I love to listen.
It’s the main reason being a Life Coach is the perfect job for me.
While listening to my clients (whom I adore), I hear all kinds of interesting things: stories, histories, dreams, fears, and hopes.
But do you know what I hear most often? Lies.
Not intentional or deceitful lies, but the untrue stories that we continuously tell ourselves. The false beliefs we convince ourselves are true, when really, they are nothing more than a bunch of bullsh**!
I am not worthy.
I don’t deserve love, money, joy, rest…
I don’t make enough money.
I am not good enough.
I’ll never lose weight.
I can’t do it.
What if your thoughts, the ones that cause you so much pain, were simply not true? What if your mind was just telling you a bunch of ugly lies?
One of the best tools I use to help people feel relief from their painful thoughts is called The Work, created by Byron Katie. The Work really works. Pun intended.
To do The Work, write down a thought that brings you stress. Simplify it to one short sentence.
Here is a personal example. Last weekend, some close friends were visiting me for the weekend. Generally, I like to go to bed at 10:00 PM. Because I had company, I tried to convince myself to be accommodating and stay up later. But at 10:00 PM, my mind took over, assaulting me with stressful thoughts like:
“OMG, I want to go to bed but I can’t because I have to be a good hostess!”
“Oh no – I am going to be so exhausted tomorrow.”
“Why do people like to stay up so late? Why can’t everyone be on my time table?”
Stressful thought simplified to one short sentence: I have to go to bed early.
Now, put your thought to these four questions.
- Is it true?
- Can you absolutely know that it is true?
- What do you think, feel, and do when you believe the thought?
- Who would you be without the thought?
If you really want to know the truth, and you want to stop lying to yourself, become very still and listen for the answers. They will rise up from inside of you. Okay, let’s get back to the example: I have to go to bed early.
- Is it true? Let this question sink in for a moment. Don’t just surrender to the immediate answer that pops into your mind. Meditate on it for few seconds.
Yes, it is true, I have to go to bed early.
- Can I absolutely know that it is true? If you answer yes to the first question, ask yourself, what is the reality of this situation. Can I absolutely know, with 100% certainty, that it is true, that I have to go to bed early?
No, it’s not true. I don’t absolutely, 100% have to go to bed early.
- What do I think, feel, and do when I believe the thought that I have to go to bed early?
I won’t be able to function tomorrow.
I am not taking care of my needs.
I’m letting other people’s needs be more important than my own.
Anxious, worried, resentful
I sit there not saying how I really feel. (Disingenuous)
I shut my eyes and hope people will get the hint and leave. (Passive aggressive)
When my friends say, “Let’s go and let Judy go to sleep,” I say “No, no! I am fine.” (Dishonest)
- Who would I be without the thought? Picture a brain surgeon physically removing the thought out of your head so you are not capable of thinking that thought. So in my situation, I cannot I have the thought that I have to go to bed early. Who would I be?
I’d just be me, hanging out with my friends, laughing, having a great time. I’d be in the moment and not in the future. I’d be at peace, not stressed. I would be having fun.
When you put your painful thought to these four questions, you will see that believing the thought brings you stress, while not believing the thought will bring you peace.
After you ask the four questions, you take the thought and consider alternative perspectives. This is called a Turnaround.
The Opposite Turnaround is the easiest one to do. This is when you tell yourself the opposite of your original stressful thought, and then list all the reasons why this opposite thought is also true:
Original Thought: I have to go to sleep early.
Opposite Thought: I don’t have to go to sleep early.
Reasons (evidence) why this new thought is true:
- I didn’t go to bed early last night and I felt perfectly fine this morning.
- Nothing awful will happen to me if I stay up later. I won’t die. I won’t get sick. The world won’t end.
- The very worst thing that will happen is I will be tired the next day. And then all I really need to do is to take a nap.
- I get to have more quality time with my friends if I don’t go to bed early.
- I actually would rather have a different “body time clock”. It’s not really so awesome going to sleep at 10:00 and waking up at 5:00.
- I don’t have to give in the second I feel tired. All I have to do is get up and move and the tiredness will at least diminish.
- I am letting this thought of “I have to go to sleep early” rule over me. I am giving it power.
Just by giving your mind one alternative perspective that is just as true, if not truer, than your original thought, your mind will begin to loosen its tight grip on your stressful thought.
My clients experience great relief, and great insight into themselves when they do this process. It is often a catalyst to make a change that will bring them more peace.
So next time you find yourself in a stressful situation, stop and think. Is what you’re thinking true? I bet it’s not.