Is your room filled with thought balloons?

“Do you have the balloons?” “Got ’em right here,” said Susan. “Five packages ought to be enough.” “It’s a good thing Dave is away today.” “No kidding,” replied Susan. “It’s gonna take us all day to blow them up.”

“All slang is metaphor and all metaphor is poetry.

— Gilbert K. Chesterton, English writer and literary figure

“Do you have the balloons?”

“Got ’em right here,” said Susan. “Five packages ought to be enough.”

“It’s a good thing Dave is away today.”

“No kidding,” replied Susan. “It’s gonna take us all day to blow them up.”

Susan and the front office girls had a surprise planned for Dave the sales manager’s birthday: to fill his office from wall to wall, floor to ceiling with balloons.

Over the course of the day, the girls huffed and puffed and filled about 150 balloons give or take a few that popped during the process.

By the end of the day, they had filled Dave’s office entirely with balloons.

When Dave unlocked his office door the next morning, he was greeted by an avalanche of balloons.

After much whooping and laughter, Dave ventured into his office and began batting balloons out the door and into the hallway. Many of the balloons were stomped on and popped by passersby. The girls took care of the remaining balloons by popping them with push-pins.

I found that incident coming up — almost intuitively — in a self-esteem session I conducted a few weeks later. My client felt overwhelmed by conflicting thoughts and ideas about life. I told her to imagine her mind as a room.

Then to imagine that each thought in her mind was a balloon.

Immediately, she informed me that her room was filled to overflowing with balloons — there was no room for any new thoughts. Believe it or not, most of us are in the same boat.

If memory serves, it was Deepak Chopra, the Indian-born, American physician, public speaker and writer who once suggested that each of us have about 60,000 thoughts go through our mind on an average day and most of those thoughts are passing through at an unconscious level.

That is to say, they are impacting us without our conscious awareness. Chopra suggests that before we are able to make change occur or even see the possibility for change, we must first bring awareness to our thinking and then clear the mind of self-defeating thoughts.

Of all the therapies and techniques I use in my practice, one of the most powerful is The Work by Byron Katie.

It consistently allows clients to pop the balloons of distortional and destructive thinking by using a process Katie (as she is known by friends and followers) calls Inquiry.

Katie’s technique is deceptively simple. It consists of four questions and a turnaround. With permission, I will share a belief statement from the above mentioned client session and the results of inquiry. “I fear getting to know new people because they often dislike me.”

First question: Is it true? (The usual response is a definitive, “Yes!”) Second question: Can you absolutely know it’s true? In every situation and without exception? This usually causes people step away, if only slightly, from the notion that the belief is all-encompassing — a fundamental statement of fact. (Usual response: “Well, not always.”) Third question: How do you feel when you think that thought? Does that thought bring you peace or stress? (Almost invariably, the response is, “Stress! Nothing but stress!”) I may then take the process a step further, asking my client to provide me with three stress-free reasons to keep the belief. In a state of bewilderment, clients often can find no stress-free reasons. Fourth question (I raise the metaphorical push-pin with this question.) : Who would you be without that thought? Who would you be in the presence of new people — people whom you have haven’t met before — without the thought, “I fear getting to know new people because they will dislike me?”

I encouraged my client to close her eyes and picture herself in the presence of new people without the disempowering thought. “What do you see and how would your life be different?” This is often the moment of realization that the belief doesn’t serve the person’s best interests.

The response, in this case, was appropriately self-aware.

“I would just be myself, free of fear, open to meeting new people and excited about the prospect of making new friends.” Bang! A balloon popped.

Now I clean up the debris by offering the following turnaround or personal glimpse inside — a view of the belief from a different vantage point. I challenge the client to turn the belief around by putting himself or herself into the equation. This usually prompts raised eyebrows, so I explain, “Take the belief ‘I fear getting to know new people because they will dislike me’ and turn it around to read, ‘I fear getting to know me because I often dislike myself.’” There is usually a gasp as the client realizes the truth.

I then ask which of the two statements is truer, the first or the turnaround. In the majority of cases, the turnaround is truer. I then ask the client to give me three genuine reasons why the turnaround is truer than the original statement and, typically, the client has no problem doing so. We continue this process with each of the thought balloons. To learn more about this remarkable process, visit www.thework.com.

It was Orson Scott Card, the American author, columnist and political activist, who wrote, “Metaphors have a way of holding the most truth in the least space.”

How many thought balloons occupy the rooms of your mind?

Open the door and look inside. You may just be surprised by the number and variety. With perseverance, self-awareness and a sharp push-pin in the form of The Work (or any other sound investigative practice), you could be in for a belief-busting/self-esteem-building good time.

Murray Fuhrer is a self-esteem expert and facilitator. His new book is entitled Extreme Esteem: The Four Factors. For more information on self-esteem, check the Extreme Esteem website at www.extremeesteem.ca

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