A twig snapped about ten yards away, and I froze. It was pitch black. I couldn’t see a thing, but I knew that something was watching me. I was pretty sure I could hear it breathing, and I was petrified.
Suddenly, it sprang to life. I tried to run, but couldn’t move. I tried to yell, but I was mute. It pounced, and I was jerked awake. Safe again, but drenched in sweat from head to foot, I lay there in bed trying to catch my breath.
Dealing With The IRS Can Be A Nightmare
In the United States, it’s the IRS. But every country has a version of this tax collecting agency. And it can pump the fear of life itself into your veins. How so?
One friend of mine emailed me on Monday full of stressful thoughts and beliefs about the IRS. She wrote, “I didn’t prepare for this. I’m scared. Where’s the money I supposedly made? Where will I get the money to pay this?”
I could feel the tension as I read it, partly because I’ve been in that kind of bind before myself. I’m supposed to be saving money all year to pay my taxes, but somehow it all gets spent. Come tax time, my back’s against the wall, and I am sweating. What a nightmare indeed!
How Can You Wake Up From This Nightmare?
Let’s stop a second and take a look. Who’s making you sweat so much? Is it the IRS? Or is it your story about the IRS? When you are caught up in the nightmare, you imagine the worst possible scenario. These are the images that scare you. You see yourself in jail perhaps. Or in a courtroom.
Your mind picks out scenes from old movies you’ve seen, where the FBI is going through someone’s house with a fine toothed comb. You see yourself as destitute and humiliated: the man who couldn’t pay his taxes.
Finally, you point the finger back at you, and you fill yourself with anger for not being more responsible. This is what you do to terrorize yourself. What has the IRS done? So far they don’t even know about your dilemma. So far it’s just you, caught inside a nightmare.
So How Do You Get Out?
There is a way to get out of any nightmare. You can start questioning the validity of the dream. In a dream, the crouching monster seems very real. But if you could question the validity of the dream, the monster would simply melt into the ether from which it came.
The same can be done in real life. Do you see the scary images that your mind produces about your future? The ones that show you to be an utter failure because you can’t pay your taxes? Well, those images, or more correctly, the beliefs that gave rise to those images can be questioned.
Begin by noticing your stressful thoughts. “I’m going to go to jail. They’re going to search my house. My reputation will go up in smoke.” Pick one and write it down. Then question that belief.
Ask yourself, “Is that really true? Are you sure? Really?” As you start to question the beliefs they lose their grip. The truth emerges, “I didn’t break the law. They won’t put me in jail.”
Why Are Questions So Powerful?
Everything that scares you about the IRS is just a thought. It’s a story you’re believing that you’re using to scare yourself to pieces. When you question these scary thoughts, you start to see the humor in them. You wake up from the nightmare and find yourself safe again at home in reality.
This process of questioning your stressful thoughts is called The Work of Byron Katie. In fact, it’s nothing new. Throughout the centuries, great teachers like Socrates and Buddha and Confucius and Shankar encouraged their students to question what they took for granted.
When you question what you are taking for granted in any stressful situation, you start to see the world in a different light. Instead of being scary, the universe becomes more friendly. And all that’s changed is that you’ve stopped believing the scary thoughts inside your head.
But Questioning My Thoughts Won’t Make The Tax Man Go Away
This is true. But you can make yourself miserable about it, or you can be happy as the process unfolds. The option to be happy becomes available once you question the scary thoughts you have about the situation.
When you do The Work of Byron Katie on your beliefs about the IRS, you may start to see that your reputation is not at stake, the way you thought. You may find that the IRS has options for making payments over time. You may start to see the good of such a crisis, because it will help you to stay on track in future years.
When you question your stressful thoughts, you start to realize that nothing horrible is going to happen. Certainly, the tax man won’t go away, but if your mind is clear, you can meet him at the door and invite him in.
How Do I Know This Works?
A year and a half ago, I could barely pay the rent. My problem wasn’t taxes, I was earning too little to live on. I was desperate. Then I did The Work with Byron Katie. Not by myself, but on stage in front of 300 people.
I questioned the thought, “I need to pay the rent,” When I questioned this thought I didn’t panic like I had before. Instead, I found that I would still be okay if I didn’t pay the rent. I also found that I could find paying work anywhere. As long as I was open to the possibility.
The process of questioning my thoughts changed my thinking. I soon changed jobs for one that wasn’t such a struggle financially. It was that simple. I questioned my thoughts. And options start popping up left and right.
The IRS can never be your problem. Your stressful thinking about the IRS–that’s what’s got you caught inside a nightmare. When you question the thoughts that scare you, you may find that the assumptions on which you based your fears are simply not true.
The Work of Byron Katie (The Work for short) is a systematic way to question stressful thoughts. It is a series of four questions and “turnarounds” that you can apply to any stressful belief. Here’s how to do it.
If your taxes have you feeling stressed this year, take a moment to identify one stressful thought that you’re believing. Ask yourself, “What do you fear is going to happen?” Identify one stressful concept and write it down.
Then download the One-Belief-At-A-Time Worksheet and follow the instructions. If you answer the questions with integrity, you can pierce through all the fear, and find your freedom.
So next time you freeze in fear at the snapping of a twig, notice what it’s like to be inside a dream. When you question your stressful thoughts about the IRS, you may find that your life is not as scary as it seems.
Note: If you want to do The Work with me, I now have online scheduling on my website. It’s now easy to schedule a time to work with me right from my website. Doing The Work with an experienced facilitator can really accelerate the nightmare wake-up process.
Also: If you are interested in seeing my session with Byron Katie, the YouTube video is on my About page.
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©2010-2011 Todd Smith, LLC. All rights reserved.
Todd Smith writes weekly articles on how to make The Work of Byron Katie your meditation practice. These may include instructive articles on how to improve your practice of The Work, stories of how The Work has helped others, and in-depth studies of how The Work can be helpful in different stressful situations.