the feeling of inferiority, defeating the very purpose of the affirmation.

From this example, you will see how affirmations really work more at the surface level. Affirmations do not address the underlying impression, which is the real root cause of all the trouble.

3. Since affirmations may not necessarily match reality, the mind recognises them as wishful thinking

Affirmation for overcoming domestic violenceIf affirmations are repeatedly given to the mind that are unrealistic, then the mind rejects them.

For example, let us say that I have an abusive husband and I am struggling with difficult situations related to it.

If I give the affirmation, ‘I am surrounded by love’, it may become like brushing the pain and abuse which is the real issue under the carpet.


4. Affirmations don’t take spiritual factors into account  

Affirmation for life partnerTo illustrate this limitation of affirmations, let’s take an example. Suppose I have a yearning to share my life with a partner. The reality, however, is that I have been unable to get married and every time I come across someone it eventually breaks up at the last moment. The underlying cause why I have not been able to get married is actually due to my adverse destiny. In fact, in this lifetime I am destined not to get married.

Now if I were to give myself an affirmation – ‘I am going to get the greatest life partner’ – somewhere along the way my mind will reject it completely. Here the affirmation has fallen short as it has not considered the spiritual factor.

5. If we show the mind an unrealistic picture for too long and then one is hit with hard reality and the false bubble created by the affirmation breaks, it can lead to further damage like lack of faith or a breakdown :

Affirmations can show one an unrealistic picture of oneself

Consider that I am taking the affirmation, ‘I am successful in whatever I do.’ But if I am failing in my exams and I am under a lot of stress due to situations with my family, then taking this affirmation may be interpreted as a lie by the mind. If one’s mind meets with constant dejection, then it can lead to lack of faith in the affirmation and in oneself.



7. Is there a more effective way to bring about a complete inner change ?  

To bring about that true positive change in our personalities, we need to work on the subconscious mind. Spiritual energy is needed to nullify the negative impressions of personality defects which are formed not only due to the thoughts and actions from this birth but from many past births as well.

SSRF recommends a step of spiritual practice called the Personality Defect Removal Process to overcome the negative impressions in the mind. As a part of the process, situation-specific Autosuggestions are given to the mind, which helps to overcome the impressions of personality defects. As the impressions go on reducing, one starts becoming purer from within, bringing about a complete change. Please refer to the article – What are Autosuggestions.

8. Benefits of Autosuggestions in comparison to affirmations

The following table summarises the advantages which Autosuggestions have over affirmations. 

Aspect Affirmation Autosuggestion
1. Does it work at the level of subconscious mind ? No (works only on the conscious mind) Yes
2. Is it specific ? No, it is very general Yes, it is framed for a specific incident
3. Does it bring about awareness of one’s shortcoming ? No Yes, at various levels – before, during and after the mistake is made
4. Does it address the personality defect causing the mistake ? In a general and vague way ​Yes, in a way that is tailor-made to the individual’s personality
5. Does it address spiritual factors ? No Yes
6. Does it enable  one to monitor how one is improving ?  No Yes, through Progress Autosuggestion
7. Does it direct one to practice the perspective ?  No Yes

To understand this table in detail, please read the sections below.

1. Works on the subconscious mind

Affirmations touch only the surface, but the subconscious mind remains as it is as the impressions are not worked upon. Autosuggestions directly work on the impressions of personality defects. So, the subconscious mind is worked upon and one experiences purity of mind. It helps to overcome defects in an individual.

For example, if I am giving an affirmation, ‘I will get better and better every day’, it will not help me to give up drinking alcohol. No matter how much we advise an individual who is addicted to alcohol about the hazards of drinking or we take a general affirmation, it will not have a lasting impact on him. He will not give up drinking alcohol even if he is told that his liver will be affected and can collapse, or he can develop liver cancer.

However, when an Autosuggestion about this is given such as, ‘Whenever I am about to drink alcohol, I will become aware that drinking alcohol is injurious to my health and can cause liver problems or cancer, so I will stop drinking alcohol’, it gradually starts having an impact on the individual. His habit of drinking starts decreasing in stages.

