April 30, 2008

Ask a Facilitator: Can The Work Help with Agoraphobia and Panic Attacks?

Q: How do people with panic attacks and agoraphobia work with the four questions? In your experience facilitating people, does The Work help cut through them? Or have you heard of something more useful or to be used in conjunction? I have experienced EFT, CBT, Sedona Method, etc.

A: Byron Katie was agoraphobic before she began to question her beliefs. I was too, to a much lesser degree, but my "thing" was panic attacks. I had them on and off for years. They were provoked by nightmares, and also by loud noises. (Or, as it happens, my thoughts about nightmares and loud noises.)

My most direct experience with this is with myself: I had my last one in the middle of the night during the School for The Work in October of 2002; it lasted about two seconds before the inquiry took over. There was a loud noise in my hotel room, which turned out to be the air conditioning kicking in. I was fairly fresh from the experience of months of planes circling my post-9/11 New York City neighborhood, and the noise sounded like one of the planes to me. The sound woke me up; I made the association to planes, and then to terror attacks, and suddenly my heart was racing and I couldn't breathe. Almost instantly, the inquiry became alive in me; I realized I was believing my thoughts ("It's happening again." "I'm in danger.")—thoughts I had previously questioned many times. The symptoms stopped immediately.

I'm sure CBT, EFT, and other cognitive techniques help people with panic disorders, as does medication for many people; a therapist could better answer that question. I can tell you this: working with the fearful thoughts that lead to the symptoms of panic attack and being unable to leave the house can't hurt, and might enhance the effectiveness of whatever course of treatment is indicated.

The time to do The Work is when you are not panicking; otherwise it's not a search for truth, but an attempt to feel better, and therefore not as effective. You could start with core beliefs like, "The world isn't safe," "I will die," and "I need to protect myself." Use the One-Belief-at-a-Time worksheet, available at TheWork.com. It's a self-directed self-facilitation tool which is done as a written meditation.

©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

April 29, 2008

Treat Every Concept as a Character

Very often, when I'm facilitating someone on a belief such as, "I am afraid," I'll ask, "How do you treat fear when you believe this thought?" The client typically says, "Wow, I never thought of asking myself that," and they find that they have been treating concepts the way they treat the people in their lives when they attach to concepts: with loathing, perhaps, or with avoidance.

If you are doing inquiry with underlying beliefs from a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet—or, if you are writing about a universal belief, or about yourself—you may find yourself with more concepts to write about than characters. I invite you to treat each concept you question as a character in your story. Doing this can help you to deepen your realizations about your emotional life.

For instance, if you believe, "I shouldn't get angry," you may discover, as you answer question three, that you treat yourself harshly when you get angry, and that you treat others with distance; you wouldn't want them to see you as angry if you don't want to see yourself that way. So how do you treat anger itself when you believe that you shouldn't get angry?

Do you negate anger? Ignore it? Deny it in yourself? Dismiss it by saying it's really something else? Fear it? See it as the devil? Avoid or criticize angry people?

"There's not enough time." How do you treat time when you believe this thought? As a precious commodity (which means, in addition to valuing it, you could be fearful of losing it, or of not having enough of it)? As an enemy that withholds itself from you? Do you treat it with neediness? With avoidance?

"Nobody loves me." How do you treat love when you believe this thought? As something you lack, something that can be attracted or bought, something foreign? Do you resent love when you believe this thought, just as one might resent someone who doesn't love you?

"My body shouldn't hurt." How do you treat pain when you believe this thought?

"Dave smokes too much." How do you treat smoking when you hold this belief?

"We have nothing to fear but fear itself." Good one! How do you treat fear when you think this thought? If your answer is, "I treat it fearfully," what does that look like in your life and relationships?

Find some other concepts on worksheets you have worked through. See what else you can learn about yourself when you ask yourself, "How do I treat _____ ?"

©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

April 28, 2008

Five Intelligences, Five Teleclasses, No Cost

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

My friend Alan Davidson of Through Your Body has asked me to join him and internationally known teachers (including Janet Atwood and Anodea Judith) as part of an information-packed series of teleclasses on body-mind-spirit IQ. I'll be a featured guest on the May 21st call, at 6 pm PDT (9 pm EDT, 8 pm CDT, 7 pm MDT), along with Alan, and Psych-K instructor Katherine T. Moyer.

This is the third call in a five-part series, "Peaking Your Five Vital IQs," taking place on May 6, 13, 21, 27, and June 3, 2008.

