Louise Hay and the Power of Thoughts
Lately, I’ve been revisiting the writings of Louise Hay, the New Age spiritual author and speaker whom I’ve followed for a long time now. She’s 84, and lives a very vibrant life in San Diego. Her whole message is about loving the self, and using the power of positive thoughts and affirmations to guide our day, every day, at every stage of life.
How inspiring, I thought, that when we get our minds into positive thoughts, and look at every situation in life and say, “How can we take a positive approach to this?”, it’s dramatically self-empowering, and just plain makes us feel good. And we can do this in our minds, anywhere we are, any time of day, all our lives. That’s a very strong and reassuring perspective that would serve us all well to embrace.
One of Hay’s mantras is, “Our thoughts create our life.” This is very similar to my work as a licensed psychotherapist in private practice, using Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for over 20 years (about as long as I’ve followed Hay, and similar inspirational authors). CBT was pioneered by therapist Aaron Beck, MD. He developed a theory that said Depression was promulgated by the “negative cognitive triad” – negative thoughts about our Self, our World Around Us, or our Future.
Think about how often you might you might undermine yourself and your daily goals with these internal negative thoughts. Examples might be, “Ugh. I messed up that up. I can’t do anything right,” (Self), or, “That clerk gave me the wrong change. You can’t trust people anymore,” (World Around Us), or, “I don’t know why I bother; I’ll never be able to afford to buy that,” (Future). They might not seem like much, but when you think these negative thoughts in these categories dozens and dozens of times in a day – even ONE day! – they can have a deleterious effect on how we live. We don’t want a life like that; we want to have the life we want (hence the name of by book, Self-Empowerment: Have the Life You Want!). But in order to change our life to the life we really want, and all that entails of who we are, what we do, what we have, and who we are with, we need to change our thinking so that none of it falls into that negative triad that Beck discovered.
For gay men, changing our thinking involves an extra “layer” of cognitive work, because we have to defend against, and cope with, so many negative messages that we grew up with as gay little boys, and continue to manage as adults, when we still hear so much hateful rhetoric, particularly from religious leaders (particularly conservative “Christians”) and from Republican politicians. What do we do with that all negativity? Very simply, we release it. We affirm, in our thoughts, “I release all negative messages, and I am free from their influence.” Our, “I embrace the full potential of my best living.” When we are clear on affirming our right to life, a career, a relationship, a social life, a role in the community, our spirituality, and everything good life has to offer, we inoculate ourselves against the small-minded haters who are coming from a place of fear, greed, aggression, and sadism. Instead of just hating them – as easy as that is to do – we pity them that they don’t know how to come from a place of love, confidence, compassion, and abundance. If we are coming from those positive places in our own thoughts, then the statements of others don’t matter. We become immune.
Erik Erikson Theory and Gay Men’s Lives at Every Age
Another classic therapist and theorist, Erik Erickson, said that at every phase of life, there is a challenge to overcome and a reward to embrace. This perspective of living is something I’ve benefited from for a long time, and I teach my clients this, too. Just like we don’t try to run through the sprinklers in February, we don’t try to make a snowman in July. We enjoy wherever we are in the Wheel of the Year, and we enjoy wherever we are in the span of life. I always say, “I wish I had the abs I had when I was 22, but I’m glad I don’t have the same bank account!” We can always find something that sucks about every age, but we can also find something to celebrate.
Let’s look at gay men’s lives in this: A young “twink” might use positive affirmations to overcome the most common challenges, such as getting started in his career, or building his financial prowess. His affirmations might be, “I release the limitations of my upbringing, parents, and my past, and embrace myself as a powerful adult.” Or, “I am growing into abundance every day,” or, “I am learning to do my best work in ways that satisfy me professionally and financially,” or, “I am learning the skills I need to grow and thrive,” or “I am meeting the mentors I need to learn and grow to my highest good.” When I work with younger gay men in my practice, and I teach them how to use these affirmations. It’s fun to see how their lives begin to change for the better, and they really thrive as young adults.
In those “middle-peak” years, in the 30’s, gay men are often discovering and sustaining relationships, embracing their first leadership or management roles at work, and really defining their role in society, particularly at work. Affirmations for gay men at this time in life might be, “My income is constantly increasing” (another Hay classic), or “I am embracing the professional and social roles that let me thrive in my community,” or, “I do work that makes a difference for others and rewards myself in abundance.”
At middle age, which is a classic age for personal reflection, growth, change, and re-discovering how to thrive (many of my clients are at this age), the positive affirmations serve a vital role in helping us in this transition. They can include, “I accept life’s changes with ease and grace,” or, “I am grateful for the best of where I have been, where I am, and where I’m going,” or, “I flow through life easily, accepting my strengths and my vulnerabilities.”
For seniors, we must resist the negative messages that might come from some (not all) younger gay men (or society in general) who “write us off” as socially irrelevant. This is its own form of homophobia and certainly of age-ism. Affirmations at this stage might include, “I provide for my vibrant health; life gives me strength and vitality,” or “I release the myths of older age, and embrace vitality as my reality,” or, “I am still young enough to risk, grow, experiment, and learn,” or “I draw strength from the beauty and vitality of everyone and everything around me.”
So, you can see the pattern here. The power of our own positive thoughts is there for us, whenever we need it. It’s free, it doesn’t cost anything, and we don’t need to rely on anyone except ourselves to have it – and yet our thinking can be as vital to our lives as the air that we breathe.
When you’re stuck, and things aren’t going as you’d like, consider what your thoughts are, and experiment with “re-writing” negative thoughts into an empowering positive affirmation. Change your thoughts, change your life. If Louise Hay thrives at 84 with this kind of thinking, it works for me. Try it and see if it might help you…have the life you want.
If you have a question for me, or a comment, I’d love to hear from you — leave it below!
If you’re interested in having an appointment to strategize with me on how we can take theses concepts and customize them for YOU, working either in my office, via phone, or via Skype, email at Ken@GayTherapyLA.com, or call/text me at 310-339-5778. I would be happy to help.