My Back Hurts. Is That True?
Here’s what The Work of Byron Katie looks like in written form. Writing The Work can be a very thorough way to do it.
This is a recent bit of work that I did on my back. It was amazing to find how much of the pain was exaggerated, or remembered.
Stressful Concept: My back hurts
1. Is that true?
2. Can you absolutely know it’s true?
3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
I feel depressed. I don’t want to work. I get spaced out. I stop trying. I feel frustrated. I feel like it’s not fair. I see myself as a victim. I desperately try to figure out what’s wrong with my back. I live in fear that it will flare up. I blame myself for causing the back pain years ago. I become pessimistic about everything. I become crabby. I try to drag others down.
I lose confidence. I don’t want to show my face. I withdraw from the world. I try to get others to have compassion on me. I complain. I have no energy. My creativity is zapped. I think I’m not good enough. I shelter myself. I expect others to be gentle with me. I imagine that it will get worse and worse with time. I’m angry at the place in my back for being weak. I blame God. I feel sorry for myself.
I want to start over. I replay the time in my life when it first happened over and over. I try to think if there’s something I could have done differently. I remember a time before when a massage therapist told me I had a perfect spine. I compare myself now to that image and feel bad. I imagine having to spend tons of money with chiropractors or other professionals to fix it. I’m frozen.
4. Who would you be without the thought that your back hurts (even if it does still hurt)?
I would be more enthusiastic. I would be confident, focused, and relaxed. I would feel like a player on the field. I would take a more active role in getting professional help. I’d be more interested in the tasks in front of me. I wouldn’t be looking for other people’s sympathy.
I would be more friendly, upbeat, outgoing and considerate. I would be happy. I would be more comfortable, more healthy, more centered. More open-minded and creative. I could see ways that I could serve others even with the pain. I would be more interested in others. I would enjoy my life more.
Turnaround: My back doesn’t hurt.
Examples of how this could be as true or truer:
1. My back doesn’t hurt as much as I think it does. For example, I imagine that my back pain starts in the center of my back and radiates out from there all the way up to my neck and down to my left hip. That’s my story of my pain. It’s big, and it’s like a spider web taking over my whole back. But if I look at it objectively at this instant, right now I only feel a slight tension in my left shoulder.
2. I am mainly remembering where my back was hurting earlier. And I remember back to where it used to be excruciating many years ago. I know the spot. And the slightest contraction in that area brings me to the conclusion that my back hurts. But when I’m totally objective about it right now I actually only find the slightest tinge of pain… more like tension really. Sure, I can move my back into a position that has pain. But when I’m just sitting here, there isn’t really much pain at all–just a memory of it.
3. I exaggerate the pain. It doesn’t hurt to the extent to which I exaggerate it.
4. It’s in one small part of my back. The rest of my back doesn’t hurt at all.
5. Even at it’s worst, it has never hurt all the time. Sometimes in the past when I have gotten very relaxed, it didn’t hurt. Sometimes I’ve gone for months with no pain. In fact, I notice that it hurts less now than it did a few minutes ago.
6. It doesn’t hurt enough to prevent me from typing, from having coherent thoughts, from having fun with friends, etc.
Original Statement: My back hurts (me) – Turnaround: I hurt my back
1. When I feel sorry for myself, I notice that my back hurts more. It’s as if the added mental tension causes more physical tension in my back.
2. I make out my back to be my enemy. In reality it is my support. And it supports me very well. I’m expecting perfection from my back. By demanding perfection of my back I hurt my back’s good reputation as being a real support to me.
3. By being over protective of my back (trying to be too careful not to hurt it) I may be weakening my back.
4. By not seeking professional help, I am hurting my back.
5. When I don’t get enough exercise I hurt my back.
6. When I don’t take care of my emotions I hurt my back.
Original Statement: My back hurts (me) – Turnaround: I hurt myself
1. I hurt myself by piling so much meaning on a painful back: I’m a failure, I’m a victim, I’m not good enough.
2. I hurt myself by obsessing over how I first hurt my back and replaying it over and over in my mind. Each time making myself feel bad.
3. I hurt myself by worrying about how my back will be much worse when I’m older. I can feel that projected pain now, long before it comes.
Now It’s Your Turn
Try doing a written piece of work on your own, and email it back to me (or post it on the blog). And let me know if you run into any difficulties, or have any questions.
You can download here the blank template (text file) that I used for doing The Work above.
Todd Smith is a facilitator of The Work of Byron Katie. He encourages everyone to try out The Work in written form. He also offers one-on-one facilitation sessions in The Work. To do The Work with him, please visit his website here.
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