Registration is required! To register for the entire five-part free tele-training beginning on May 6, visit this page:

Alan Davidson is the author of the best-selling and award-winning book Body Brilliance: Mastering Your Five Vital Intelligences. Join us for these five exciting calls, with information that can help you to launch your physical, emotional, mental, moral, and spiritual IQs.

Register here.

©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

April 27, 2008

New Career Means New LIfe? Argh!

Today I came upon the marketing website of a Facebook friend. His copy begins with, “There must be more to life than this!” Indeed there is; so that's a good come-on. This former direct response copywriter likes it!

I read further: there is a compelling list of common work and career-related complaints, including fear of career change, office politics, bureaucratic red tape, feeling trapped and suffocated, fatigue and depression, lack of motivation, feeling devalued and out of control, stuck in a rut, no growth prospects, lack of interest in the work itself.

So far, so good.

Then comes this invitation:

"Create the life you really want!" "Envision what it would be like!" "Live out your dreams!" "Take control of your life and increase your happiness!"

How do you do this?

1. Change your dead-end career that is the source of your unhappiness!
2. Take every course and read every book about how life can be better!
3. Do everything this guy tells you to do in his eCourse, filled with "amazing, secret, life-changing strategies and techniques" for the low, low price of...not the $397 it's purportedly worth...not the $297 that ought to be the rock-bottom price for this holy grail...but a mere $197 with a full money-back guarantee!

But for you, if you're among the first 100 customers, his course costs just $97. Plus five "bonuses worth up to $777."

Sounds great, right?

My response: Aaaarrrrgggghhhh!

Marketing hype notwithstanding (and, trust me, it gets even worse), I'm not saying his product isn't wonderful; I haven't seen it. It could be just terrific, and worth every penny of that 97 bucks, even and especially without those bonuses (at least one of which is in the public domain anyway).

However, my first indication that something is amiss here lies in the promise that the job itself is your problem, and if you change your career, you will change your life. It might be true that if I switch my career from, say, middle manager to fire-fighter (or to a self-published author of success-oriented eCourses), my life will be different. Will it be happier? That depends on a lot more than a physical career change. (If you have any interest in and experience with inquiry at all, you already know this.)

The second indication that this offer may not be kosher is the 2006 copyright on the web page. So, two years later, he hasn't yet sold his first 100 copies of this groundbreaking eCourse, plus bonuses, for the low, low price of $97? Hmm. Either he's a very poor marketer, or he's a liar.

Or, perhaps he meant this price was good for the first 100 customers on this particular day, though his copy doesn't say that.

Third red flag: although this man says he discovered that one must be devoted to lifelong learning—take every course, read every book—he later says this eCourse is the ticket to Nirvana. So now I"m confused.

Fourth red flag: valuable "bonuses" which are yours to keep, even if you think the course is a crock and you want your money back. (Note that these bonuses are not "worth" $777, just worth up to that amount, by someone's calculations who would, perhaps, not be you or me.)

Okay, I didn't mean this to be a mini-course in how to detect a skeevy marketing ploy. (If it were, there's a lot more I could say about his sales pitch.)

My intention is this:

If you think that your outer circumstances create your happiness, you're going to be disappointed every time. Yes, they can contribute to happiness, of course. We all have basic needs, and if those are unmet, it's darn hard to be happy. If you're an unhappy middle manager, and your unhappiness stems from thoughts like, "There's no room for advancement," or "I need my colleagues to respect me," as much as you love hosing down infernos, you could be miserable as a fire-fighter too.

Everyone already knows (though, in desperate times, we tend to forget) that no book, eCourse, bonus, "secret," practice, relationship, or technique will give you ultimate control over anything, will make you a "winner" every time or will permanently change your life to allow you to "live out your dream." I promise you, it's an inside job. People are going to do what they do, jobs are what they are, and we human beings have mood swings when we believe what we think.

By all means, change your job if that's what you know to do. I did; or rather, my job was changed for me, more than once. Am I happier? In some ways, yes, and I am not immune to many of the thoughts listed at the beginning of the Facebook friend's web page.

Actually, when I read the list, I became excited. I love to question these kinds of thoughts. The insights I glean, the creativity and impetus to move towards peace in my life and work—whether I stay in my career or leave it—are bonuses to which I can't attach any monetary value.

And now for the sales pitch: Transformational Inquiry: Working on Your Work. No bonuses, no discounts, no promises; just some good stuff that has helped me, and that it delights me to pass along to you. Caveat emptor: if you purchase it, it will help me to pay the bills, which, since this helps me to meet some basic needs, does seem to contribute to my happiness.

