I was reading a fabulous book by my friend and colleague Rucsandra Mitrea called You Don’t Have to Live in Pain: Five Strategies to Help Reduce Your Chronic Pain Right Now.
Her book offers practical tools to shift your thinking about chronic pain so you can help the healing process. Personally, I think it’s a good book to help shift any thinking that is getting in your way of making changes.
Her tool I’m sharing with you today is the Stepladder Method. It is a process to move from old, unhelpful thoughts to new, supportive thoughts.
I have a love/hate relationship with affirmations. While they can be helpful, they can also backfire. When we tell ourselves something that feels out of the realm of possibility, our ego rebels and we end up feeling worse after saying the affirmation than before.
I offer an example from my own life—I learned about affirmations when I was in graduate school. I had very little money and the end of each month I was literally counting my pennies. As you might imagine, I was stressed about money most of the time.
I figured I’d give affirmations a try. Anything had to be better than what I was already thinking.
I was wrong.
Because I didn’t know anything about how to make affirmations useful, I tried “I am wealthy!” When I said “I am wealthy!” out loud, everything in me rebelled. I heard myself think, “That is so stupid! No you’re not! Do you think you will magically change your life with that stupid affirmation?” or, even worse, “See? You can’t even do an affirmation! What makes you think you will ever have money?”
Instead of shifting my thinking to be more positive and less stressed, I created more stress. So much for self-help! As a result, I decided to hate affirmations.
Fast forward about 20 years…I had a coach who was a big fan of affirmations as a method to shift beliefs. I decided to give them another try.
Around the same time, a friend sent me Train Your Brain by Dana Wilde. Through that book I understood not all affirmations are equal. Part of the art of affirmations is crafting them to get our subconscious working for versus against the change.
The Stepladder Method is a tool to do just that.
The Stepladder Method is creating a stepladder of intermediary thoughts that are believable. Rucsandra Mitrea gives a beautiful example in You Don’t Have to Live in Pain:
“Instead of jumping from a thought like ‘There’s nothing I
can do’ to ‘I am now living pain-free’ in one fell swoop, you
write down a few intermediate thoughts that are believable.”
“So instead of one big leap, you take several smaller, more
believable steps. For example, ‘There’s nothing I can do’
becomes ‘I don’t know what to do yet, but now I believe that
health is my birthright, so there must be a way.’ This sounds
a lot more positive and uplifting, and is also definitely believable,
“The next step is to get used to this thought until it becomes your
current mindset. Then you move to an even more uplifting thought:
‘I know there is a way for me to heal and I am sure that I will find it
Then a few more steps until…“it is easy to think ‘I CAN be pain-free!”
The Stepladder Method is a useful tool to gradually, change your habits of thinking, one small step at a time.
When we make small changes, our ego fights the change less. When we try to make a shift that feels too big, our ego fights us, as demonstrated by my ego with the “I am wealthy!” affirmation.
So do yourself a favor, try to shift a negative thought just a little bit, keep practicing the new affirmation, and notice how your ego gets used to the new thought and eventually accepts it. Then try a new, slightly more positive thought, step by step…until you actually believe what you WANT to believe, with less back-lash and more ease.
To find out more about Rucsandra’s work, you can find her at https://vitaldirectives.com/