Sunday, April 24, 2011

doing The Work

A few weeks ago I went to a two-day workshop with Byron Katie, a teacher and leader who has developed a very clean, streamlined way of digging a little deeper into the thoughts and beliefs that keep you stuck. And while I didn't care for Katie herself (she was a little holier-and-more-transcendental-than-thou than I care for in my teachers), much to my own surprise and consternation, I got a lot out of her workshop.*

The first thing we did when the workshop started was to fill in a Judge Your Neighbor Worksheet. (You can get one, too, for free here.) You're asked to think of a specific situation in the past that has caused you pain and continues to cause you pain or discomfort whenever you think about it. Then, with that scenario in mind, you fill in the statements on the page.

Once your statements about what you needed someone else to do, say, think, or feel in that situation are on the page, you take a deep breath, and go back and question those statements. I'll go through one of mine as an example.

I looked back on a breakup situation and wrote "In that situation, I am angry with Frank because he wasn't ready to be in a relationship with me." (The underlined phrases are what I filled in. And "Frank," as usual, is a pseudonym.)

That statement is then subjected to four questions:
1. Is it true?
2. Can you absolutely know that it's true?
3. How do you react (behave) when you believe that thought?
4. Who would you be without that thought?

So, was it true? It sure seemed true. I was angry. I was angry at Frank. And he wasn't ready to be in a relationship with me -- he even said so. So it seemed pretty true. But when I got to the next question -- can I absolutely know that it's true -- things fell apart. Frank may have told me that to get me off his back. He may have changed in the several months since we split up. He may have been ready, but the timing wasn't right, etc. There was really no way of knowing what was going on outside the confines of my own head.

So the answer to the second question was No.

How I react when I believe that thought is to get frustrated all over again. To feel like I'm not worth being ready to be in a relationship for. To feel like I'll never be in a relationship. I feel angry, and sorry, and frustrated, and fired up, and invested. None of which is pretty.

So who would I be without these thoughts? I'd be more free. I could be more understanding, less judgmental, less angry, less invested. I could be a better friend to him. I could be a better friend to myself.

(See how this is starting to work?)

Then, the final step is to take the statement through a series of turnarounds.

Initial statement: "Frank wasn't ready to be in a relationship with me."

First: I wasn't ready to be in a relationship with me. (Doesn't feel very true, but I sit with it anyway.)

Second: I wasn't ready to be in a relationship with Frank. (Again, doesn't feel very true, but I let the ideas wash over me.)

Third: Frank was ready to be in a relationship with me. (This one had a little more impact, because it allowed me to see what a relationship at that point would have been like. It wouldn't have been the kind of relationship I would choose, that's for sure.)

I used this technique on a series of non-useful beliefs to great results. Imagine this one:
"I'm going to be single for the rest of my life."

First: I'm not going to be single for the rest of my life. (Heard it.)

Second: I'm going to be single only for a short time. (Hmmm, all of a sudden, singlehood is a precious commodity...)

Third: I'm going to be partnered up for the rest of my life. (Wow! I better make the most of this singleness now, that's for sure!)

I recommend picking up a worksheet, taking yourself through it, and sitting with a friend, coach, or trusted advisor and having that person take you through the questions and turnarounds. And when you're done, you can thank me for saving you $295 and a day and a half of uncomfortable hotel seats and recycled air.

* When I don't like a teacher personally, I don't want to like her work. I don't know why, but it probably has to do with a smallness and competitiveness in me that says, "But you don't like her, her work can't be good!"

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