Brid Ni Chionaola
In 2006 I was diagnosed with breast cancer and became very upset and traumatized by thoughts of death. I wanted to know why I had got this thing, “why me?”. I felt very sorry for myself. I thought the cancer was invading my body like rats in a house. It felt disgusting, invasive, out of my control. I thought death was stalking me especially when I couldn’t sleep at night and wandered around the house. I used to see a shadow in the corner of the room flitting past my eye and I thought it was death coming to claim me. I was upset, anxious and depressed. I noticed stressful thoughts going around in circles in my head (for example: ”I shouldn’t have got this”, “I’m going to die”, “Nobody cares if I live or die”, “The doctors are going to kill me”, “I’ve got to find a solution to this on my own”, “Nobody understands what it’s like”, “God/somebody is punishing me”, “It’s my own fault I got this”, etc…) and there seemed to be no way to get a handle on them let alone to stop them. I noticed that my thoughts about the cancer were way more painful than the cancer itself. I couldn’t eat or sleep…very conducive to recovering from cancer! I noticed there was nothing in my life to help me make any sense out of what was happening to me. I felt cut adrift from the people around me. If I was going to die, I didn’t want to leave the planet kicking and screaming, bitter and self-pitying, yet I didn’t know how to do it any differently.
During this time, The Work of Byron Katie found me. It came to me through someone else who had had cancer years before me, who, when I said “I shouldn’t have got this”, asked “Is that what you think?” That question stopped my mind in its tracks. How could I not think this? You mean, I don’t have to think this, there’s a choice, a way out, another way?
I was slowly exposed to The Work and found that working with the four questions on my stressful thoughts, especially the recurring one “I’m going to die”, was de-stressing at least, profoundly liberating at best. I used to sink into question 2, delighting in the fact that I couldn’t absolutely know that “I’m going to die” was true. I came to see that what I had taken to be reality, was in fact, my projections onto reality and that I didn’t know anything and didn’t need to know anything. I faced the shadow in the corner and discovered it was innocent and joyful and I came to see the cancer as a gift. Through it I found a way to question my stressful thoughts and live life in a completely different way. Through the experience of cancer and working on my thoughts on it, I also discovered the joy of being clueless.
Reality was kinder than my thoughts about it. I didn’t die (of the cancer anyway!), and have been doing The Work ever since on all aspects of my life: infertility, relationships, friendships, desires, work, money, food, control, addiction to chocolate and many more and offering facilitations in The Work to others. The Work helps me to be a kinder person to myself, to be more peaceful in relationships by not seeking love, appreciation and approval as much as I used to and to appreciate that what is happening is the best thing that could be happening. I notice I’m a kinder boss in my children’s entertainment company and that I value and appreciate and can hear the children I entertain. When I used to cry before I found The Work, it was usually because I was fighting against what I saw as an unjust, unfair and mean world and the feeling was one of self-pity. I notice I cry now due to being touched by the beauty of the world and its inhabitants, including myself. And there is way more laughter. Since I found The Work, I find myself more fearless with my humour. I don’t need others to laugh at my humour for me to appreciate it or myself.
If you would like to do The Work on any issue, whether you feel you are down in a hole and don’t know how to get out or you want to deal with a recurring thought that is sapping your joy, please feel free to contact me by email or phone to set up an appointment.