  • In the first stage of taking the Autosuggestion, he will remember after drinking alcohol that he should not have drank.
  • In the second stage, he will remember that he should not drink alcohol while he is drinking, but he is unable to stop the urge
  • In the third stage, as he is beginning to drink alcohol, he will remember that he is not supposed to and stop.
  • And finally, he will not drink alcohol at all as the impression in the subconscious mind of drinking alcohol is wiped out.

Punishment method : In Autosuggestions, aversion therapy is also employed and this is called the punishment method. It helps to bring about changes faster if change is not happening just by giving Autosuggestions.

For example, the Autosuggestion for the example related to drinking above can be, ’Whenever I am about to drink alcohol, I will become aware of it, pinch myself and stop the thought as it is deleterious to my health and can cause cancer’.

Addressing the root : Another way in which Autosuggestions help is that they address the root cause of the problem.

For example, a person may be drinking alcohol due to worry or anxiety. If that is the case, he can introspect on what is causing his worry or anxiety. It could be due to some specific incident or situations in life. So, Autosuggestions can be taken on the particular incident which helps to remove the personality defect of worrying. According to the Personality Defect Model, if this defect is removed, then automatically the anxiety will go and so will the addiction.

2. Specific

Autosuggestions are framed on specific incidents or mistakes which are related to a particular personality defect. For the Personality Defects Removal Process, at any given point of time, 2-3 defects are chosen to be worked upon and a specific Autosuggestion on a mistake related to each defect is framed. For example, let us say I choose to work on laziness and expectations. Then we select one mistake each related to these 2 defects and frame specific Autosuggestions on each. This brings a great deal of clarity to the mind. Thus, they are greatly effective.

Autosuggestions help to address past unfinished business

Example : I am not able to trust other men and commit to a relationship . This is due to unfinished business about my ex-boyfriend Noah, who had left me for another girl.

Autosuggestion : Whenever I think of how I will trust another man as he may be like Noah, I will realise that this happened in the past. It was a part of my destiny. Now God is with me and He will help me to get in touch with someone who is nice. So, I will be open to meeting new people.

3. There is an element of bringing awareness which helps to make it more effective

For example, say I am working on forgetfulness, and one specific mistake is forgetting to lock the front door at night. So, the Autosuggestion framed can be : ‘Whenever I am about to go to sleep, I will become aware to check if the front door is locked and I will lock the door.’ By repeating this Autosuggestion, the awareness of doing the right action increases and we avoid the mistake. In this way the impression of the personality defect of forgetfulness reduces.

4. Autosuggestions are framed as per individual need, so they help to bring about changes much faster

Every individual is different so the mistakes which one makes or the personality defects which they have also varies. For the same mistake, depending on the personality type the root defect will vary. For example, let’s say the mistake is : My team member Mark made a mistake in the balance sheet and I got angry at him.

Now for 2 different individuals, the reason for getting angry can be different.

If I have a reaction with the thought, ‘How can Mark make such a silly mistake ? I would never make such a mistake’, then the personality defect, ‘Pride’ is predominant in me.


If I have a reaction with the thought that ‘Mark always makes such mistakes. I am frustrated with him’, then the personality defect, ‘Prejudice’ is predominant in me.

Autosuggestions are framed after such an analysis is done. Thus, they help to address the exact root of the problem for an individual. Due to this, rapid positive changes are seen in the personality.

5. Autosuggestions work at the spiritual level

There is spiritual energy in Autosuggestions. We can also make Autosuggestions at the level of spiritual emotion, meaning the perspectives given can be spiritual. It helps one to derive more spiritual benefit and makes them more effective.

For example : My mistake can be ‘I was fearful that I will be unable to learn and understand how to use complex formulas in Microsoft Excel as expected by my company’.

So, an Autosuggestion at the level of spiritual emotion could be: “Whenever I feel fearful thinking that I will be unable to learn how to use complex formulas in Microsoft Excel as expected by my company, I will realise that God is with me at every step and I will learn the skills step by step. I will continue chanting God’s Name.”

We recommend taking Autosuggestions along with implementing other steps of spiritual practice like chanting God’s Name, doing service to God, etc. This helps to erode the impressions of personality defects at a faster rate.

