The Option Method Technique
Questions to Reframe Thoughts That Create Stress
To get in touch with our stress and the thoughts that create this stress, we must begin by removing the layers of beliefs from which the stress originates. This is an easy and painless process when we use the Option Method* questions.
The first question:
“What am I unhappy/stressed about?”
Personalize this question. Substitute the words unhappy or stressed in this question for ones that best expresses the bad feeling you have that you would like to change. For instance, you may be feeling worried about something. If so, you would ask yourself, “What am I worried about?”
Clarify your answer. Narrow it down. If, for example, your initial answer to the first question is something like, “I’m stressed about my job,” that is a very broad answer. You need to narrow it down and be as specific as possible. The closer you get to the core of your feelings, the closer you come to you shifting your thinking about the situation. The second Option question will help you to do that.
The second question:
“What is it about that, that makes me unhappy/stressed?”
Using the previous example of “worrying about my job”, you would now ask yourself, “What is it about my job that I am worried?” Be as specific as possible. There are other ways of asking this question, such as, “What about my job worries (bothers, frightens, angers, saddens) me the most?” Your answer may be something like “I know that I don’t take care of myself enough. I worry too much I’m going to become sick if keep this up.”
The third question:
Another way to ask this question might be, “If that were to happen, what would I be most afraid of?” or “If that were to happen, what would be the worst thing about it?” In other words, “If I were to lose my job, what would be the worst thing about that?” Remember the answers to these questions are as diverse as we are. The purpose of the questions is to help you get in touch with your reasons. This brings us to the next Option question.
“Why am I unhappy/stressed about that?”
You ask yourself this question when you are satisfied that you have clearly identified, to the best of your ability, what it is specifically that is bothering you the most at this time. It is a simple question, but let’s make sure you understand it.
“Why” means “for what reason.” This is one of the most important questions you may ever ask yourself. This question prompts you to recognize that you have your own very personal reason for feeling the way you feel. Often we get so caught up in our emotions that we have completely forgotten we are not actually feeling this way against our will.
This wonderful, simple question gives you a renewed opportunity to begin your own self-awareness about the thoughts you continue to have habitually throughout the day.
To apply this question to our example you would ask, “Why am I worried about losing my job?” In other words, “What is my reason for worrying about becoming unemployed?” or “What would I be afraid of or what would it mean to me if I were out of work?” At some point you will find yourself feeling as if you don’t know why, that you just always have been unhappy/stressed about it, or it would seem natural to be unhappy under such circumstances.
Perhaps you are not aware of any reason. You may feel somewhat dumb struck or stuck. This is a natural phenomenon that takes place as we become more aware of our thoughts and not just accept these thoughts as fact. At this time we are on the threshold of self mastery/mastery of our thoughts. When this happens, it is time to move on to the fourth question.
The fourth question:
“What am I afraid it would mean if I were not unhappy about that?”
Another way of asking this question is, “What am I afraid would happen if I were not unhappy/stressed about that?” This is an extraordinary question, one you may very well have never heard before. Repeat it a few times. You may at first simply feel that this a ridiculous question and that’s natural, but let this question into your mind and soak it in for a minute.
Your initial response may be something like, “Well, it wouldn’t mean anything, I’d just be happy.” If so, you’re not really asking yourself the question. Ask again. You see, since nothing has been actually forcing you to feel the way you don’t like to feel, then up until now you must have had a reason for feeling this way.
Until now, you have not exposed or questioned your reasons. You have assumed someone else’s belief, affirmed it and re-created it as your own. When? It does not matter. What truly matters now is that through this question you decide on your own what is true for you and what is not.
Once again, embrace the question: “What am I afraid it would mean if I were not unhappy/stressed about that?”
After you have written down or spoken aloud your answer you will be ready for the final Option question. Take your time. Be satisfied with your answer. If you’re feeling a bit confused or uncertain, go back to the first question. It’s impossible to get lost on your own path or to do this incorrectly. Use the questions as a tool, a flashlight, to light the pathway back to your personal truth.
Be patient with yourself. You have spent a lifetime establishing and developing beliefs that you have never questioned in this way before. The Option questions, though seemingly simple, are new and foreign to you. Don’t rush it.
You may answer this question with something like, “It would mean I didn’t care,” or “It would mean I was crazy.” Or to use our example, you may answer, “If I wasn’t worried about losing my job I’m afraid that I wouldn’t do anything to ensure I keep my boss happy or improve the situation.”
This answer shows how you are preferring and choosing to be worried because if you weren’t it would mean you wouldn’t take care of yourself. These kinds of beliefs are at the core of all unhappiness.
Ask this final question now:
“Why do you believe it would mean that?”
In other words: “Why do I believe that being happy would be bad for me right now?”
Seem too simple? Good! You’ve got it! When it comes to our bad or undesirable feeling, the particulars are as varied as we are, but the operating principles behind our feelings are fundamentally the same. If you believe something is bad, you feel bad about it. If you believe something is good, you feel good about it. If you believe that something is neither good nor bad, you don’t have any feelings one way or the other.
Most importantly, if you believe that if you were to feel happy in any given situation that it would somehow be bad for you, then naturally, you won’t feel good. You are now on the threshold, about to take a new step towards being who you want to be. It’s your choice.
Once you lighten your negative emotional load you will be freer to feel however you want to feel, that which is most natural for you to feel, whatever is right for you....and LESS STRESSED.
*See Option Method website for more articles, instructions and details on the Option Method.
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