I have a confession to make. I lie. A lot.
In fact, I lie almost constantly.
Not so much to other people, but I lie to myself all the time in the privacy of my own mind.
Mostly, these lies I tell are lies about myself.
You may even be familiar with some of these lies yourself.
“I’m not good enough to deserve that thing that I long for.”
“I need this particular person to like me and approve of me before I can be happy.”
“My dreams will never come true. They are not realistic enough.”
“That person is doing it wrong. They should do it my way.”
“This is too uncomfortable. I must do something to fix it now.”
“That’s too risky to even try to reach for. I should just settle for what I have.”
“This relationship (or job or situation or occasion) is responsible for my happiness.”
“There is something wrong with me because there are people who disapprove of me or something about me.”
“Life shouldn’t be this hard.”
“I can’t stand this feeling (or situation) for another minute!”
Lies. All of them are lies.
But these kinds of messages are on non-stop loop in my brain all the time. My ego is constantly trying to get me to stay small, play it safe, fit in with the crowd, don’t take responsibility for my own life.
For years, I believed all of these lies I told myself. They formed my image of reality. I blindly followed their advice and kept repeating the same old mental and behavioral patterns over and over again.
Not only that, I filled my life with people who believed the same lies I did and reinforced those lies my mind was telling me because that was what was comfortable and known.
But life wasn’t working very well for me with that way of operating. It wasn’t working for me. It wasn’t working for my relationships either.
Then I encountered the Work of Byron Katie.
It’s a deceptively simple process. When I am feeling unhappy, find the thought that is causing the unhappiness. Then ask yourself the following four questions about that thought:
- Is it true? (yes or no; if no, go to question 3)
- Can you absolutely know that it’s true? (Yes or no.)
- How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
- Who would you be without the thought?
For additional benefit, she also recommends finding several “turnarounds” for the thought and identifying at least some ways that those are true. A turnaround is an opposite version of the initial thought. (For example, “she never understands me” could become “I don’t understand me” or “I don’t always understand her,” in addition to the obvious opposite of “she does understand me.”)
For me, however, the most radical part of this exercise is learning to question my thoughts. I have yet to question a thought that was making me unhappy and discover that it was true.
I may want it to be true (I’d really prefer that you do this thing my way), but as long as I am fighting reality (by believing that you “should” do it my way), I’m going to keep myself unhappy (because you are not doing it my way). Accepting that it isn’t true that you “should” do things the way I would do them (and that you just aren’t going to do this thing my way) actually frees me to be at peace with reality.
I wind up changing the only thing I have control over (my thoughts) by accepting that which I don’t have control over (what other people do).
It’s a much easier way to live.
Do I still lie to myself? Yup, all the time.
Do those lies still make me unhappy? Yup, all too often when I buy into them.
But I’m learning to question them more and more every day. I can even often recognize a lie now as soon as it arises and just drop it right there. (It helps that my mind has a few favorite lies that it keeps repeating over and over, so I’ve heard most of them before.)
I still don’t always like reality as it is. (I’d really, really prefer that everyone like me and approve of me ALL THE TIME!)
But it’s so much easier to live with reality instead of fighting it. (There will always be people who don’t like me and don’t approve me, and that’s just the nature of reality. It doesn’t say anything about my value as a person.)
Do you ever lie to yourself? Have you ever questioned your thoughts to see whether they are lies? What do you do with the lies you tell yourself when you discover them?
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