This is one of the very first sessions I did on Sheldon’s drinking. In addition to my answers, I also show where my mind generally goes with the questions. Those observations are in orange.
I think my husband has a drinking problem. After some discussion, he agrees to not bring scotch into the house. It’s night time, I’m in bed reading and hear the door to the garage open and close. The pressure change rattles the bedroom door. I hear it again. I hear ice in a glass. I remember thinking “what the hell is he doing?” I’m suspicious. I get up and sneak into the kitchen. I see a glass of scotch on the counter. He’s nowhere to be seen. I’m infuriated with him because he lied to me.
Softening Up the Ego
1. He lied to you. Is it true?
The first thing that usually runs through my mind is all the proof that it’s true. I feel certain I am right. My ego is like a prosecuting attorney. It only presents evidence that supports its case and omits anything that doesn’t guarantee a guilty verdict.
We agreed to no scotch in the house and he snuck behind my back and kept a bottle in the garage. I caught him red-handed.
But this question is not geared towards only exploring the truth in the statement. Been there, done that, many, many times. What I’m searching for is what I might have missed.
I replay the discussion we had about scotch. Did he say “yes, I agree to that”? Did he shrug and say okay? Interestingly enough, I can’t recall the exact conversation. In jumps the ego with “yes, but… (its favorite phrase) he understood our agreement that’s why he was hiding the bottle in the garage!”
My answer: Yes.
2. He lied to you. Can I absolutely know it’s true?
The objective observer steps in. It has no vested interest in either a yes or a no. Sometimes there are long stretches of silence as I consider all the possibilities. I guess that’s why Katie says The Work is meditation.
Can I absolutely know he agreed to no scotch in the house? I honestly can’t remember what he said. Could it be his whole demeanor was saying no, even as he agreed? And technically speaking, the bottle of scotch was in the garage, not in the house. No, that seems really lame. I still believe he lied to me.
My answer: Yes.
There have been times during sessions where I’ve answered “no” believing that was the more enlightened answer. I tricked myself by looking at it in general terms. Can I really know anything with absolute certainty? Better for me to stick with this specific situation. Trying to talk myself into a “no” when it feels like it’s a “yes”, doesn’t do me any good. As they say… it’s the truth that will set you free.
The Consequences of Having the Belief
3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe the thought “he lied to me”?
Like a slow motion movie, I go back in time and notice the various ways I reacted. What’s the fallout for believing this thought? I want to understand how this interpretation of reality is affecting my life.
Emotions: The moment my eyes land on the scotch, there’s a big whoosh of insane anger. I want to scream, but don’t. I want to throw the glass against a wall, but don’t. All my pain is funneled into rage against him in that moment. The whole night becomes a battle between feeling so angry, and trying not to be. I have to hold myself together.
Body: I feel electrified. Hot, intense energy is coursing through my body. My muscles are wound up like an overturned clock.
Images: I see images of him in the garage, stumbling around, hiding the bottle somewhere. (I can’t see through walls, but the images are so vivid, my mind believes its viewing reality.)
Stories: Thoughts whirl. I can’t believe he lied to me!!!! He’s normally such an honest person, which makes his lying now even more egregious. I think about how he’s deliberately deceiving me. Pulling the wool over my eyes. Playing me for a fool. He’s doing this to me on purpose! (My ego’s take everything personally. It’s always about me.)
Behavior: I pace back and forth uncertain what to do. I grab the glass, take it into the bedroom, close the door, and set it on my night stand. I lay in bed seething. I imagine him being confused about what happened to his drink. I hope when it dawns on him that I took it, he feels panicked, guilty, afraid, and anxious. I’m waiting for him to come into the bedroom. There’s not a fat chance in hell I’ll fall asleep at this point. I can wait all night.
Treating Myself: How am I treating myself? I struggled with this terminology. I have changed it to, “How am I seeing myself?” and it’s helped.
I see myself as an innocent victim of a conniving, deceitful man. I’m certain everyone would agree with this assessment, which is further proof that I’m right. I’m a good wife who’s been lied to by an alcoholic husband. I’m a cliché.
Treating Him: I feel totally disconnected from him. I don’t know this man anymore. I see him as a liar and a cheat. When he finally comes into the bedroom, I ignore him. When he speaks to me, I glare at him. I wait for him to give me what he owes me – an explanation and a profuse apology.
Identifying the Cause of my Anger
4. Who would you be without the thought “he lied to me”?
This question helps me see that it is the thought, not Sheldon, which is the source of my pain. It doesn’t matter how many worksheets I’ve done, I go into sessions believing this person has done something wrong which is why I feel the way I do. I’ve been preaching for years that no one can make you feel bad without your permission. Yet when I’m triggered, all that philosophy goes out the window.
When I first started doing The Work, this was the toughest question for me to answer. I’m analytical. I thought “if I’m not thinking that, what AM I thinking?” That’s not relevant. The point is for me to be back in the moment I was so angry and see what I experience with the absence of that thought. Are there any differences?
I see the glass of scotch. I’m pretending that it’s NOT possible for me to think “he lied to me”. What do I feel without it?
I feel confused and disappointed. I thought we had agreed to no scotch in the house. Without the thought “he lied to me”, I want to understand why it’s there, so I wait for him to come out of the garage so I can ask him. I don’t feel angry anymore, just disappointment. Two very different emotions.
There is no right or wrong way for me to feel. Most times I feel more peaceful, but not always. When a stressful situation contains multiple beliefs, removing one doesn’t always produce total tranquility. I can only work one at a time.
Enlightenment on Steroids
Turn the thought around.
Something magical happens for me with the turn arounds. My tunnel vision expands out to a 360 degree view. If my problem was an elephant, up until this point, all I’ve been able to see is a big gray butt. With each turn around, I’m seeing this creature from other perspectives. I can now see that it has big floppy ears, a long nose, and soulful eyes. The turn arounds give me access to reality.
I sometimes laugh during turn arounds. It’s like when a comedian makes an observation about an everyday phenomenon that’s not normally noticed or discussed – I find the truth exposed very funny.
It can be humbling as well. The ego has let go of some of its rigidity with the four questions. It’s now more willing to see where it could be wrong. That’s the weird thing about The Work. Who would have thought I would feel so relieved to be wrong?
I lied to myself – Examples
- I ignored all the signs that he wasn’t making a commitment.
- I ignored the lingering doubts I had about him being able to keep the agreement. (Hence my suspicion and trying to catch him.)
- Scotch isn’t the problem. I lied to myself by believing removing it was the solution.
I lied to him – Examples
- I was sneaking around trying to catch him doing something wrong.
- I hid his drink knowing he wouldn’t understand where it went.
He didn’t lie to me – Examples
- His facial expression and tone of voice didn’t agree to the arrangement.
- He didn’t commit. He only said he’d try.
- The bottle was in the garage, not the house. (Lame, but true.)
In this situation, it’s more true that I lied to myself than him lying to me. My desire for him to stop drinking blinded me to the reality that he didn’t really want to do it. That his agreement wasn’t a commitment, but a half-hearted attempt to try, in order to please me. And even if he did lie to me, it wasn’t personal. He didn’t buy the scotch just to deceive me. That’s insane.
Sometimes issues are completely resolved working one JYN. Other times, it takes working lots of JYNs. Sheldon’s drinking has been a multi-layered mountain I keep chipping away at. With each chunk that falls, I’m less in his business, and feel more peaceful no matter what he does.
It’s beginning to sink in that we are two completely separate people living our own lives. AND, we love each other and enjoy sharing our lives together. Maybe over time, I’ll learn the true meaning of “unconditional love”.