Q: I do The Work and I also practice daily positive affirmations because I really believe in their power to attract good things to life; for example, "I am perfect just the way I am," "I am an-all loving being," "I have infinite patience and love for others." However, the turnaround portion of The Work seems to be contrary to these positive affirmations, since when I turn a judgment around to myself, I have to think that I am not doing something right, that I have the defects and bad character traits that I see in others. Is there a way to reconcile doing The Work with my practice of positive affirmations?
A: Affirmations work only if you believe them, and they don't work if you don't believe them. You can't make yourself believe you are all loving or patient if you have doubts about your loving, patient nature. Conversely, you can't make yourself believe you are unloving and impatient if you are indeed loving and patient at least some of the time. To do so produces stress.
Turnarounds can be positive too: "I am impatient" turns around to "I am patient." But without the education of the four questions, a positive turnaround is meaningless. Repeating affirmations that you don't believe will lead to disconnection, just as continually telling yourself you're not good enough doesn't give you the tools to see yourself as good enough.
I don't do The Work to be "positive" (or negative); I do it in order to reduce stress and understand and welcome all thoughts as friends. "I am impatient." Have I ever been impatient in my life? I can find it, so I can see why someone else might see me that way and call me on it. I am also patient; I have ample evidence for that as well. You would have to embody the traits you criticize in others at least in part, otherwise you wouldn't recognize them. The same is true for admirable traits. You are seeing your own reflection, always.
The Work is a way to identify and question stressful thoughts, period. We don't bother with the happy ones; we get to keep those! To put the stressful mind on paper and examine how we live life out of our beliefs is to see what else is available to us.
At first, I came to The Work in order to feel better, but that is doing inquiry with a motive to change myself or to change outer circumstances. When I do The Work for the love of truth, I notice I don't have to force affirmations on myself; my life becomes an affirmation.
And by all means, if affirmations or any other practices are working for you, don't give them up! I haven't yet seen a practice that couldn't be done in conjunction with The Work...except perhaps the practice of self-hatred.