©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

April 20, 2008

Focus on Facilitation: Deep Listening Leads to Client Clarity

Fair to say that we've all held the belief "There's something wrong with me"? And that those who facilitate inquiry have at one time or another worked with someone on this belief?

Check out this wonderful video clip, recently added to TheWork.com.

Watch how Katie homes in on the client's subtle dodge. Did you catch the client justifying in that moment? (I didn't.) And in pointing it out, the client goes ever-so-deeply into the heart of the matter.

I notice in watching this how I, as a CLIENT, move from inquiry when I want to explain my answer beyond simply stating exactly how I react.

Another thought I had about this facilitation is how easy it is for a piece on this thought to become fluffy and affirmative in the turnarounds, and how Katie's close attention as facilitator holds the space for the client's clarity to emerge instead.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this piece.

©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

April 14, 2008

Amends After Death

Adapted from Transformational Inquiry: Working on Mothers and Others

(Today I am reminded of my mother, Pearl Skolnick, who passed away ten years ago on April 14, 1998. This post is dedicated to her with love.)

How can you heal a relationship after someone has died? While attending The School for The Work for the second time, I found myself working on my mother issues for most of the week. I was more than a little frustrated; some people I knew were cleaning up their relationships with their mothers, sharing their turnarounds with them, asking their mothers to tell them their truth, and really listening to them without defense. I realized how one-sided my work was; since my mother had died several years before, there was no way for me to do the equivalent. Or was there?

If everyone is our projection, they continue to live where they always lived: between our ears, in our minds and memories. Therefore, it is perfectly appropriate and possible do do The Work on thoughts about someone who has passed away. It is even possible to make amends to that person after their death. Amends are, after all, for us; forgiveness most benefits the one doing the forgiving. It's never comfortable to resent another; in making amends we are letting ourselves off the hatred hook.

Here's an exercise based on one from The School for The Work: once you've done some work on someone who has died--in other words, once you can do this with sincerity--try writing a letter of amends to them, in which you own your part in any misunderstanding between you.

In this letter--which, naturally, you're not going to be able to send--you
can enumerate the things you are sorry for (if you are truly sorry), the things you admired about this person, what you learned from him or her, and what you are grateful to them for. Sign off with love, if that feels genuine.

Once you have written the letter, cross out the person's name and the word "you" and insert your name and "I." Notice how much of your letter remarkably still
applies in this turnaround exercise. Gently take in what you have written and heal your relationship with yourself.

Eight years after my mother's death, I wrote a letter of amends to her
while attending a weekend workshop with Byron Katie. I had done this exercise several times before, but this was the letter I felt most deeply, the one that changed my life, past and present, and gave me back my mother.

Dear Mommy,

Looking back on our relationship, I wish I had been more understanding of you; kinder and more patient. I know you were doing the best you could and I was selfish to expect you to be different.

I am so sorry I tried to force you into parting with your belongings when you were sick and defenseless...to have yelled at you and disrespected you in public. I am sorry for having been so ashamed of you, and I am most sorry for that hesitation I had when the doctor asked if I wanted to put you on life support. I blamed you for not telling me beforehand what you wanted. I realize now that you were not able to discuss these things with me.

Throughout my life, I blamed you for my unhappiness. If you were here today I would make it up to you in whatever way you wanted. Since you are not here now, how can I live my life in a way that honors you for who you truly were?

I see now that you were a courageous woman to raise a child when you were grappling with so many demons. You saw to it that I had what I needed. You let me know I was smart and capable and able to take care of myself...and you gave me that opportunity at an early age. It's a gift that I could not appreciate until now.

Thank you for giving me a life, a home and a strong foundation. You continue to support me even now.

I love you very much, Mommy. You acted as if you didn't like to hear that, and it must be said: I love you.

Your Sputnik

As you might imagine, turning this letter around as if written by me, to me, was most powerful.

©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

April 9, 2008

Are You Psyched Yet?

I want to share this good-natured dig at life coaching. It made me laugh with recognition. Although, actually, I think the "drink plenty of liquids" part is pretty good advice!

If you really believe in this kind of thing, you might like to question the thought, "I'm not psyched enough."


©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

April 4, 2008

Focus on Facilitation: Deepening Inquiry with "Turnaround Tricks"

In The Work, the turnaround is the final piece of the investigation. When we turn our thoughts around, we are not simply seeing if the opposite of our belief could be as true or truer than the original statement; we're also deepening our realizations as we expand our awareness.

Here are three ways to get "added value" from your turnarounds.

