The psychology of relationships: strokes
Affirmations are a variation on the theme of strokes.
Affirmations are short, positive strokes you
can give yourself or other people. They are
a way to express how we want to be and they
are often used to strengthen one's own or
another person's self-belief.
Any time we credit another person or
ourselves verbally or non-verbally in a
positive way, we affirm that person. An
example of an affirmation would be "I love
you as you are."
all need affirmations or permissions during
childhood and later on as adults to be
ourselves, to grow and to love.
At different ages in our childhood we have
to master different tasks and therefore
require different sets of affirmations as we
As adults, we still go through the same
stages or developmental tasks, especially if
there is a task we didn't quite complete as
children. (For example, someone may never
have learned to be separate from his or her
parents and now still clings on to his or
That person may need affirmations for doing
things their own way and to be their own
person.) The process of going over
developmental tasks again and again is
called recycling. (
To continue with the example above, that
person will have a chance and the challenge
to complete their ability to be separate
each time a person leaves his or her life,
or whenever a relationship ends.
Recycling early developmental tasks means that people re-experience earlier developmental tasks in a more sophisticated form at a later age.
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Here is a general list of childhood stages and related affirmations
Birth - 6 months. Task: Deciding to live.
Affirmations: You have a right to be here. Your needs are ok with me. I am glad you are a boy/girl. You don't have to hurry (and grow up). I like to hold you. I am glad you are alive. I love you just the way you are. I love you and I care for you willingly.
6 months - 18 months. Task: Gaining confidence in doing. Affirmations: It's ok to do things. You don't have to do things for me (like be smart, be cute....). I like to watch you initiate and grow and learn. I love you when you are active and when you are quiet. You can use all of your senses when you explore. You can do things as many times as you need to.
18 months - 3 years. Task: Gain confidence in thinking.
Affirmations: I am glad you are growing up.
I am not afraid of your anger. You can think
about what you feel. You don't have to take
care of me by thinking for me.
You can be sure about what you need and want
and think. You can think and feel at the
same time. You can know what you need and
ask for help. You can become separate from
me and I will continue to love you.
3 - 6 years. Task: Find own identity and power.
Affirmations: You can be powerful and still
have needs. You don't have to act scary,
sick, .... to get taken care of.
You can express your feelings straight. You
can find out the results of your behavior.
You can be powerful and ask for help at the
6 - 12 years. Task: Find own structure to do things.
Affirmation: You can learn to do things your
way. You can think before you make any rule
your own. You can trust your feelings to
help you know.
You can do it your way. It's ok to disagree.
You don't have to suffer to get what you
need. You can find a way of doing things
that works for you. You can learn the rules
that help you live with others.
12 - 19 years. Task: To find sexual identity. Affirmations: It's ok to be a sexual person (and I will not act out my sexual feelings towards you as the parent). You can be a sexual person and still have needs. It's ok to know who you are. You are welcome home again. You can develop your own interests, relationships and causes. I look forward to knowing you as an adult.
As you read through this list, notice the
affirmations that you would like to hear or
the ones that move you.
Write those down and keep repeating them to
yourself. Maybe you didn't get enough of
that particular permission as a child.
It is particularly powerful if you give
yourself affirmations at the end of a
relaxation exercise. Similarly, there might
be affirmations you simply can't believe to
be true about yourself (the above example
person may not believe that it's ok for them
to think for themselves).
If that is the case think about what that
means for your life. How does it hold you
back? If you think it's a big part of what's
not working in your life, do something about
Talk to your friends, read self-help books
or consider psychotherapy.
You could also talk this through with your
partner and see what kind of affirmations
she or he might want to hear from you.
You could make a deal where you exchange the
affirmations you have chosen for yourselves
and receive them from the other person on a
suggests that those relationships where the
partners constantly affirm each other are
much more likely to be sexually successful
than those where they do not.
In a way,
that stands to reason, really, because
nothing is more subject to negative feedback
than a man or woman's enjoyment of sex.
In a man the
lack of affirmation from his partner about
his capacity as a lover is likely to
manifest as a sexual dysfunction such as
erectile dysfunction -
here - and in a woman as lack of libido.
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