All stress comes from believing a thought that argues with reality. And when you oppose "what is" - it hurts.
In Byron Katie's first book, Loving What Is, she illustrates this with a simple and clear example with a cat:
If you want reality to be different than it is, you might as well try to teach a cat to bark. You can try and try, and in the end the cat will look up at you and say, "Meow." Wanting reality to be different than it is is hopeless. You can spend the rest of your life trying to teach a cat to bark...
And yet, if you pay attention, you'll notice that you think thoughts like this dozens of times a day. "People should be kinder." "Children should be well-behaved." "My neighbors should take better care of their lawn."...
These thoughts are ways of wanting reality to be different than it is. If you think that this sounds depressing, you're right. All the stress that we feel is caused by arguing with what is.
So what can you do when you find yourself arguing with reality? You know, when you're sitting in traffic thinking, "I shouldn't be stuck in traffic right now!" Or when the sale you were hoping for at work falls through and you're frustrated because, "They really should have followed through."
Well, you can do one of two things:
1. Believe what you think.
2. Question it.
Believing what you think can be pretty painful. I mean just think about how stressful it is to sit in traffic wanting the cars to move faster! It's about as hopeless as trying to get a cat to bark.
Questioning the thoughts, on the other hand, can open you up to finding peace where you once found stress.
You can start questioning them, or doing The Work, by writing down your stressful thought (the one where you want things to be different than they are) and then answering these four questions:
1. Is it true?
2. Can you absolutely know that it's true?
3. How do you react when you believe that thought?
4. Who would you be without the thought?
Then you look for turnarounds by taking the original stressful belief and looking for opposites to see if they are as true or truer. In other words, to see if they are closer to reality.
Here's an example:
My friend should be a better listener.
1. Is that true?
2. Can you absolutely know that it's true? (What's the reality?)
The reality is that she's not better than she is. So, no, I can't know that she should be a better listener.
3. How do you react when you believe that your friend should be a better listener?
I get frustrated and I complain to my other friends. I don't want to hang around with her anymore. I don't want to listen to her either because I want to punish her. I don't respect her and am jealous of her attention when she puts it somewhere other than on me when I'm trying to talk to her.
4. Who would you be without the thought that your friend should be a better listener?
I wouldn't try to convince her that she should listen to me more. I'd feel gentler in my body. I'd appreciate the amount that she *does* listen to me. When she talked to me, I'd be able to listen because there wouldn't be that resentment that I was holding on to. I'd realize that I'm doing just fine in my life even though she's not listening to me more.
Turn the thought around: She should be a better listener.
TA> She should *not* be a better listener.
This is true because she's not. She can't be a better listener than she is in that moment.
TA> *I* should be a better listener.
Definitely! If I think she can do it, can I even do it?! I should give her what I want from her because obviously it's important to me that friends listen to each other well. So this is for me to live.
The Work of Byron Katie is a path to self-discovery and freedom from stress. Ask these four questions for yourself and find out who you'd be without your story!
"When I argue with reality I lose. But only 100% of the time." - Byron Katie
Mona Grayson is a two-time graduate from The School for The Work of Byron Katie and has been helping people get free from the constraints of their stress so they can lead fuller, more peaceful lives. For a free newsletter about applying The Work of Byron Katie to your stress, and a free special report: "21 Ways to Stay in the Peace," visit http://www.letsdothework.com or http://blog.letsdothework.com