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What To Do When The Work Doesn’t Work

It’s all in the way you hold the tool.

What If You’ve Done The Work On Something 3 – 4 Times?

And you’re still feeling just as stuck. This can be very frustrating, especially if you’re doing The Work to reduce or get rid of negative feelings and the same stressful thoughts keep coming up.

This is a very common experience of people doing The Work. And the reasons can be many.

Here are a few.

1. Discrediting The Examples of The Turnarounds

One of the most common reasons why the same thought keeps being stressful, even after being worked, is that the mind discredits the examples of the turnarounds, or doesn’t really believe them, or doesn’t believe they are that valuable.

In this case, you can come up with lots of seemingly good examples for the turnarounds and be left still feeling stressed.

The remedy in this case is twofold:

1) when doing The Work, allow yourself enough time when finding examples to see if you can find at least one that really resonates. Only the genuine examples for you will make any difference. I consider doing The Work like turning over every rock–not every rock will yield what I’m looking for, but chances are there will be something under at least one of the rocks that satisfies me.

2) Allow yourself to really take in any examples that you do find to see if you can find any truth or significance in them. Sometimes, the mind says, “Yeah, but…” and a perfectly good example gets thrown away. In fact, you can also write down any resistance thought you find to keeping a turnaround example and question it, i.e, question the “yeah, but…” thoughts.

2. Attachment To The Original Stressful Thought

Another reason why working a thought 4-5 times may still not yield a shift of perspective is that the mind is sometimes very attached to the original stressful thought.

I often ask myself “What do I get for holding onto this thought? What’s the payoff, or motive for holding onto it?” Or “What am I afraid of losing if I gave up this thought?”

This can lead to some underlying beliefs that can also be questioned. When I question these underlying beliefs, sometimes the original thought starts to crumble.

3. Maybe It’s Not The Real Stressful Thought

Another reason why doing The Work on the same thought does not yield results is that maybe the thought being questioned is not the real stressful thought.

Maybe there’s another hidden thought, or thoughts, hiding beneath the surface. If you can identify those, and work them, it can sometimes help.

I sometimes just write my thoughts about the whole issue free-form on paper, stream of consciousness style. Then I go through and see if I can identify some other aspects of the situation to work.

4. I Statements

Another reason why doing The Work doesn’t always work is that if you’re working “I statements” or judgments about yourself, it can be too close to get much distance on.

I highly recommend writing Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheets on whomever, or whatever caused you to feel like a victim in the first place.

5. Is Your Thought Too Broad?

Another reason why doing The Work doesn’t always work is that sometimes the thought being questioned is too broad and general. When it is large in scope, spanning my whole life, it can be difficult to turn around successfully.

The truth loves to hide behind generalities. The Work does best with micro-specifics.

I like to identify a very specific moment when I get stressed. And then I notice what was going on in that situation. Doing The Work with a very specific situation in mind can be very, very helpful.

6. Hidden Players

Another thing that can help is to look for any hidden players. I may be judging myself, but inside myself I’m trying to please someone else. When I fail, I beat myself up.

Going back to whom I was trying to please in the first place can sometimes help to identify other thoughts to question.

7. Some Thoughts Are Just Stubborn

Maybe I’ve been believing them for a long time. I often find in cases like this, that doing The Work on different incidents, or different angles of the situation can help. You never know which angle will allow you to see through it. I think it is helpful to keep at it, persistently. Sometimes the most stubborn one wins. 🙂

Also, slowing down really helps. I often take one or two hours to work slowly through a very sticky one for me. And I might not stop at 3 examples, but may find dozens of examples. I keep going until I run out, or until something shifts inside me.

Also, doing The Work is a process. I’ve been doing The Work since 2007, and slowly over time my anger and depression, and back pain lifted. It was not overnight. Each session was essential, but the cumulative effect was bigger.

8. Try The Yahoo Turnaround

Finally, if you can’t find examples for the turnaround to the opposite, try the “yahoo” turnaround. It would be like this, “Buying the house was a big mistake! Yay! How is that a good thing?” Or a variation of that, “Ok, the house was a big mistake. Now what can I do about it?”

One big thing to keep in mind when doing The Work is that the purpose is never to go into denial. If a turnaround doesn’t turn out to be true for you, don’t try to force it on yourself. It will only cause rebellion. The only thing that will set you free is your truth. The Work is a way to help uncover your truth. But you are the final decider, not the other way around. I look at each turnaround as an option, a potential truth, and I test it to see if it really is my truth or not. If not, I keep on moving until I find a turnaround that feels genuine to me.

“The point is not to find the most turnarounds, but to find the ones that bring you the shift to self-realization, the enlightenment that sets you free from the nightmare you’re innocently attached to.”