Imagine you have a job at a nursery. And you are left alone to deal with 20 crying babies. Is there any sane way to deal with such a situation?
One way is to take just one baby on your lap and hold it. And check it. Is it hungry? Does it need to be changed? Is it tired? As you investigate and deal with the issues with this one baby, and hold it lovingly, it’s crying often starts to fade away.
And when that baby has stopped crying, you can set it down and pick up the next one. One by one, you take care of the crying babies. And it doesn’t mean you have to completely ignore the rest. You may bring them all near to you, and touch them too from time to time whenever there’s an outburst. But your main focus is on the baby in your lap.
Stressful Thoughts Are Like Crying Babies
They all demand attention. And when there are lots of them, it can drive you crazy. So what’s the sane way to deal with all those crying thoughts?
You can do the same thing that you do with crying babies. Take one of them and hold it, and listen to its complaints. Hear it. And lovingly investigate it. Listen to it, but don’t buy into everything it says. Question it.
The process I’m referring to is called The Work of Byron Katie. And it’s a simple way to give your stressful thoughts the attention they deserve. And to find the truth behind them.
But When You’re Doing The Work, You Can Run Into A Problem
You may start working on one stressful thought, and it gives rise to another one. And another, and another, and another. It can be overwhelming, and frustrating when you see that the number thoughts you want to do The Work on is increasing faster than you are able to deal with them.
If this happens, there is a simple solution to the problem. Katie calls it the “sidebar.” A sidebar is where you put things for later.
How Do You Use The Sidebar When You’re Doing The Work?
Your sidebar is a separate piece of paper. On this separate piece of paper, you can write down the new stressful thoughts that come up when you’re in the middle of doing The Work.
You can even have a special notebook for this purpose. But don’t don’t get sidetracked long. Just write them down for future work. And come back to the concept you started with. That’s the baby on your lap. The sidebar concepts can wait until that one is done.
Let’s Say You’re Doing The Work On The Stressful Thought, “She Doesn’t Care About Me”
And half way through, you hit a land mine. All of a sudden you start thinking, “She ignored me last week at that party, what a *#!@*” And then it reminds you of something your sister did to you ten years ago. And then you start thinking, no one likes me. And your mind races to find the proof.
This is a great time to take out your “sidebar” notebook and start putting these stressful thoughts on paper. When you have written them all down, and feel empty again, then come back to the concept you were working, “She doesn’t care about me,” and pick up where you left off.
This Is A Way To Be Gentle With Yourself
And it’s a way to be gentle with your stressful thoughts. Even stressful thoughts have a right to live. And when you give them this little bit of attention by writing them down on your sidebar, they feel listened to. And they don’t cry as loudly. So you can go back and focus on the first thought once again.
When you’re done with the first thought, and you’ve worked it all the way through, then you can pick up your sidebar and see what the next concept is to work.
Something Remarkable Happens When You Do This
You may find that as you work in-depth with the original concept, the sidebar issues sometimes loosen up as well.
It’s like being in that room full of 20 crying babies. If you take the time to calm one baby, it sometimes has a calming effect on the others. Some babies may not be as seriously in need as they appear to be at first. Some babies are just crying because the other babies are.
When one baby stops crying, some of the other babies may stop on their own.
It’s still valuable, though, to go through your sidebar list thoroughly. You’ll know which ones still need your full attention. You can do The Work on those charged concepts one by one, starting with the one that has the most charge on it.
If You Want To Take This Further
Here’s another exercise that you can do. Write a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet on those thoughts that are overwhelming you.
For example, “I’m overwhelmed by my thoughts because… there are more of them than I can deal with. …they all need my attention right away.”
Fill out a whole Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet, and work it all the way through. You may learn a lot about yourself if you do.
What is The Work?
Relationship and Family Issues
Money and Job Issues
My Process Exposed