Yesterday, when I sat down to write the article for our monthly newsletter, something happened … well, nothing happened. I had an attack of “newsletter article writer’s block”. The idea I was trying to articulate didn’t flow at all. My language was forced and repetitive. I made a bunch of attempts that I promptly deleted (good thing I’m on a computer or I would have filled the waste basket with crumbled paper).
Negative story about yourself
I tried all kinds of “fixes”. Got up and walked around. Focused on other tasks first, then came back to writing. Sat in silence to “feel into” the story. Wrote down the essential bullet points in my message. Hey, I’m a coach, I know a lot of tricks.
My inability to produce the article triggered an old, well-worn story of mine (this was not the first time it happened). Like other negative stories we hold about ourselves, it showed up in my mind as a sequence of harsh thoughts: I’m not good enough; I can’t produce well or fast enough; I don’t know what I’m doing; why can’t I just get it right; who am I kidding, no one’s going to want to read what I put out anyways!
Again, I’m a coach, I know how to deal with negative thoughts. I found evidence to the contrary, a good technique. Such as, people have told me they appreciate our blog posts; that they find useful or hopeful content in them. I can see on our website tracking that there are people reading the entire post. That’s great but still didn’t help me. I was still having a field day in my mind berating myself and feeling like crap about it.
Not good, not bad, just true
After several unhelpful attempts, I finally said out loud, “You know, I’m really not very good at writing.” Wouldn’t you know, I felt a relief inside, the tension in my body letting go. I said it again, and I could feel the truth of the statement.
Now, that’s not what I’d ordinarily go for in a situation like this. Instead, I might try to inspire myself to overcome the block; or to make up a more positive-productive story about how I’m actually a fine writer and I’ve published many good articles. So that I could get myself back to the task at hand, writing the article. Result accomplished!
But none of that felt true. It was trying too hard to land a conclusion I didn’t believe. “I’m really not that good at writing” felt … well, true. Not good, not bad, just true. And the relief I felt couldn’t be denied.
Truth telling as a tool
I had momentarily forgotten that Sonika and I often use this kind of “truth telling” as a tool, both in our own lives and in coaching.
I remember coaching a woman once who was fighting hard to fix her relationship. She had worked it from many angles, learned better communication skills, taken responsibility for her side of the breakdowns, and much more. In one session, she said, almost casually, “I’d be much happier on my own”. She stopped dead at that, her eyes filling with tears. She sat in silence for a while, startled by her strong feeling of relief. It wasn’t the result she wanted or had been working towards (that was fixing her marriage). But for her, in that moment, it was true. Not good, not bad, just true. That revelation set her free to explore other options for her future; options she hadn't allowed herself to even consider (she did eventually leave that relationship and was indeed much happier on her own).
Sonika sometimes says, “Just tell the truth, and truth will do its own work”. But instead of telling the truth, we get attached to one specific result, one version of reality. In my case, I was attached to getting that article written, today. The woman I coached was attached to the result of she and her husband fixing their relationship so they could go on as before. When we get attached in this way, we can’t allow any conflicting options to enter our minds; we effectively shut off all other possibilities save for the one we (think) we want.
The relief I or my client felt upon speaking the truth is known as a “truth response”. i.e. an unmistakable physical sensation in your body. Often, it’s a sense of relief, sometimes accompanied by tears or a big exhale. In coaching, we always look for those responses, because they typically mean that you’re on to something important. We all have an inner wisdom that's not always readily accessible. A truth response is your inner wisdom talking to you.
There are a few crucial caveats to this truth telling. First, I’m not making any claims that it’s the truth or written in stone. It’s simply a truth that resonates deeply for the person speaking it, in that moment. It doesn’t mean a certain action, or any action, will follow. My client didn’t immediately take any actions to end her relationship. It took months for her and her husband to work up to that point, but in the end, they both knew it was for the best.
Secondly, truth telling can very easily be weaponized, especially when you’re upset. In a state of anger or hurt, what to you feels like “truth” often comes out as attacks, like, “You are such an insensitive jerk; you don’t give a damn about anyone but yourself!” That may feel true in the moment, and you might have a lot of evidence to back up that claim. But it doesn’t take a relationship expert to know that this type of “truth telling” only makes it worse.
Your own coaching
To apply this idea on your own, you might ask yourself ...
What’s something I haven’t been telling the truth about to myself? ... Or ...
What’s something I suspect is true, but I don’t want it to be?
And then look/feel for truth responses. They're easy to miss if you don't look for them or deliberately enter a state of increased awareness, such as in a coaching session.
Secondly, reach out to us to set up your own coaching; it's free to have an informal chat with us. The woman whose story I shared came to her realization as a result of engaging in her own work through coaching. She knew she wanted to make changes; she got tired of feeling stressed out about her relationship. The outcome was a surprising, transformational, and ultimately the best outcome for her and her husband.
Tell the truth and truth will do its own work.
LoveWorks: We believe relationships are meant to be an empowering, fun, passionate, safe place to grow, love, and learn. Where we get to be more of who we are, not less. We know it’s not always easy, but it can definitely be easier! With our unique and practical approach to relationship, you learn how to resolve conflicts quickly and enjoy fulfilling intimacy for the rest of your life. To learn more or contact us, visit www.loveworkssolution.com.