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The Art Of Self-improvement


Monday, February 9th, 2009 The Art Of Self-improvement

The Telegraphs Marianne Kavanagh 24 01 09) writes a very interesting article surrounding the issues of how to be calmer, less angry and less judgemental.

The report relates to Byron Katie and her turnaround project. One needs to ask, ‘could you be happier? Could your relationships be a source of joy instead of conflict?’ Yes, says Byron Katie, the 66-year-old American, favourite of chat show host Oprah Winfrey, whose ideas have taken the US by storm. It is understood that Katie also has a substantial following in the UK. Notably, it has been suggested that the kind of rigorous self-enquiry Katie promotes does indeed make you feel calmer, less angry and less judgmental.

Katie explains what makes us miserable, ‘is not reality but the way we think about reality. It’s a bit like cognitive behavioural therapy, or CBT, which the NHS is very keen on at the moment, but it’s distilled into one neat package.’

Someone makes you angry or sad. Write down exactly what you think of them. Now look at one of your statements - ”My boss is an idiot”, perhaps. Ask yourself the first question: ”Is it true?” If you’re seething with indignation, you’ll probably reply yes to that one. Then comes the second question: ”Can you absolutely know that it’s true?” Be honest. You’re giving the thought a good drubbing here. The third question is, ”How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?” Close your eyes if it helps, and feel the misery and the tension. Finally, ”Who would you be without the thought?” Imagine yourself released from the weight of self-righteous fury.

The next stage goes like this, first imagine the exact opposite to the miserable thought you’ve come up with. ”My neighbour makes my life hell” becomes ”My neighbour doesn’t make my life hell.” Which is more true? Now swap it round. ”I make my neighbour’s life hell.” Ouch. Or even ”I make my life hell” if this cantankerous way of thinking has taken over your life. The point is to question your assumptions. Hell is other people, said Sartre. ”We are not upset or saddened by other people,” Katie argues. ”We are upset or saddened by our thoughts about other people.” She believes that if you practise The Work, you will start to see that ”you are the storyteller, the projector of all stories and the world is the projected image of your thoughts.”

Phillip Hodson, fellow of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy, says, ‘If it works, and it’s helpful, BACP is all in favour.’

I think it takes quite a lot of courage to start questioning your beliefs. ”It is no less than a revolutionary way to live your life,” says Erica Jong on Byron Katie’s website. ”The question is: are we brave enough to accept it?”

Finally, people who do the work as an ongoing practice report life-changing results.

Alleviation of depression: Find resolution, and even happiness, in situations that were once debilitating.

Decreased stress: Learn how to live with less anxiety or fear.

Improved relationships: Experience deeper connection and intimacy with your partner, your parents, your children, your friends, and yourself.

Reduced anger: Understand what makes you angry and resentful, and become less reactive, less often, with less intensity.

Increased mental clarity: Live and work more intelligently and effectively, with integrity.

More energy: Experience a new sense of ongoing vigour and well-being.

More peace: Discover how to become “a lover of what is.”

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