Last week we talked about finding all of the stories we tell ourselves about our lives. I hope that you have kept a record of all of those stories, because now we get to the fun part – changing the ones that don’t work! Since I love them, this is of course a multi-step process. So, get your list of stories – we’re first separating them into groups– here we go:
Step #1: Does the story cause you to feel bad? If yes, label it “sucky” – if no, label it “perfect.” Though this might seem obvious, let’s take a quick example, just in case: “My boss hates that I am always late for work.” If you respect your boss, or are worried about getting fired, this one goes into the “sucky” category. If you hate your boss, know that she is soon to be leaving the company, and plot to cause her as much misery as you can before she leaves, this story gets labeled “perfect.” It’s all about context.
Step #2: Remove all stories in the “perfect” category from your working list. You may want to save them somewhere else, since they are a great resource for finding stories that work for you.
Step #3: Next, categorize each story as “doing” (“I can’t seem to get to work on time.”) or “being” (“I’m lazy, that’s why I can’t get to work on time.”)
Step #4: Group all similar-themed stories together. You can label them with a descriptor or just with letters or numbers.
To show you what this looks like as an end product, I’m sharing here some of my prevalent thoughts about my most-pressing problem of the moment, changing my eating habits to lose weight. I’m horrified to even publish this, and can only do so because, as a coach, I get to hear the painful inner stories of others and know I’m not alone. Here is a sample of my stories on this:
|Story||Step #1||Step #3||Step #4|
|Plans make me feel crazy.||Sucky||Being||A|
|I can’t live without an escape.||Sucky||Being||A|
|I can’t face life un-numbed.||Sucky||Being||A|
|I need food to make it through.||Sucky||Being||A|
|I am out of control.||Sucky||Being||A|
|I will never get through this.||Sucky||Being||A|
|This is going to be hard and horrible.||Sucky||Doing||B|
|This is going to take over my life.||Sucky||Doing||B|
|I hate grocery shopping||Sucky||Doing||B|
|Cooking is difficult and not fun.||Sucky||Doing||B|
|I need to do this perfectly.||Sucky||Doing||B|
|My life must be suspended while I work out my food issues.||Sucky||Doing||B|
|I need to focus only on this.||Sucky||Doing||B|
|This is going to be my hardest work ever.||Sucky||Doing||B|
|I can’t do this.||Sucky||Being||B|
|I don’t know what I’m doing.||Sucky||Being||B|
|I will have to re-experience trauma.||Sucky||Being||C|
|Once I lose weight, I will have to date.||Sucky||Being||C|
|If I am fat, I am hideous.||Sucky||Being||D|
|I am pathetic for still using food.||Sucky||Being||D|
|I am not worth the effort.||Sucky||Being||D|
|My body is proof that I’m fucked up.||Sucky||Being||D|
Of course, being an accountant, I did this in Excel, which made it easy to sort by the step #4 category. I recommend grouping all of your stories physically together so you can quickly see them by category.
Step #5: Take a moment to vigorously shake your arms. I know this sounds dumb, but it helps. You’ve just read a list of very sucky thoughts, and this helps to clear their effect from your body. If your list really sucks, feel free to put on music and just shake it out for a bit. (I used Patrick Dempsey’s Loverboy dance move. If you didn’t watch teen movies in the 80’s, just ignore that last comment.)
Step #6: (I’m loosely basing this on an exercise from Martha Beck. Unfortunately I can’t remember which one!) Detach. Pretend this list is not yours. Pretend you are studying an alien culture, and this list was submitted by an alien. Write a description of each category from an objective, observer perspective. My categories look like this:
|Subject believes planning nutrition consumption will drive her insane.|
|Subject believes she is incapable of feeding her body what she needs. Subject believes food preparation and consumption will take longer for her than for the noted average time for beings on this planet.|
|Subject has associated unrelated events with food consumption.|
|Subject judges herself harshly.|
Hopefully, this gives you enough distance from the stories to start disbelieving them. If not, continue on…
Step #7: Next, try looking at these categories from the perspective of your soul, the eternal part of you who is endlessly wise. What opportunities might be present? What lessons might your soul want you to learn?
Step #8: Re-read your list. Do any of the stories still make you feel terrible? If so, pick the ones that hurt the most and try some thought work methods on them. Repeat until none of these stories seem true.
Leave a comment and let us know how it works for you!