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Practice Affirming the Unaffirmed

Practice affirming the unaffirmed. It can be a most important single factor in effective psychotherapy.

Harry was a mental health worker in a psych facility. He didn’t train in psychotherapy. But he knew what to give to a mentally disturbed person.

One of the sickest patients he had was a psychotic woman. She’s been there for eighteen long years. 

This patient never spoke to anyone. She won’t even look in the eyes of people. She sat alone. Rocking back and forth in a rocking chair.

Harry simply rocked along with the psychotic woman. Even without speaking. Day in, day out, of his weekly work in the facility.

Then, one day, the psychotic woman suddenly uttered words. She said, “Good night!” to Harry as he was about to go home. 

It was the first time the patient spoke in 18 years! 

Harry still worked each day to rock with her. Be by her side. Affirming her.

And eventually, the psychotic woman became healed of her psychosis!

Dr. Conrad Baars, a Christian psychiatrist and author, rightly observed that lack of affirmation is a most common emotional wound.

A lot of them had unaffirming parents who could not give what they need for they themselves hadn’t received it.

What is this thing called “affirmation” as therapeutic medicine?

Therapists Matthew and Dennis Linn, in their book “Healing the 8 Stages of Life” writes:

“ … we misuse the word ‘affirmation’ as if it were something we do, an idea promoted by many pop psychology books full of ideas on how to affirm ourselves and others. But affirmation is not something we do. Affirmation is a way we are. The difference between effectivity and affectivity. In effectivity, we actively cause ourselves to move, in order to use a thing or a person to gratify our own needs. Affectivity, is a receptive capacity to be moved inwardly by a thing or a person, and to let that being moved reverberate throughout our entire emotional life. Only the person who can be moved inwardly by our goodness can affirm us.”

Practice affirming the unaffirmed. 

You’ll never know you’re making a healing difference in the life of another. 


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