Negative beliefs are very destructive to ourselves and others, mostly because we believe they’re true and identify with them when we use “I am” in front of things like being a burden, weak, not worthy, a mistake . . . It’s not true. You’re not a burden! Your negative thoughts are a burden – more likely. Wars are fought over beliefs. We would die for some of them, believing ourselves to be “right” to the death. Many times, we find these beliefs we’re suffering over aren’t even ours. They are ones we picked up from our parents, family, friends, teachers and the media.
Who would you be without your story?
Byron Katie, creator of The Work, is a pioneer and leading authority on how to eliminate negative beliefs from your life forever. I’ve found her process to be extremely powerful and effective. It does take work and perseverance. With the invested effort, you can become free from negative beliefs running your life! Imagine a life of no more:
They should . . .I shouldn’t . . . She always . . . He won’t . . .
My mother doesn’t . . . My partner never . . .
The Work is a way to identify and question the thoughts that cause all your suffering. Everything you need in order to do The Work is available free on Byron Katie’s website (TheWork.com).
Byron Katie became severely depressed in her early thirties. For almost a decade she spiraled down into rage, self-loathing, and constant thoughts of suicide. For at least two years she was often unable to leave her bedroom. Then one morning in February 1986, she experienced a life-changing realization. There are various names for an experience like this. Katie calls it “waking up to reality.” In that instant, she says,
I discovered that when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but that when I didn’t believe them, I didn’t suffer, and that this is true for every human being. Freedom is as simple as that. I found that suffering is optional. I found a joy within me that has never disappeared, not for a single moment. That joy is in everyone, always.
She realized that what had been causing her depression was not the world around her, but the beliefs she’d had about the world. Instead of hopelessly trying to change the world to match her thoughts about how it should be, she could question these thoughts and, by meeting reality as it is, experience unimaginable freedom and joy. As a result, a bedridden, suicidal woman was instantly filled with love for everything life brings.
There are several universal beliefs, ones many of us share as human beings. I personally have worked hundreds of these beliefs and am always surprised at how effective this method is.
Here are just a few:
- I need to know what to do
- I don’t know what to do
- I know what is best for others
- I know what is best for myself
- Something terrible is going to happen
- It’s possible to make a mistake
- People should not lie
- People should respect me
- I can control how others feel about me
- I need more money
- Life isn’t fair
- Parents should love their children
- Children should love their parents
- I can’t do anything right
- I can disappoint people
- There’s too much to do
- There’s not enough time
- I know what you need
- I am worthless
- I should be different
- I missed my chance
- I need to understand
- I need to do it right
- There’s something wrong with me
- The world isn’t a safe place
- It’s my job to make you happy
- I need a partner to be happy
- It’s my fault
- People should listen to me
- I’m not good enough
- I am a failure
- I know what they’re thinking
- They should agree with me
- I have to work hard
- People should keep their promises
- Other people can hurt me
- I’m too fat (thin)
- I need to be in control
- There is a purpose to my life
- My boss should appreciate me
- I don’t belong
Her website contains free worksheets, loads of videos and tutorials! You can follow along with the people on any video working through their belief because there’s a good chance you have that same belief. You must do the work on paper too. This isn’t something you can do in your head. It all must be written down. Start by filling out the Judge Your Neighbor worksheet on The Work website, and be as honest as possible. When you’re first starting out, complete the worksheet on someone other than yourself. It’s easier to process and do the turn arounds.
As you’ll see on her website, there are 4 main questions to ask with each belief:
- Is it true?
- Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
- How do you react, what happens when you believe the thought?
- Who would you be without the thought?
It’s best to remember a specific incident to work the belief with as it’s more effective for answering the questions. Also, it’s possible you may answer them from the perspective of you at the time of the memory, a younger you.
Then you work the turn arounds. The turn arounds are brilliant. If you do a thorough job with the four questions, your turn arounds will work out well. The turn arounds are enlightening and can completely shift the belief. There’s usually one of the three turn arounds that is truer then the original belief.
Say for example my belief was: “My mother doesn’t listen to me.”
- To the opposite: My mother does listen to me
- To the self: I don’t listen to me
- To the other: I don’t listen to my mother
For every turn-around you discover, always find at least three specific, genuine examples of how it’s true for you in this situation. Some of them are tricky and challenging to find examples for. Byron Katie gives turn around examples in her videos that you can follow along with.
That’s it! It’s simple but getting the belief out on paper and working through it is the real work. Katie shared that she worked on some beliefs in meditation for days to make sure they were complete. She also shared that she spent years just processing beliefs she had about her mother! Many of the beliefs we have about our parents are transferred onto others, so it makes perfect sense to work the beliefs about our parents!
Until you can see the enemy as a friend, your Work isn’t done. This doesn’t mean that you must invite your enemy to dinner. Friendship is an internal experience. You may never see the person again, you may even divorce him or her, but as you think about the person, are you feeling stress or peace?
Choose a belief that is true for you. Head over to TheWork.com and watch some videos to get a sense as to how the process works. Work your belief being as honest as you can. Watch your belief disappear. It’s an amazing process!
For an updated version of this post:
Ending Negative Self-Talk
Negative beliefs and self-talk are very destructive to ourselves and others, mostly because we believe these negative things we tell ourselves are true. This is mainly because we identify with them and use “I am” in front of things like being a burden, weak, not worthy, a mistake . . . It’s not true. You’re…
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