The deceptively simple question: Is this TRUE? may be the single most important expressive writing or journaling tool around. This question may never occur to you on your own. We tend to take the truth of our thoughts for granted. How else could we make sense of things? We forget that we may not have (or be taking into account) all the relevant information, and that we tend to get stuck in a single way of viewing things.
The next time your thoughts begin to whirl or you tense up at a memory or anticipated event, give this question a try. Break the situation down into as many component pieces a you can think of and use this question to evaluate each element. For example, consider this hypothetical journal excerpt:
Nobody cares what I think. They always ignore me and do their own thing anyway. They don’t care if I’m there or not! If these were your words, you could ask IS IT TRUE that nobody cares what I think? IS IT TRUE e that they always ignore me? IS IT TRUE that they don’t care if I’m there?
In this example the answers are. No. Actually I know they do care. But right now it seems that way. Or, They really do care if I’m there. Chris gave me heck for not showing up last time. At this point the natural inclination is to launch into lengthy story telling of the “they always and I never” sort. For now, forego that temptation and follow up with other questions:
- How do I feel about this situation?
- How do I feel right now about my discovery?
- How does this affect me?
Don’t forget, perception is reality. You are viewing circumstances through the lens of your own experience, which may or may not bear any resemblance to what they intend. Getting your feelings out in the open gives you the opportunity to clean that lens until it sparkles and begin considering other possibilities. The world may look rather different when you do.
The question “Is it true?” comes from Byron Katie, originator of The Work. She has taught hundreds of thousands of people around the world to use four simple questions to turn their thinking around, break through obsessive thinking cycles, and become more peaceful, happy and healthy. Not surprisingly, she has people write down the answers to the questions, and this private, personal experience can have profound results.
Four Questions from The Work
These are Byron Katie's the four questions, to be asked in order about each element of your situation.
- Is it true?
- Can you absolutely know it’s true?
- How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
- Who would you be without the thought?
Those questions are the basics, and they can change your life, but there’s lots to learn about her stunningly simple and satisfying process. You can learn more about it on her website. Everything you need to get started is available there as free downloads. Read more about Katie's personal story and how she discovered this proccess while you are there. It's remarkable.
Write now: recall a troubling situation and write your way through these four questions from The Work. The situation may be a current one or something from the past. Question #3 is the place to load in your emotional reactions and feelings in this situation.