Resource: The Work

So you may have realized that you have a little “work” to do when it comes to who you want to be in your marriage. When we have issues in our relationships is so easy to try to fix or blame the other person, when the most powerful and positive thing to do is take responsibility for our own actions. Because let’s face it, the only thing you can control, fix or understand is yourself. Recognizing that it is up to you to work on you so that the marriage can thrive is one of the biggest gifts you can give your partner. But where to start?

We all could use a little help from time to time, and one of the most powerful personal transformation tool that I’ve been using with my couples is “The Work” of Byron Katie. The Work is a self-reflection process that helps you stop believing all the judgments, fears, and anxieties in your head and find the real truth behind your thoughts. It was created by Byron Katie, a renowned spiritual teacher, who was at the lowest point in her life and had an epiphany while sleeping on the floor of a half-way house. Once she realized that she could question her negative thinking and find a way to peace, she began to share her self-inquiry process with others.

The process is easy. You state what is bothering you, “My partner should pick up their socks (and it means that they don’t care about me when they leave them on the floor).” Then you ask a few questions:

  • “Is that absolutely true?”
  • “How do I react, what do I believe when I think that thought?”
  • “Who would I be without that thought, ‘it means they don’t care about me when they leave them on the floor’?”

Next you take your answers from the worksheet and turn them around – to the opposite, to the other and to the self. Then you find examples where your turnarounds are more powerful or actionable or TRUE than your original statement. Through this process you challenge the (often false, generally negative) beliefs that are causing you distress. You consider alternate ways to react to those thoughts and situations and in turn, diffuse or dissolve the original judgment/belief.

It is very Zen-like in its approach, and you’ll likely figure out that it’s not really about “socks” at all, but something deeper. Doing this process over time helps reveal these beliefs and also shows you the way to change them. Every time I do the work, it seems like the original problem becomes less urgent, less intense, less dramatic. It has greatly helped me to diffuse my emotional triggers and have more positive reactions to everyday frustrations and middle of the night worries.

I’m sure most of you are a little hesitant to start getting real about your inner self, because it takes some guts to really face everything you’ve been resigning to or controlling, attached to or escaping. Personal process work is a lifetime practice, but like anything, the sooner you start the longer the reward. I can definitely tell you that no matter how great your relationship with your partner seems to be now, eventually your unresolved baggage will rear it’s ugly head. So if you have the tools now to start this process of self-discovery, you’ll avoid bigger problems with your spouse down the road.

I have personally seen her do “The Work” in person and it is amazing. There are lots of topics, but really they all apply to us as individuals in some way, as most types of suffering are universal to the human spirit. Best of all it is available online for FREE. Yes, free! Plus, it’s super simple and so easy to do. I have been a faithful devotee of her work for myself personally and professionally since 2006 and it is truly profound. And no, I do not get paid for promoting her – she’s just awesome, that’s it!

Here’s what to do:

  1. Watch her video on how to fill out a worksheet and then browse one or two of her doing The Work live with other people.
  2. You can download and fill out the “Judge Your Neighbor Worksheet” here.
  3. Check out the “Emotions and Reactions” list – circle the emotions you’re feeling, then circle the positive qualities you could be without that thought
  4. Send me a photo of your “Judge Your Neighbor” worksheet and I’ll give you some turnaround suggestions.

Warning: it might be tempting to want to do this with your partner on “date night” or your weekly checkin, but I strongly encourage you to keep this process private – especially in the beginning.

It’s ok to know that each of you are using these techniques and maybe have some common terminology, but save the “therapist” role for someone outside your relationship (I’m totally here for you). This stuff is powerful, and should be used as a personal exercise, not a “let’s fix the other person” or a distraction from your own inner work. Trust me, the revelations you have on your own will definitely spill out into your relationship because you will be thinking and acting in a more mature, compassionate manner. And it doesn’t matter if your partner is working on anything at all. We’re working on YOU, not the other person. If you shift, the relationship will definitely shift.

Sounds impossible? Well on your own, maybe. But with the help of mentors and personal process exercises, it can be a very productive and enjoyable experience. No really! When you see the truth about something, and can let go of beliefs that no longer serve you – it’s magical and powerful. Please let me know if I can help in any way.

“I discovered that when I believed my thoughts I suffered, but 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. And I invite you not to believe me. I invite you to test it for yourself.”

~Byron Katie

Resource: The Work