Affective autonomy affirms that we are responsible for all of our needs throughout our lives. Our needs for security, encouragement, realism, understanding, acceptance, agency, etc. Therefore, a need that remains unresolved becomes a problem that causes affective distress. Underneath the problem, we are afraid, we are like a child who sees no solution. Whereas affective autotomy affirms that there is no problem without a solution. It is childish to remain in passive affective dependence and to continue in the belief that dramatizing, panicking, getting upset, making oneself sad, discouraging oneself, judging oneself, etc. have the power to make me happy or help me find solutions. I am choosing to leave the passivity of binary thinking (black or white, glass half empty, there is no solution) and learning to recognize that I am responsible, at all times, for all my needs for love and self-respect!
There is no such thing as a problem without a solution.
Anxiety, or the misuse of our imagination…
As human beings, we don’t always realize that one of the most frequent disorders we suffer from is anxiety. This anxiety is the result of all sorts of fears: of not being good enough, of not being beautiful, of not being on time, of lacking something, of missing the bus, of missing an exam… or else a fear of the dentist, of being seen by others, of not being well dressed or of being alone, of the dark, of death, of spiders, of hospitals, of illness, etc.
Ironically, the pattern of anxiety is one of the easiest to work on if, and I emphasize if, we commit to practicing stopping our imagination every time we engage in creating a scenario. Our imagination is meant to create the present moment, not to regret the past or anticipate future worst case scenarios.
Victory process example
Trigger: I made a decision at work and it went wrong, and what I was trying to do didn’t work at all. I feel bad and I keep playing out different scenarios to try to reassure myself, but it doesn’t seem to work. I imagine the worst, I’m afraid of my boss’ reaction, I might lose my job, I feel terrible, I’m anxious. I feel inadequate, not fit for the job at all.
Step 1 — venting: “I feel inadequate, not good enough, I’m afraid my boss will be angry, and his silence makes me make scenarios in my imagination that if he doesn’t answer it’s because he’s going to fire me.”
Step 2 — theory & logic about anticipation: I have a 0–5-year-old affective dependency that causes me to suffer. I have learned to misuse my imagination; I am in a state of anticipation and it destroys my well-being here and now because it generates anxiety. I don’t want to use my imagination to harm myself anymore. So, I practice self-parenting: I, the adult, what am I going to say to my inner child who judges himself, who panics?
I’m imagining the worst, which is that my boss is going to fire me, and this feeds my anxiety. So, to reassure myself in my need for security, I say to myself:
“For my sake, if he fires me, what am I going to do? Can I rely on myself? Will I apply elsewhere if I lose my job? Do I have confidence in myself, confidence that I can find another job? Yes. I will take care of myself. With all the abilities I have, I know that at worst I’m going to get a job again, so I encourage myself to break down my panic, knowing that there is no such thing as a problem without a solution.”
Denigration. What do I say to the little girl inside of me who says to herself, “you made a mistake, you’re inadequate, frankly you’re not up to it, it’s very stupid what you did”?
“Well, my beautiful darling, I, the grown-up, tell you that you did the best you could. And sweetheart, it’s not loving to beat yourself up like that. I want you to learn to always respect yourself. Mistakes are a part of life. We learn by trial and error. Mistakes are an opportunity to learn! This violence that you have learned to subject yourself to every time you do not live up to your expectations, it’s not an option. It is not right to keep talking to yourself like that, not a loving way to perceive yourself. I, the grown-up, want to stop suffering, to stop feeling so bad.”
Step 3 — reprogramming inquiry: Is my initial feeling changed? Do I feel reassured, is my fear gone, do I feel better, does this lesson flow from my head to my heart? Yes, I realize that not loving myself is painful and that it is absurd how much I am, unconsciously, my own tormentor. I will therefore repeat this process of victory every time I am triggered to finally learn to always love and understand myself!
Importance of step 3: If I can’t change my feeling, the reprogramming of my brain and my harmful thinking habits can’t be accomplished. If one of the 3 steps of victory is missing, the self-healing cannot happen. So in the beginning, we may feel that the victory process is not working; we may talk to each other, but it doesn’t really do us any good. That’s totally normal. I’ve learned to believe the patterns and habits of thought listed on the left column a very long time ago! And these irrational habits, I believe in them as if they were the truth, which meant that I could not work on them! I am learning to stop believing in mental habits that were unconscious until now.
We must realize that our affective deficiency (uneasiness, lack of self-love) does not come from others but from our mental discourse. And that this is wonderful news! Because if my affective deficiency comes from my habits of thinking, my happiness also comes from the same place. So my happiness is autonomous, it doesn’t depend on the outer world. Instead, it comes from my perceptions, my beliefs. Happiness is therefore to be found between my two ears.
Affective dependence: Happiness does not come, as I was taught since my childhood, from what I do, what I have, or what I look like. No, my happiness doesn’t stem from my job, a new car, the mood of everyone around me, my children, my spouse, the weather, the traffic, the news, etc. My happiness depends on my perceptions of myself, of others, of life. So, I choose to become aware of my thinking habits and I reprogram any beliefs that sabotage my happiness, here and now.
Affective autonomy is like a parent-child relationship. Our beliefs acquired in childhood are sometimes harmful and immature. We must therefore become aware of our mental nourishment in order to parent ourselves and to bring logic to our perceptions. To go from...
Affective autonomy is a way of life. It starts from the principle that the goal of all human life is happiness. And true happiness comes from our way of thinking repeated since our childhood. How do we know if what we think helps or hurts us? Emotions The human body...