Teresa Brooks Life Coaching

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TRANSFORMING ERRONEOUS BELIEFS- ask a different question

  1. Making sense of one’s life is a life long endeavour. In the last blog, I pointed to the advantage of asking ‘what’ questions. ‘What’ questions have a much better chance of focusing us on what is actually happening without the event being dressed up with our story( how things should or should not be). It would appear that we are naturally programmed for this behaviour. Neuroscientists have identified a part of the brain that is responsible for interpreting what happens to us by providing “a familiar internal narrative.”  Antonio Damasio, one such scientist, describes it this way, ” Perhaps the most important revelation is precisely this: that the left cerebral hemisphere of humans is prone to fabricating verbal narratives that do not necessarily accord with truth.” In fact, what we have is our own spin-doctor!!! So why oppose nature, you might ask? Because spin-doctors and reality are rarely compatible bed fellows and besides which, believing a spin doctor only provides temporary relief.

If ‘what’ questions help us focus our attention on reality, how do we make sense of what we find without the interference of our brain? Is there a way to put the ‘spin’ on hold while we sort things out?

I have written briefly about Byron Katie’s inquiry method in the blog entitled, A Dose of Reality part 2, in which she explains the questions she uses to make sense of stressful thoughts about situations we encounter in every day life.

Katie uses the following questions:

1. Is it true?

2. Can you know absolutely that it is true?

3. How do you react when you believe that thought?

4. Who would you be without that thought?

Turn the statement around

In her book, Loving What Is, Katie has documented many client sessions and the way  these questions work to uncover the truth. The questions listed above form the general direction of the investigation but Katie doesn’t confine herself to just these. Sometimes, people are so enveloped by their story that more questions are needed to get to the truth. Extra questions include, ” Is there a stress free reason to keep this thought/ Can you see a reason to drop this thought?” These extra questions  clarify the situation thus forming a direct link from the thought to the stress/ discomfort being felt. By linking the stress to the thought rather than to the person or situation being blamed, the hold of our spin- doctor  is broken. When the correct link is forged, the truth that is hidden behind the troublesome thoughts, emerges.

Whilst exploring a problem using the four questions is very helpful, I am fascinated by the ‘turnaround’ question. In my opinion, this is the question that makes all the difference. The first four questions unwrap the problem and at the ‘turnaround’ stage, you really GET what is going on for you.

Let’s have a look at two examples.

Most of us have had the experience of a friendship that has not turned out the way we imagined and left us disappointed and confused.  In my case, when I thought about this person, I worked very hard at not feeling disappointed but the question remained, ” What was wrong with me?” I had been asking that question fairly regularly for some time and not getting a satisfactory answer. When I finally ‘ woke up’  to the repetitive nature of this thought and the fact that I was getting nowhere, I realised that I could try Katie’s inquiry method.

Q: What happened?

A: X did not want to be my friend.

Q: Is that true?

A: It appears to be.

Q: So, X did not want to be your friend?

A: Yes.

Q:Let’s turn it around; You did not want to be your friend?

A:I have never never thought about it like that.  At that time, I was having trouble liking or being a friend to myself. So, yes, it is true.

Conclusion: This answer felt true for me. I wanted someone else to do for me what I was not prepared to do for myself. It did not work. Not liking oneself is hurtful. It does not allow spirit to shine.

Thoughts about this friendship still pass through my mind from time to time but the disappointment has gone. Whilst I need time to assimilate this information, I know in time, I will be thankful to have had my truth revealed. Now I can do something about the erroneous beliefs that supported that particular story.

Joan has an elderly relative who is difficult to deal with. She is very attentive  to this relative who often takes advantage of Joan’s good nature. On one occasion, Joan did not respond to her relative’s request in the way she normally did. As a result, she felt uncomfortable about what she had done. She accused herself of not having any compassion for this elderly relative. This harsh judgement was investigated via Katie’s questions.

Q: Is it true that you have no compassion for your relative ?

A: If you put it like that, then no. That is not true. I actually do have some, quite a lot really.

Q: Let’s turn your statement around, I have no compassion for myself. Is that true?

A: Yes. That is true. I don’t have much compassion for myself (Joan is laughing) I made myself wrong because, on this occasion, I considered my needs before the needs of my relative. I can see how compassion for myself is in short supply. I can see that I need to be fair to myself. I need to look after myself as well.

Conclusion: The lack of compassion for herself, felt true for Joan. It is painful to ignore oneself to that degree. When we ignore ourselves in this way, the lack of compassion which is primarily felt for the other person is actually the unrecognised lack of compassion for the self.

We need to notice our stressful/judgemental thoughts. We need to question these thoughts in order to find the truth they are hiding. Holding onto unquestioned thoughts causes stress; without the thoughts there is freedom. The advantage of the ‘turnaround’ question is that it penetrates through the stuff we assume is the problem and arrives at our personal truth. It undoes the work of the spin-doctor and that can only be a good thing.

I recommend Katie’s book, Loving What Is, to you all. Try the ‘turnaround’ question on a problem of yours. See how you go.

Be kind to yourself

Source of quote: Loving What Is ( Introduction)





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