6. Progress Autosuggestions help to monitor how we are faring

In the Personality Defect Removal process, we frame Progress Autosuggestions, which help the mind to understand how we are changing for the better. When the mind sees concrete examples of how we changed, it gives enthusiasm and propels one to make more efforts. Positive affirmations don’t take this aspect into consideration. Please refer to our article on Progress Autosuggestions (coming soon) to learn more.

7. Practise the perspective given in the Autosuggestion

It helps to practice the correct perspective given in the Autosuggestion.

  • For example, if I am giving an Autosuggestion for the defect of laziness, ‘Whenever I want to postpone exercising, I will become aware that it is important to exercise to maintain good health, and I will exercise for 30 mins.’ So, it is not just enough to take this Autosuggestion but also to act on it by actually exercising.
  • Repeating the Autosuggestion as the situation is unfolding helps to calm the mind and to act in an appropriate manner. This also helps to bring about positive changes. For example, I may frame an Autosuggestion for overcoming negative thinking, as follows ; ’Whenever I think that I am not a good mother, I will become aware that I am trying my best to nurture my child. Teachers have mentioned that he is behaving better and doing better at his schoolwork. So, I will remain calm and continue to raise him in the best way.’ Here, repeating this positive perspective when one begins to get that specific negative thought (in this case, ‘I am not a good mother’), helps to overcome the impression of the personality defect – ‘Negative thinking’ in the subconscious mind. This aspect is not there in the case of affirmations.

9. Autosuggestions are tried and tested by psychiatrists and have a much better impact than taking affirmations 

His Holiness Dr Athavale (a Saint of the highest order under whose blessings SSRF has been founded), who is a former world-renowned clinical hypnotherapist, pioneered the Personality Defect Removal (PDR) process as a way to reduce stress and improve the quality of people’s lives. Having treated thousands of patients over a decade, it became apparent that the personality defects of people (such as anger, jealousy, etc.) are the main psychological reasons for stress and define how they respond/react to various situations. By treating the personality defects of people by using the PDR process, He observed an accelerated recovery rate in His patients’ mental health. Later when He combined this technique with certain spiritual practices, it had an even greater positive impact on the mental health of His patients. The same was also observed in people undertaking spiritual practice (seekers) under His guidance.

A study was conducted on 50 seekers (who practiced these techniques) of various age groups and cultural backgrounds to understand the effect of the PDR process in their lives. The study focused on understanding how effective these techniques were in reducing the 3 main personality defects of seekers and the time required for it.

Key findings

  • Using the PDR process, the average time taken to reduce the intensity of their personality defects by 50-80% was 2 years and 5 months.
  • Over 70% of the personality defects reduced by 50-80% within a period of 3.5 years.
  • Nearly 100% of the respondents said that by incorporating these techniques daily, they experienced a better frame of mind regardless of life’s situations.
  • The findings show that sustainable positive changes in people’s attitudes and personality defects can be achieved in a short period of time, thus enabling people to overcome stress and experience happiness.


Many doctors including Dr Asha Thakkar (MBBS, DPM, MD Psychiatry [Bom.]) and Dr Nandini Samant, (MBBS, DPM) who are both practicing psychiatrists for over 20 years, have joined H.H. Dr Athavale and have seen a tremendous positive change in patients and seekers taking Autosuggestions. Many patients have benefitted and have overcome phobias, stress, unhappiness, depression, stammering, daydreaming, anger and different types of negative personality traits.

The Personality Defect Removal and Stress Management Process was presented by Dr Asha Thakkar (MBBS, DPM, MD Psychiatry [Bom.]) at the 4th International Conference on Stress Management (ICSM 2017), in Goa, India, on 3rd and 4th November 2017. This conference was attended by doctors worldwide and it was very well received.

10. Conclusion

We know that currently stress, depression, addictions, suicide, marital problems, etc., are on a steep rise. The PDR process is a key tool that makes it possible to overcome the unhappiness from such conditions and situations at the root level. If one complements the PDR process with regular spiritual practice according to one’s faith, the benefits are enhanced. The holistic combination of PDR and spiritual practice addresses subtle impressions in the subconscious mind effectively. It goes a long way in eliminating any kind of psychological problem. Since PDR and spiritual practice influence the mind positively, they improve physical health as well. Thus, this process becomes the indispensable enabler for a successful and Blissful life. 

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