In one of my recent KGHypnobirthing courses, one of my clients asked some great questions regarding positive affirmations and how best to apply these. I also recently came across a rather negative post from a lady who had practiced a different method of hypnobirthing. (There are many and they are not all same). The lady had practiced her positive affirmations daily, without fail, she had repeated them out loud and could recite all of the recorded affirmations from memory. In fact she had done exactly what most people are told to do by their hypnobirthing instructors. So why then, for her, did positive affirmations seem nothing more than just plain wishful thinking?
What I try to make clear to my hypnobirthing clients is that going through the motions, simply repeating affirmations is good practice and a positive influence, but that doing this alone is not likely to be enough. The affirmations we practice need to talk to our personal fears and concerns and above all must consciously or subconsciously trigger change . The affirmations need to prompt us to take action or reframe our thoughts in order for the positive statement to become a reality.
Why positive affirmations may not work
1. We don’t actually believe them. If fundamentally we do not believe the statement to be true in any shape of form, simply repeating the affirmation out loud is unlikely to change those deep-rooted beliefs. Depending on where these negative thoughts have come from, the images in our subconscious may be so powerful that we are prevented from believing it could ever be different in reality. We simply feel that we are lying to ourselves.
2. We are not honest about our true fears and concerns and don’t consider where these anxieties have come from. If we do not understand what is fueling these concerns, then how can we take steps to change behaviours and beliefs? We have to acknowledge the root cause in order to tackle this effectively.
3.The positive affirmations are not targeted to address our personal, individual concerns. In most hypnobirthing courses, including my own, clients are given pre-recorded affirmations which speak to a good number of common concerns or fears a woman approaching birth may experience. However, if the purpose of positive affirmations is not properly explained, a mum-to-be’s focus may be purely on these generic sentences rather than focusing on the affirmation which has the potential to really change how she visualises her birth to be.
4. We don’t take the time to understand the substance of the positive affirmation. We simply repeat what we hear, without taking the time to understand how we feel about what we are saying, why and how it might be true, how it makes us feel or to truly visualise the positive outcome in the context of our own labour and birth.
5. The frequency of our negative thoughts outweighs our positive affirmation practice. Often we pick a time of the day to listen and repeat our empowering statements. However, negative thoughts can appear at any time, day or night.
Positive affirmations do work. I believe in them wholeheartedly and know from first-hand experience. Evidence abounds amongst athletes and business people who in recent years have come to use positive affirmation and visualisation to excel at their chosen sport or profession. For me, it is a little of ‘fake it until you make it’, but affirmations make changing the way we think about birth easier. However, they cannot do all of the work for us. They are just one tool of many that you learn with KGHypnobirthing, but not something which I think can be used in isolation. Positive affirmations go hand in hand with everything you learn during your KGHypnobirthing course.
What can you do to help your positive affirmations become reality?
1. Write and record your own. In our hypnobirthing courses we go through how to write your own affirmations, how to focus on the right things, how to script these, the words to use, using visualisation etc. We start with acknowledging your true fears and concerns about birth and honesty is key here. Pay attention to the negative thoughts first and where they have come from to ensure you practise positive affirmations which work for you.
2. Not feeling creative? It doesn’t matter. The pre-recorded affirmations are still a really good tool you have at your disposal. If you don’t feel like writing your own, identify your real fears and concerns and pick those affirmations which really address your needs.
3. Take time to properly understand your fears and the affirmations. Think about what they are telling you; why they might help; actions you need to take; tools you have at your disposal. Sometimes what you are afraid of is actually a positive thing, happening for a good reason. These empowering statements help you reframe your thoughts and can be really powerful in helping you achieve a positive birth experience.
4. Understand the obstacles you have in believing the affirmation to be true. Where are these blockers coming from? What do you know which shows you there can be a different outcome? Where do you need more support? Where can you find the information and most importantly the evidence that you need to prove to yourself that this way is possible? Your hypnobirthing teacher is there to help you with all of that.
5. Think about turning your affirmations into questions. If you struggle to see how you might be able to change your subconscious thoughts, challenging and arguing with yourself can help address how you are really feeling. Welcome this scepticism knowing that this gives you the opportunity to take positive action.
6. Don’t try to do too much, too soon. Don’t let perfect get in the way of better. If the reality of the affirmation feels out of reach then start with a closer goal. Focus on small steps which you can achieve e.g. if your fear is pain during childbirth, one of the affirmations might be “During my labour & birth I am completely relaxed and comfortable’ If you simply cannot believe this to be true, work towards your labour being ‘manageable’ first and then progress to how it can be ‘comfortable’ next and then maybe even ‘enjoyable’?
7. Focus on a small number of affirmations at one time. Choose the ones that are really important for you. You can always add more in or change the ones you are focusing on. You can still commit to listening to all the affirmations daily, it can’t hurt.
8. Use the affirmations throughout your day. Once you have really ‘supercharged’ your affirmations, every time you have a negative thought, or hear or read a negative story, repeat your affirmations. Daily practice is still important but this can really help to balance out those negative influences.
9. Reflect on how your affirmations are working for you. Allow yourself time to process, practice and take action but every so often consider how you are feeling, what you are now thinking, how your thoughts and beliefs are changed.
10. Finally, remember that these are one tool of many to be used in combination. Consider how everything you have learned during your KGHypnobirthing course helps you to achieve your positive affirmation to become a reality - all the techniques, information, birth plans etc.
I really hope this helps you turn your positive affirmations from mere wishful thinking into a tool which can really change how you are looking forward to birth and ultimately how your birth experience will be.