Acid Tests

After a client answers question four of The Work, "Who would you be without this thought?"—and just before the turnaround—Katie sometimes provides this theorem: "With the thought, stress. Without the thought, peace. Therefore it can't be about __________ . (Insert subject of inquiry here, e.g. "your son" or "the government.")

This trick brings us back to noticing how belief shapes our perception of reality...or, as the Stoic philosopher Epictetus pointed out centuries ago: "We are disturbed not by what happens to us, but by our thoughts about what happens."

In other words, my son isn't driving me crazy; my thoughts about my son are driving me crazy. It's not government corruption that bothers me; it's what I think it means. (And this doesn't mean I'll knowingly support dishonest politicians.)

Another way to apply an acid test is to return to the original statement after the turnarounds. Does it still appear to be true?

One more acid test: re-read the entire Judge-Your-Neighbor worksheet, turned around to the opposite, or to "I," or to "my thinking."

Using "my thinking," a worksheet on the body might sound like this: "I am angry at my body because it is weak. I want my body to be stronger. My body shouldn't get so tired. I need my body to have more stamina. My body is out of shape, sickly, and fragile" becomes "I am angry at my thinking (about my body) because it is weak. I want my thinking to be stronger. My thinking shouldn't get so tired. I need my thinking to have more stamina. My thinking is out of shape, sickly, and fragile." Interesting, eh? What is weaker, the body, or the mind that believes a body can be a problem?

When writing about a person, try turning the entire sheet around to "I": "I am saddened by my brother-in-law because he is too angry and impatient with my nephew. I want my brother-in-law to see his is damaging his family. My brother-in-law shouldn't yell at Charles. I need him to get professional help. My brother-in-law is out of control" becomes "I am saddened by me because I am too angry and impatient with my brother-in-law. I want me to see I am damaging my family. I shouldn't yell at my brother-in-law (if only in my mind). I need me to get professional help. I am out of control (especially about my brother-in-law, in his business mentally all the time)." See how it works? It is as much about me as it is about the fictional brother-in-law.

Try reading an entire sheet as an opposite: "I am not saddened by old people because they are not needy and demanding. I don't want old people to die before they become incapacitated. They should live beyond their physical usefulness. I don't need them to not be a drain on their children's time and finances. Old people are (fragile, useless, disgusting) strong, useful, beautiful."

Once, a client of mine wrote a worksheet about her sisters. After we worked through the entire sheet, I asked her to put "my thinking" in place of "my sisters" and read the worksheet aloud that way. For instance, "I am saddened by my sisters because they are cold and distant" became "I am saddened by my thinking because it is cold and distant" (especially my thinking about my sisters). Try taking any worksheet you have written and put "my thinking" on all of it. Does it apply?

The Worst-Best Turnaround

Katie has said, "The worst that can happen is the best that can happen, but only always." How can that be? Test it. Take one of your statements that you have turned around to the opposite. "I want my wife to outlive me." "I don't want my wife to outlive me." What is the worst that could happen if your wife died first? "I'd be alone in my old age." Turned around, "The best that could happen is I'd be alone in my old age." Find at least three genuine ways that being alone in your old age could be for your highest good. Examples might include, "No one to dictate what I eat, what I wear, how much golf I play." "No fighting." "Room for wonderful new people in my life." "She won't have to watch me die." Of course, no one wants their spouse to die; this is about facing fear, and we fear what we do not understand.

Is the Universe Friendly?

This is a variation of the "worst-best" turnaround. "If the universe is friendly, why is ___(insert scary turnaround)___ a good thing? This is a riff on the Einstein quote, "There is only one important question to ask: Is the universe friendly?"

Allow your mind to open, and come up with at least three examples for yourself, and/or—if you can do it without crossing the line of "their business"—for the planet, for the person or institution you are writing about.


Original statement: "There should not be war in the world."

Turned around: "There should be war in the world." That's reality, there is war in the world. (It need not be forever, or even five minutes from now.)

If the universe is friendly, why is it a good thing that there is war in the world, presuming there is war?

1) War raises consciousness about injustice and violence, and brings together people who are interested in fostering peace.
2) War mirrors for me how I create war within myself, my family, on my job, and in my community when I believe stressful thoughts. I can do something about that war.
3) War creates jobs and provides salaries for people who work in the military, food service, uniform manufacturers, architecture, armaments, vehicle manufacturers, technology, journalism, toxic waste cleanup, medical personnel, government, politics, and even anti-war activists. (That's how it is now, and here's to plentiful peacetime jobs!)

©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.