May 4, 2008

"You're Soaking in It"


In case, dear reader, you are not as ancient as I, here's a synopsis of a series of old TV commercials for Palmolive brand dishwashing liquid. These ads featured "Madge," a chatty manicurist, whose customer is bemoaning her "dishpan hands." Madge recommends using Palmolive soap. When the customer demurs, Madge informs her, "You're soaking in it." Naturally, the customer recoils and tries to remove her fingers from the moisturizing potion. "Relax,"reassures the manicurist as she pats her customer's hand back into the bowl of green goo, "it's Palmolive!" (The tagline was "Palmolive: Softens Your Hands while You Do the DIshes.")

Why did the client recoil? Because she was believing what she thought. It didn't matter that the liquid was gentle and moisturizing; at first, she associated it with the source of her rough cuticles and dry skin (the repeated scrubbing of plates in hot, soapy water, without gloves).

A stressful story of the past will make us recoil until it's investigated and understood. This response has its roots in the survival instinct; that's appropriate if we're talking about something truly harmful. For instance, fire burns flesh, so it makes good sense not to stick your hand into a flame.

However, what if we're recoiling from something that is not dangerous at all, but merely a projection based on the "fact" of memory? The old "that snake is a rope" story illustrates this tendency. Your "snake" might be a relationship as in the belief "Marriage is doomed to fail." You could have all the proof in the world that this is true, especially if you've been married and divorced a few times. You may believe this so much that you don't even want to think about it...although, if you examined the institution of marriage closely, you might find it to be benign at worst.

What if, instead of running away, you immersed yourself in inquiry? For example, If you are in a marriage and there are communication issues, you can soak awhile in the belief "Marriage is doomed to fail." In this way, you can see how you live your life when you hold the belief...discover who you would be in the relationship if you no longer believed this thought...and ask yourself if the opposite could be as true or truer, with concrete examples to shore up your hypothesis. You may find yourself relaxing into your marriage, finding creative ways to communicate better within it; or, you may choose to leave it, but sanely, without recoiling in horror.

"My job is killing me." Oh my, it is so tempting to jump ship without inquiring...and if you do, the problems you experienced at this job ("There's too much work," or "No one listens to me") could follow you to the next one, or elsewhere in your life. What if the job is not the problem but rather, a caustic "substance" in the form of a core belief? Who would you be on the job without this thought? Relaxed and soaking in it. Clear-headed enough to do your job with pride, efficiency and joy...perhaps even while conducting a job search.

When you investigate your stressful belief, "you're soaking in it." You relive it, examining it from all angles, so that you no longer have to recoil in horror from what is. This frees you to do what you need to do (Katie calls this "doing the dishes"), without a story.

I can't resist ending this post with "The Work of Byron Katie: Softens Your Story while You Do the Dishes."


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

1 comment:

Mellifluous said...

Thank you. I am very glad your Blog found me. It really helps to read through even more examples of Byron Katie's Work in action, and you have such a lovely way with words!