What is "The Work"?
"So you are having conversations with yourself?"
My friend glanced at me with a puzzled look written across her face.
"Yes. And it has been working really well for me."
That was the start of one of many conversations I have had regarding "the work". "The work", as it had been so purposefully and mysteriously named, was the label given to the new kind of self-therapy I had been doing for the past couple years.
However, to describe "the work" as therapy is woefully inadequate. In fact, to describe "the work" with words at all is entirely incomplete. That is because "the work" is a felt experience. It is not something you say. It is not something you do. It is something you feel.
The work is the experience of building a better relationship with yourself. All relationships take work, and there is no relationship more important than the one that you have with yourself.
If you have an extraordinary relationship with yourself, then you are better able to relate with others, manage your life in a healthy way, and experience joy. When you do not have a good relationship with yourself, then you tend to project your own insecurities and trauma out into the world and self-sabotage.
What to Do with Your Uncomfortable Emotions
Many people neglect the relationship with themselves, and often outright ignore it. When uncomfortable emotions come up, they try to numb them out with overeating, Netflix bingeing, video games, and countless other avoidance techniques. I know because I used to do all of those things too.
These coping mechanisms can address your emotions in the moment, but they never address the root cause, so you end up looping through them endlessly, which often just produces more shame, guilt, and judgement. There is a better way.
Personally, I have run the gamut of the "standard" self-work practices like journaling, meditation, yoga, life coaching, affirmations, and more. I am not saying any of those practices are bad or wrong, but I often found when I used those techniques, I never really seemed to be able to get to the heart of the matter. I always ended up back at square one, and all those uncomfortable emotions I tried to repress would come back with a vengeance, and I would restart my avoidance cycle.
That was until I discovered "the work". The work is diabolically simple, yet contains unlimited depths to explore. Basically, to do the work, you treat every emotion, feeling, or belief that you have as a separate entity with its own unique viewpoints, personality, and qualities. You then have conversations with those parts from the standpoint of a loving, benevolent ruler that manages and runs your internal world.
During every conversation, you speak to your parts out loud, tell them that they are a part of you in order to help you disassociate from them, and then they respond to you inside your head.
The core tenets of the work are to slow down and listen to what the parts of you have to say, to serve them by giving them whatever they need, and to send them unconditional love. The idea is deeply profound in it's simplicity. Every time you feel some kind of way, you just take a few breaths, and have a conversation...with yourself.
It may seem strange to have a conversation with yourself in the beginning. I thought so too. I worried people would think I was some kind of weirdo for talking to myself out loud (which was a part of myself that I had to go have a conversation with!) But then I realized, that everyone has conversations with themselves every single day. It's just that the people we label "normal" have the conversations in their head.
How many times have you had thoughts like, "Oh I can't believe I forgot to buy milk at the store. I am so forgetful. I'll have to make a list next time," or, "This presentation is soooo boring. I wish I could do something else instead of being trapped on this call." If you have had thoughts like this, then you had a conversation with yourself. The difference when you do the work is that you have the conversation out loud and consciously.
You can have fun with it too. Every conversation doesn't have to be serious.
A Conversation Example
So what would a conversation look like? When I was writing this article, I felt some resistance come up, so I had a little talk with Mr. Resistance. It went something like this:
Me (out loud): Mr. Resistance, you are a part of me. How are you feeling?
Mr. Resistance (internally): I am worried that I don't know what to say in the article, and it will be hard, so I don't want to do it.
Me: Fair enough that you feel that way. It's OK that you are worried, and just know that I got you. You can just sit right here and feel worried while we write the article, and I am gonna love you no matter what. How else can I serve you?
Mr. Resistance: I could use a hug.
Me: You got it! *imagine myself hugging Mr. Resistance*
This is a basic example, but like any conversation, there can be twists and turns that you didn't expect. The most interesting part of doing the work is that every conversation is different. I often believe that my internal parts will say one thing, but then I am totally surprised when they respond with something I was not expecting, which is wild to think about since it is my own mind responding to me!
There will be times when your parts will respond to you with anger and curses, or they may not even respond at all. That's all OK. Just apologize to them for mistreating them in the past, keep telling them that you love and accept them as they are, and you aren't trying to make them go away.
Having these conversations can certainly be challenging at times because nobody particularly enjoys confronting their own uncomfortable emotions, but the power of simply having conversations with yourself is indescribable.
It has helped me build an extraordinary relationship with myself, where my internal parts actually trust me to run the show instead of taking unconscious control and choosing self-sabotage. Committing to the work on a daily basis has allowed me start my own business (which I had been wanting to do for years, but never pulled the trigger). I learned to love myself more and be kind to myself (which I previously thought was impossible).
My relationships with friends and family have improved, and I have become a leader in my community. I feel lighter and enjoy life more. The benefits to doing the work are endless.
If you are interested in building an extraordinary relationship with yourself and exploring the work, then please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will be happy to share more with you.