“I discovered that when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but that when I didn't believe them, I didn't suffer, and that this is true for every human being,” says Byron Katie, author of The Work whose four question approach claims to dispel depression, suffering, increase productivity and self-appreciation. I am going to test her method now to resolve the thought which has caused me most grief in life – ‘He is The One.’ You’re welcome to try with me but bear in mind I am no expert and for best results follow Katie’s method.
If this makes no sense, you can find Part 1 of this post here which explains the method in more detail. Otherwise - here goes!
‘He is the one.’
Normally you’d have to be more specific than this, imagining real people in specific situations.
But I don’t care. This thought has done a lot of damage already, and I want to stop it in its tracks before it gets a chance to do any more. I realise that I’m not following the method through properly but it’s a start to even consider another viewpoint on the topic.
For the first question, I will imagine one of my ex boyfriends, the one who I truly believed to be The One, but you’re welcome to picture someone specific to your life.
1. Is it true? (Yes or no.)
Can I really know that he was ‘The One’? The answer, of course, is no.
The idea of ‘The One’ calling for us desperately somewhere across the ocean is so prevalent in our culture (anywhere from Hollywood films, to pop songs and bestselling novels) that we often forget that the concept of what we perceive as ‘romantic love’ (with a happy forever after) is fairly new. Only a few hundred years ago people married for money or status (and some still do!). Only few married for love (and some still don’t!). (Let's not even mention the Ancient Greeks and the idea of love between a young boy and his teacher...) And just because most of us are free to choose a partner, we forget that many don’t have that privilege and are entering into an arrange marriage right now.
So the notion that someone could really be ‘The One’ is not univeral, nor is it timeless.
And I have clung on to the idea of a perfect soulmate for so long, even in my recent blog post on the topic. But there you go, life changes and transforms, and so do our thoughts and belief systems.
2. How do you react/feel when you believe this thought?
Two scenarios spring to mind.
Scenario 1 - I have broken up with someone I’ve been in love with.
First, memories of suffering surface, but soon enough they bring with them all the dirt that lies under that.
Shame, guilt, anxiety – did I make the right decision when I walked away? Or when he walked out on me – could I have done something, anything more?
Thoughts continue to circuit, replaying our relationship in meticulous detail, always looking for answers to these nagging questions – what happened, why didn’t it work out, what could I have done differently? And then, there it is. The thought which inevitably follows all other.
‘I lost my only chance at happiness. I really fucked up this time. I will suffer until the end of my days because I let The One go. I will never forgive myself for it.’
Scenario 2 - I really like someone but we are not in a relatiosnhip.
I like someone a lot, but we are not ‘official’, but I already start to believe that they might be The One. Just thinking about it makes my shoulders tense in anxiety. I feel great responsibility over every action I take, like nothing I do, can be truly spontaneous – it has to be well-calculated instead, because this might just be my only chance at happiness, and I really don’t want to screw up again.
Should I call them, should I not? Should I invite them out, should I not?
I am constantly on my guard, watching every word I say just to make sure I don’t say something which might chase them away.
Of course, the whole idea of finding ‘The One’ is that I should be able to be myself around them, for better and for worst, and they would love you anyway. But not if I believe the thought that they are ‘The One.’ Quite a pardox.
3. Who would you be without that thought?
Well... I feel only peace, gratitude and serenity.
Without the thought that he was The One, I can still miss my ex. I can cry myself to sleep. But acceptance that it simply didn’t work out between us comes much more easily, and I don’t blame myself or him for it. I allow myself to pass through all the stages of the grieving process, which is usually interrupted by the blind hope that he might just turn up at my door tomorrow (because he is my soulmate, and that's what soulmates do), so I shouldn't let go yet. Strangely, as a result of the pain, I connect with my most vulnerable parts, like I can feel the pulse of my own heart again, and I look on our shared memories with a bittersweet joy, wishing my ex well.
Without the thought ‘He was The One,’ I am more interested in connecting with others around me, of borrowing their joy until I find my own again, than in spending weeks in my bed, head buried in the pillow, wishing that I were prettier, thinner, smarter, funnier and more attractive.
I see myself sharing laughter, meals, funny stories with the guy in question. I see us simply enjoying the present moment, ‘going with the flow’ without the feeling that we should necessarily ‘be something’ or ‘be going somewhere’. They may be The One, or they may not be. Who knows? But today, we are enjoying our time together, and we might enjoy tomorrow as well, but there is no need to force or rush, or overthink things that will happen quite naturally, if they are meant to be.
And now for the best part. The Turnaround.
Personally for me, this is the 'OMG, how didn't I see that before?!' moment, where light finally breaks through my dusty, claustrophobic thoughts and I begin to see glimpses of the truth.
‘He is The One’ turned around to ‘He is not The One.’
1. I was not happy in his presence. The whole idea of The One is that you can be yourself and they make you feel at ease, but that wasn’t always the case with my ex.
2. I was able to laugh, albeit seldomly, after we broke up. I was not miserable all the time, only when I reminisced or questioned my decision to leave them.
3. He left, therefore he cannot have been The One. D’oh!
‘He is The One’ turned around to ‘I am The One.’
1. I can make myself happy. I have had moments of happiness before and after I met my ex, therefore my happiness does not depend on them.
2. I live with myself 24/7. Even when I do find my perfect partner, if such a thing exists, there will be times when we are apart.
3. I will never leave myself (since this is impossible). And I need to be able to enjoy my own company. I need to resemble my perfect partner, and adopt the attitude I would want them to have towards me – kind, forgiving, non-judgemental.
Did this method work for you? Share your comments!
I don’t know if Katie’s method can alleviate every kind of suffering. (Because trying to explain away all suffering seems to have something inhumane about it – but Katie might argue that I just haven’t questioned that concept enough!) But The Work has helped me towards challenging the thought which has made me suffer more than any other – ‘He is The One.’
I know there's still a way to go with the method, I need to go deeper, looking for specific situations and meditate on those, to really understand what layers of belief systems I have adapted throughout my life, and dispel those that are not true to my innermost nature. When I'm this close to the truth, I simply cannot afford to be lazy!
And perhaps I can still believe in the romantic idea of my soulmate being somewhere out there. But not if it distracts me from reality – that things in the past happened as they should have done.
I am exactly where I need to be right now because the present moment is all I have. I don’t posses tomorrow and the past no longer exists – even my memories are just replicas of what I perceived to be true at the time. And in the present moment I need to become my own perfect partner, before I look for another.