Problem #2: Challenging a Fact

Posted on April 23, 2012

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Here’s another problem some of my clients have experienced with The Work: challenging the validity of a fact. Mistaking something that has actually happened as the cause of their woe, they try to put this truth up to inquiry. And they come up feeling quite confused.

Here’s an example. Joe doesn’t call Sarah, even though he promised her that he would. She notices that she’s feeling kinda down about the whole thing so she decides to use The Work on her lizard thoughts. She believes the problem is that Joe didn’t call (that is what’s making her unhappy isn’t it?) so she tries it out. This is what she comes up with: 

Joe didn’t call.

1. Is that true?

Well, yes it is. He didn’t call.

2. Can I absolutely be sure that he didn’t call?

Uh, yep. I’m pretty sure he didn’t call.

3. Who am I with this thought?

Disappointed, unhappy.

4. Who am I without this thought?

The thought that he didn’t call? I guess I’m happier but the truth is that he didn’t call.

Turnaround: Joe called me.

But he didn’t! That’s the whole point!

You see how this goes. Disputing a fact with inquiry is pointless. Facts are facts. Facts are the truth. And facts don’t make you miserable. The story you tell yourself about the facts make you miserable.

See, Sarah’s not upset because Joe didn’t call per se. She upset because the fact that Joe didn’t call means that her lizard starts telling her that she’ll always be single. That she’s undesirable. That she isn’t worth much. And it is this story that is making her upset.

She doesn’t have to be upset about Joe not calling her back. She could, instead, realize what many of my clients have realized-the people who don’t call you back aren’t worth your time anyway. In a way, they’ve usually done you a favor by freeing you up to find someone who will call you back.

So the next time you find yourself questioning the validity of a fact, ask yourself: What am I making this mean? That will help you get to the real problem.

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Posted in: Thought Work