Nothing Works: Is that True?

Today, I’m going to do things a bit differently. Instead of the usual article plus self-care suggestion, I’m going to share with you an exercise I did to help me find right relationship at a time when I was experiencing extreme pain. And, if you want, you can do the exercise with me!

Last Thursday, I had a horrible headache. One of those headaches that totally debilitates and renders everything other than the pain meaningless.

During a moment when the pain was slightly lessened, I became aware of the thought “nothing works” (referring to headaches).

I’ve been reading a lot of Byron Katie lately and decided to apply her process of inquiry to this thought. For those unfamiliar with her Work, here’s a super quick summary:

She uses 4 questions plus a turnaround to examine whatever thought is causing distress in the moment and to help open the mind to other possibilities. Here’s the process as I applied it:

The thought:

Nothing works.

Question #1 – Is that true?

Um, well, it feels that way. I guess, though, if I have to give a straight yes or no answer, the answer is No. Because, eventually, the headache does go away so something must work for that to happen. So, ok, the answer is No.

Question #2 – Can I absolutely know that it’s true?

Nope, guess not. (there is a ‘dammit’ implied at the end of that sentence).

Question #3 – How do I react when I believe that thought?

Crap. I hate this question. Well, I feel totally helpless. And hopeless. And defeated.  And depressed. Filled with dismay. I think about all the things I wanted to do with my day and am filled with resentment and frustration.

I completely close down to any suggestions for what might work – ‘No, I’ve already tried that. It doesn’t work. It’s not that kind of headache; it’s one of those, the ones that don’t respond to anything.” I think that no-one or no-thing can help me or relieve the pain.

I spend the entire day in bed, afraid to move because movement intensifies the pain and also causes increased nausea. I feel pathetic and tell myself what a loser I am and berate myself for not having figured it out yet. I mean, it’s been over 2 decades already. Despair and depression overwhelm me.

Question #4 – Who would I be without the thought?

Well, the pain would still be here. I think.

But, I guess I’d be more open to trying things. I’d be more open-minded and curious. I’d be willing to keep trying things just to see if it worked this time. I’d be more creative in my thinking and might even discover some approach or way of being with the headache that I haven’t tried before.

I’d likely still be lying on the couch all snuggled up but I wouldn’t be layering emotional distress on top of the physical pain. It would just be me and the headache, hanging out, getting to know each other. Somehow, that actually feels rather relieving.

The turnaround (the opposite of the original thought):

Everything works. (what?!?)

Is that thought as true or truer than the original thought? Find 3 reasons why it is true.

Ok, before I just say NO, absolutely not, let me see if I can come up with 3 things that have worked on occasion. Here goes:

  • time
  • Ortho-Bionomy
  • stretching
  • hot showers
  • getting in touch with the emotion underneath the headache
  • journaling
  • meditating
  • being outside
  • exercise
  • taiji
  • qi gong
  • yin yoga
  • volunteer work in Forest Park
  • being in nature in general
  • meeting the headache as energy/sensation vs pain
  • cranial work
  • my Quantum Technique code
  • dancing
  • positional release – positioning my neck in such a way that the tension is relieved
  • dialoguing with the pain
  • breathing
  • following the pain down my neck and into my heart – focusing on my heart vs my head
  • sleeping
  • using my migraine essential oil stick

So, things got a bit bizarre when I tried to name 3 things that have worked. All of a sudden more and more things started jumping up and down demanding my attention. And, the list just kept getting longer and longer.

The final question:

Does everything work? Is ‘everything works’ as true or truer than the original statement of ‘nothing works?’ Yes, it absolutely is. And, I have thing after thing that has worked to prove it.

Something works every time. And yes, this headache was the one that all my self-care techniques have the least affect on but TIME does come through even for this one. Knowing that, I was able to relax into having the headache, to quit resisting what was happening and just allow it to run its course.

There are many other thoughts around headaches I could (and will) spend time examining (I should have this whole headache thing figured out already, for example).

For You:

For you, my question is this: what thoughts do you think when you are in pain? Is this a process that might be beneficial for you? If so, give it a try and, of course, leave a comment letting me know how it went.

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