Coaching for Creatives | Truth in Opposites

January 27, 2014


I’m a pretty opinionated person and with that comes the ability to be pretty judgmental at times. It’s a great trait to have when I need to make quick and important decisions in business and life, but it’s not so great when it makes me irritable, snarky, or anything less than compassionate towards myself and others. I’ve found that my thoughts can quickly become a “truth” that I’ve got a firm grip on. So today I want to talk about dissolving negative thoughts (about self and others) by exploring when the opposite is true.

One of the most valuable things I learned in my Martha Beck coaching training is the practice of finding truth in opposites. It’s now something I practice daily as negative thoughts or judgments arise. Here’s how it works:

• Identify a thought you believe to be true about yourself.
This could be something you always say about yourself like “I’m unlucky.” or “I’m so impatient.” or “I’m not ______ enough.” Now imagine this thought as a tennis ball you’ve got a super tight grip on.

• Now state the exact opposite of the thought. 
This is really hard for my one-on-one clients because they always try and make it more complicated than it is. So if your statement is “I’m unlucky” then the opposite would be “I’m lucky”. If your statement is “I’m not ________ enough” it is now “I’m ________ enough.”

• Then find three genuine examples of when the opposite is just as true, if not more true than the original negative thought. 
The idea isn’t to invalidate the original negative thought. It’s just to loosen your grip around it (imagine the tennis ball in your hand) so you can create space for new, positive thoughts to form. So you can create new truths. So a good way to find examples is to say “I’m lucky because ______” or “I’m ____ enough when _______.”

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You can also find when the opposite is true when you make judgments or negative thoughts about other people by turning those statements on yourself. So for example, let’s say you’re dealing with a tricky client. One of the things you might say is “The client doesn’t trust or listen to me.” Try flipping that statement on yourself and say “I don’t trust or listen to my client.” It will instantly allow you to approach the relationship with more compassion and willingness to understand. It also holds up a mirror and makes you accountable for the things you say and think about others – because maybe you’re really just saying them about yourself.

Again, the idea isn’t to make your original belief untrue. You may still believe that you’re unlucky or not enough. But the idea is to create space for a shift in perspective by finding alternate truths at the same time.

One of the more recent examples of when I put this into practice is when I received a few comments on my “Why I Quite Google Analytics” post that challenged my truth and experience in the matter. I recognized that these contrary opinions being expressed in rebuttal to my own could be just as true as my own at the same time. Instead of feeling defensive and wrong I was able to come to the conversation with an open mind and good attitude.

I was taught this technique of questioning and thought-dissolving in my life coaching training by Martha Beck who adapted it from The Work of Byron Katie

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