The second or third step of the positive self-affirmation method requires the client generating his or her own positive self-affirmations for the method to have any personal significance and subsequent success. This can be done is several ways: together with the coach, alone by the client or by the client employing self-observation when with others. The first ways is often the easiest and most reliable, for it furnishes the client with a more objective starting point that can be either replicated or modified in the other two instances. Sometimes, just by listening, observing, clarifying of client’s content and asking external questions, the coach can elicit the appropriate positive self-affirmation from the client.
Other times, the coach will need to tune in deeper, ask probing value-driven questions and/or articulate feedback from another perspective to help the client tap into his or her own underlying beliefs system in order to arrive at beneficial information that will aid the client is self generating his or her own positive self-affirmations to be employed on a daily basis. The key point here is for the client to grow adapt at observing the negative self-talk which becomes the very content from which positive self-affirmations are generated—not unlike Katie Byron’s highly effective technique of turnarounds which has the person restating his or her beliefs within a more accurate frame.
Although not always included in the positive self-affirmation literature, the releasing of negative self-affirmation is as important as the affirming of positive ones. The capacity of the human psyche to follow any self-programming delineated by the mind is astonishing despite any negative consequences (Jung, 1997:21-41) In other words, both the mind and the overarching psyche which includes the emotional, psychological and spiritual faculties will be swayed by any persuasive argument or story the mind comes to generate via sensation, perception, and direct or imaginary experience.
Thus, it is not unusual to find clients who understand intellectually the method of positive self-affirmations but who are still hanging onto deeply engrained negative beliefs that prevent or curtail their efforts. Don Riso, a personality typing expert via the Enneagram, has made releasing an integral component of his positive self-affirmations method by advising clients to first release old beliefs before affirming positive ones as accorded by their individual personality type (1993:31-103). Similarly, Sondra Ray, a trained nurse and sex therapist discovered that many of her patients were greatly helped after she had incorporated positive self-affirmations as part of their healing and recovery program. She tells how the simple changing of the psychic energy at the very moment when negativity was being expressed has helped her patients to deal more constructively with their negative thoughts inside and outside of the office (1976:11).
Once the client has self generated a few positive self-affirmations, the next natural step for the coach is to outline the general technique of affirming client’s goals in the positive. This fundamental structure includes positive affirmations being stated in the present as if the dream or goal already existed. The affirmations should be short, concise and easily evoke a strong feeling to reach the psyche. They can be written, spoken out loud, taped or posted in strategic areas such as the kitchen or workstation. Some writers encourage using one’s name and writing, speaking or taping of the affirmations in the first, second and third persons for optimal outcome (Ray, 1976:27 & Gawain, 1978:96).
Most importantly, affirmations need to be affirmed 1-3 times daily, preferably in a relaxed or meditative state. If doubts or negativity arise, it is essential to clear the culprit energy by simply imagining it leaving the body on the out breath while inviting healing light on the in breath. If unwanted thoughts and/or feelings persist, the coach can help the client master a conducive clearing and/or releasing technique, such as one where a client systematically works out the negativity out on paper; meanwhile still maintaining the regular positive self-affirmation practice. According to Shakti Gawain, a respected manifestation teacher, emotional resistance may arise when user either try to “change what already exists” or contradict their current feelings or emotions. She advises, instead, to focus on the new possibility about to enter one’s life by cultivating the belief that it already exists and not by denying its possibility— as too many people often inadvertently tend to do (1978:25). Finally, if the client is still meeting with failure, the coach may need to revisit the goal and especially the intention behind it in hopes of uncovering the underlying belief as well as the client’s need for hanging on to it to clear the energy.
The overwhelming majority of manifestation teachers encourage supplementing positive self-affirmations with a visualizations or imagery technique to manifest one’s dreams and goals. A very similar concept runs through NLP, particularly with its anchoring technique where a desirable state is created and anchored as a means of replacing negative behavior while reprogramming the mind to ground itself in a positive experience. The anchoring technique also relies on empowering imagery and positive word or phrase to trigger a physiological state that can be enacted at will to help a person move towards the desirable outcome (O’Connor & Seymour, 1990:53-62).
Comparably, the basic visualization technique comprises three essential steps: a relaxation technique with eyes closed; the perfect outcome of the goal imagined and with all of the nuances and emotions experienced; and the creation of a positive affirmation phrase to lock in the imagery. Again, both the visualization and anchoring techniques are enacted in the present with enough of emotional engagement to make it “real.” Rossman recommends the “Observer” exercise for a more transcendental experience, especially when there is a need for instruction to be obtained from the psyche or higher self: relax the body, tune in to an inner self (states) while maintaining enough sensory awareness, open up a dialogue between the mind and the body (introspection), observe internal feelings or changes (psyche), become conscious of the Observer having an experience (transcendence), allow for any thoughts and feelings to arise naturally without censoring them, remain in this state for as long as comfortable (meditation), and upon reconnecting with the outer self, note down any memorable thoughts, feelings and/or sensations which can be further explored for any insight (2010:68-70).
Not all of these techniques may be necessary or even conducive to an effective coaching session. However, numerous visualization or imagery techniques are available to a coach to choose from as the need arises. More importantly, as all clients are uniquely different, it is essential for the coach to pay attention to the clients’ response to gauge their willingness, progress and preference before moving on to another resource. Sometimes the act of accountability and gentle probing of the coach unlocks yet another door to new content for the client to explore and generate new insight.