Live your best life …
It could be generally accepted that life coaches are interested in helping their clients discover the truth of a situation. I have heard people refer to this as ‘ getting real.’ With that in mind, let’s start with two definitions of truth and reality.
One definition of truth is, ” conforming with fact or reality.”
Reality is defined as, ” the state or fact of being real; and ” resemblance of what is real.”
From these definitions we can see that both truth and reality share common factors.
Trying to describe reality is about as easy as herding cats. It aught not to be …. we all live with reality or do we? You have heard phrases like, ” this is my reality; what reality are you living in? and this isn’t even close to reality! ” Therefore, it begs the question, whose version of reality is most real?
According to many authors who address matters of consciousness and spirituality, reality cannot be expressed effectively in words. Once we begin labelling reality as this or that, it begins to take on a particular colour/ flavour depending on who is doing the labelling. Following on from this premise, the closest we can come to appreciating what reality might be, is to refer to it as the eternal NOW or living in the present moment.
So, what explanation can be offered for the fact that no two people experience an event in exactly the same way? Obviously, the judgements about reality are coming from our minds; from the thoughts we think and from the decisions we make. But, when we BELIEVE our thoughts, that’s when the trouble starts.
Byron Katie says, ” When they believe their thoughts, people divide reality into opposites.” What a wonderfully clear way of expressing what happens to us. We believe our thoughts and then act on them. We go into a space where all the ‘should’, ‘aught’, ‘have to’, ‘must’, phrases surface. Then we make the divisions, sift the ‘facts’ apply our values and arrive at a conclusion. We can all put up our hands and admit to going through that process. Have you noticed that at the end of it ( while you may feel vindicated for a time) the problem has not gone away and you’re probably still stressed about it?
Next, I want to explore the second part of the dictionary definition of reality i.e., ” resemblance to what is real.” Resemblance implies that ‘reality ‘ has somehow been altered. The event has passed through a series of filers (otherwise known as beliefs) which have coloured the experience. This version is then accepted as reality or truth.
When filters are employed ( and we have them) I am suggesting that we are not in ‘reality’ but a version of reality. In my Coaching training, being resistant to the situation being faced was called having ‘demands against reality’. In other words, whenever you have preconceived notions about how people or things should be, aught to be, or have to be in order for you to have peace of mind, you are out of reality and into your own story. The word ‘story’ in this context is a way of describing all the thoughts you believe about how the world should operate (and often doesn’t). These thoughts can also be referred to as the ‘movie’ you are playing in your mind.
For example: You are meeting a friend at a café. Your friend is very late and has not phoned to explain.
The reality is: my friend is late.
Your response may range from mild annoyance through to character assassination depending on which thoughts you are choosing to believe. There may be all sorts of reasons why your friend is late. There is no point in reading motives into the actions of another not if peace of mind is your goal.
So, what is available to help with those situations that cause us to be stressed; to deal with the thoughts that make us unhappy?
The following is one method for unscrambling the thoughts that bind you to a particular judgement. There are four steps and you will have to do some writing.
1 The Image: What story are you telling yourself about the situation; what movie are you playing?
MY FRIEND IS LATE. I HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR AGES. I WONDER WHAT IS WRONG? SHE SHOULD PHONE OR TEXT.
2 The Concept: What meaning is being attached to the images in the story/movie? What are you saying to yourself about the images?
THIS SHOWS A LACK OF RESPECT. IT IS RUDE AND INCONSIDERATE. PEOPLE LET ME DOWN.
3 The Feelings: What is the predominant feeling about the image?
I AM UNIMPORTANT, UNLOVED, IGNORED, DISRESPECTED. WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME?
4 The Behaviour/Action: What do you do as a result of the feelings?
WITHDRAW CONTACT. TELL SOMEONE WHAT HAS HAPPENED ( continue the drama) SULK, SHOP etc.
At this stage , you may notice how being stood up without any explanation leads to specific thoughts and feelings. You may notice that you intensify certain behaviours in order to redress the imbalance in your feelings. You may come to the conclusion that: In order for me to feel good, I need my friend to be punctual and considerate every time.
How achievable is this? How reasonable is this demand? Is it actually true?
In the end, it is all about you; about what you believe. The tardy friend is just the messenger highlighting a part of you that is vulnerable and needs some love and attention. Therefore, questioning your thoughts is essential for peace of mind. According to Byron Katie, ” an unchallenged thought is the pathway to stress and emotional pain.”
We have to be prepared to ‘not know’ the answer (why is my friend late?) At first this can feel really uncomfortable because our minds are insisting that they have got it all figured out. Eventually, not knowing is a freeing experience because there is no attachment to any particular position. When you know how to question your thoughts, there is no resistance to what is. If there is some pain or discomfort, it can be viewed as a reminder that some appreciation, love and attention is needed in a part of your life. I encourage you to be gentle with those parts that are hurting. Being willing to look after ‘them’ is an empowering exercise which will lead to more freedom and flexibility in your life.
Be kind to yourself
Reference: A Thousand Names for Joy by Byron Katie with Stephen Mitchell