Alice in Chains (#875)

Today’s tip is excerpted from my newest book, The Inside-Out Revolution – you can read more and order at

Alice was the wife of a client I’d been seeing for only a short time when she requested a session with me. When we sat down together, she told me almost immediately that she was fed up and wanted to leave my client and take the kids with her.

She burst into tears and vented her frustration at his mercurial mood swings, neuroses, and inability to follow through on his promises. The last straw had been a recent trip to the Caribbean which had been canceled at the last minute when he’d panicked about everything from missing out on potential work to the plane crashing if the rest of the family went on without him.

As much as I liked my client, it really seemed to me that his wife had a point. But I knew enough to just keep listening. After a time, Alice’s litany of complaints drew to a close and she finished by saying, ‘It feels mean-spirited of me because I know he’s going through a tough time, but I don’t know how anyone could live with this level of frustration!’

I asked her if she was open to some coaching, and when she said yes, I shared a little about how reality is created from the inside out. We talked about how frustration isn’t feedback about our life but feedback about the quality of our thinking at a particular moment. In a clearer state of mind, thoughts of frustration might still arise, but we won’t give them a second thought. When our mind is relatively clear, our personal thinking just doesn’t get traction in the same way that it does when our head is cluttered.

So, while I couldn’t advise her on what to do, one thing I could say with absolute certainty was that she wasn’t in a fit state to make a good decision about what to have for lunch, let alone about whether or not she should be leaving her husband.

After a few moments of quiet, she looked at me and her eyes lit up for the first time since we’d started talking.

‘I don’t want to leave him,’ she said. ‘I love him – I really, really do. It’s just been hard seeing him go through this and it makes me feel like a failure as a wife because I can’t make everything okay.’

We spoke for another 20 minutes or so and she thanked me and that was that.

I only heard from her directly once after that, about six weeks later via an e-mail. She thanked me for our conversation and said that things had been much, much better since we’d spoken.

‘I don’t always see it in the moment,’ she wrote, ‘but just knowing that I’m feeling my thinking and not my life makes all the difference in the world.’

About a year later, I got a postcard from my client – he was on holiday with his family and everything was going extremely well.

What struck me was how Alice got so quickly something that had taken me nearly 40 years of my life to see.

This was by no means the first time I’d seen someone’s world shift in a single session. When it first started happening, I went to my coach at the time, Sandy Krot, and asked her if she could explain how problems that seemed ingrained and intractable could resolve themselves in a matter of minutes. She simply said, ‘Because they were never really there in the first place.’

She went on to share a story about a client of George Pransky’s who got upset with him for implying that his problems weren’t real.

‘Are you trying to tell me,’ the client said, ‘that none of what I’m feeling is real?’

‘The feelings are real,’ George responded, ‘but the way you’re seeing your life isn’t. It’s just a trick of the mind, like a mirage.’

‘So you’re saying,’ the client continued, ‘that I’m feeling all of this stress and pressure because of a mirage?’

George reflected for a moment.

‘Well,’ he replied, ‘it’s a real mirage.’

Have fun, learn heaps, and when the going gets tough, it might not be the “going” that’s the problem…

With all my love,

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