If I’m holding on to the past, wishing it were different, I’m still hurting inside no matter how much I try to convince myself that I’m beyond it. The only option is to deal with my emotions.
That’s why I’d often rather forget about it.
I think, “My life is okay. I’ll just focus on day-to-day living.” I distract myself with other more pressing things. I keep busy. I keep my head above water. But something still feels like it’s trying to pull me down.
The effort of treading water is constant and it can eventually become exhausting. Or it can lead me to addiction, anger, or negative behavior.
Though time does heal, it is often not enough.
When my mind is stressed, it’s not gentle. So every time I touch the old subject, I hurt myself with it. No wonder I try to avoid it! No wonder I don’t want to deal with it!
There is nothing worse than stepping into quicksand. It is actually intelligent to avoid it. But unfortunately, avoiding it doesn’t make it go away. And I have to spend my life avoiding certain areas of my thinking. In fact, as more stresses accumulate, my navigable area of thinking becomes smaller and smaller.
There needs to be a way to safely deal with my emotions.
Since 2007, I’ve been using The Work of Byron Katie (The Work), a way to question stressful thoughts and turn them around. This meditative practice involves writing down my stressful thoughts. Just this act alone is therapeutic for me. Instead of a swirling pool of negativity in my mind, I’ve identified some concrete thoughts that I’m believing at the center of the negativity.
When I write them down I have a handle on them. There’s some distance on them, and that helps a lot.
The next part of The Work is to question what I wrote down. This is not about trying to change my mind. This is about truly questioning myself. I want to open to what’s really true for me inside. Is my thought really true for me or not? And how do I react when I believe it’s true? And who would I be if I happened not to believe this thought?
These questions make me go ‘Hmmm…” The questions support me to look a little more closely at the quicksand. And when I do, I often find that there’s solid ground in there. This allows me to step into the quicksand and explore less fearfully.
Which brings me to the final phase of doing The Work: finding the turnarounds, and examples of how the turnarounds could be true.
It turns my world inside out and upside down. What I thought was scary is often found to be completely benign. But it’s a process. Little by little, thought by thought, I question what I believe and a new understanding often emerges.
But even when I know how to do this work, I sometimes put it off. To not deal with my emotions seems easier. And so the tool sits unused. And I continue feeling the heaviness of not having dealt with something.
For me, I have to have a few things in place before I can actually start to deal with my emotions in this way:
1. A working knowledge and trust of The Work
2. A dissatisfaction with my current state of emotions
3. A willingness to put in the time to do The Work.
Recently, I started doing The Work on my parents’ divorce from when I was 15. This was one of the biggest trauma’s of my life, and while I’ve done a lot of The Work, I haven’t done a lot of work on the divorce.
I can tell you after just a few days of questioning my thoughts about the divorce, I’m feeling so much lighter. The process of letting go takes time. But I’m actually now grieving this loss after three decades.
I did The Work every day for two months after my mom died, and in that time I worked through my grief effectively. I found my peace.
And now I’m opening this cold case of the divorce. For me the divorce was the death of my family. And I never gave myself the same amount of time doing The Work on the divorce as I did on my mom’s death.
Now the time has come. And it feels so healing. I will continue to work on this until I deal with my emotions completely. I love having a tool that is so effective for me.
If you want to learn how to do The Work, and start using it on a regular basis to deal with your emotions, I invite you to participate in my online course, The Work 101.
“The thing you’re terrified of losing—you’ve already lost it. You may not have noticed that yet, and it may take you a while to grieve, and then you may realize that there was never anything to lose.” Byron Katie, Question Your Thinking, Change The World