Sunday, October 9, 2016

What To Do When You Feel Hopeless: Repeat Positive Mantras

A mantra, which is a spiritual practice in Hinduism and Buddhism, is a statement or slogan repeated frequently. 

An affirmation, according to the Google dictionary on the internet, is the action or process of affirming something or being affirmed.  To affirm is defined as "to state or assert positively; maintain as true.

Mantras and affirmations can be used for healing and coping with all levels of stress including extreme stress.  There are two ways to use mantras or affirmations: on a daily basis to raise self esteem and lower overall stress or to cope with stressful situations on a case by case basis.

I learned to use mantras to heal myself on a difficult day in the fall of 2008.  I had the ex-husband from hell.  He was constantly requesting parenting time schedule changes, making plans with our children during my parenting time without asking me first, and requesting to take his vacation over my birthday while refusing to make schedule changes for me to take a vacation with the kids.  He also sent me mounds and mounds (I printed them out for evidence) of e-mails criticizing me and blaming me for our problems getting along.  That day in 2008, I was also scared for my financial future as my work prospects were not going well.  AND I was sick with a sore throat and earache runny nose and lethargy.  Oh, I forget to mention that I was also a child sex abuse and date rape survivor, so depression and anxiety were my constant companions.  I was so stressed that I start to cry.  How could I handle everything?  Life was so hard.  I thought to myself as I often did for years that if I had known what was ahead of me, I might not have chosen to be born.  As I cried, my children, then nine and twelve, also began to cry.  I knew as a mother that my tears were dragging my children down into despair.  I also knew that I had to be strong for them, to be their hope for a happy life.  I wanted better for them than I had had in my life.  My parents had passed away years before and the never ending conflict with my ex-husband left me little time to develop friendships.  I was trying to handle bad times on my own.  Fortunately I did have a mentor--someone just like me who had struggled through child sex abuse and an abusive relationship with her ex-husband.  However she had figured out how to heal herself from these wounds so she often had good answers for my problems.  So I called up my mentor to ask for help.    

She told me, “Repeat a positive mantra.”

What my root fear was that life was just too much.  I could not handle it.

My fundamental need was to believe I could get through this day, this life.  Although that day was a particularly bad day, I had been through many particularly bad days in my life.  What I needed more than anything was to remind myself that I was strong and could get through this one particular bad day too.

So that became my mantra and for good measure I substituted the word "we" for the word "I" because I needed to help the children I had hurt with my tears.

My mantra (or affirmation) became, “We are strong; we are getting through this.”

So I got off the phone and took my children’s hands while we stood in a small circle.

Together we repeated the words, “We are strong, and we are getting through this.”

We did this not once or twice or even for ten minutes.  We did this for a full forty-five minutes because that was how long it took me to feel OK, to be able to proceed with my life, such as it was, without crying.

I have used the technique many times since then.  For greatest effect, combine the mantra with breathing and gratitude for the forces of the universe aligning with you to help you be strong.

Become aware of your breathing.

Breathe in, "For making me strong."

Breathe out, “Thank you.”

Breathe in, “For making me strong.”

I have known other abuse survivors who used mantras and affirmations to help themselves heal.  Armando, for example, used a different kind of mantra or affirmation for his healing.  Armando was physically and emotionally abused as a child by his father and suffered low self esteem as a result.  At age 18, he immigrated from Mexico to the United States and worked in a factory in the Los Angeles basin.  In his spare time he chased girls and the dream of owning a cherry red Mustang.  One of the girls he was pursuing invited him to a spiritual retreat at her Catholic Church.  Armando attended the retreat.  In the long run he lost the girl, but he found faith during the retreat.  

After the retreat he would stand before his bathroom mirror every day and repeat the words, "I am made in the image of God."

It was an important first step in his healing that eventually led him to become a Catholic priest.

Once again, don’t think that repeating a mantra or affirmation a few times is enough.  During a period of extreme stress, repeat it many times for thirty or even sixty minutes if need be.  If you need it to lower overall all stress and improve self esteem the way Armando did, repeat it several minutes every day for weeks, months or years if needed.

You may also want to remind yourself of these things by making decorative cards with these simple sayings on them to post them around your bedroom or your home.

These are some affirmations or mantras I have come up with:  
I am lovable.
I am good.
I am smart.
I am capable.
I am strong.
I am worthy.
I am beautiful.
I have glorious hair.
I am a great writer.
I am a good cook.
I am creative.
I am giving.
I am fun.

Now come up with your own positive mantras to help you feel good about yourself.

It is important to remember that we repeat mantras not because we believe them but because we need to believe them.

(c) 2016 Virginia Pickles