“Your thoughts do not create reality, but they do create your experience.” Alan Cohen
My new client had been working with a therapist for a year after finding out about her husband’s long-term affair. It was helpful to have someone to talk to, but she was never given any tools to help her come to a decision about her struggling marriage.
When that didn’t work, she hired a coach.
But the coach just kept telling her, “Your thoughts got you to this place…and your thoughts will get you out of this place.” The coach even told her that if she didn’t change her thoughts, her husband would likely cheat on her again.
This didn’t feel true for her. She could not see how HER thoughts had made her HUSBAND choose to have an affair. This left her feeling hopeless and more than a little frustrated.
I have heard about this happening in the coaching industry, but I’ve never actually seen it myself.
This is what happens when you take a teaching such as “your thoughts create your reality” at face-value, without understanding how this actually works.
While it’s true that my client’s thoughts impact how she feels, and therefore, the choices she makes, it is not true that her thoughts dictate other peoples’ choices.
Her thoughts create her feelings and her choices…and therefore her results.
Her husband’s thoughts create his feelings and his choices and therefore his results.
My client was not to blame for her husband’s affair.
But…that’s not to say she didn’t play a role.
She was going through one of the most emotionally difficult times in her life, and her husband was under a great deal of stress at work. They became terribly disconnected from one another; each feeling alone and unsupported.
- She can now own her role in not asking for what she needed.
- She can own her role in not being able to support him during his own difficult time.
- She can own not reaching for him and instead pouring herself into taking care of everyone else except herself and her marriage.
But that’s where her accountability ends and her husband’s begins.
That line between what is ours to own and what is not is such an important distinction. Especially since women will often overtake responsibility for attempting to manage other people’s feelings, challenges, and needs.
Managing our mind and being intentional with our thinking IS, in fact, important to creating change in our lives and our relationships. That part is true.
But this particular coach she had been working with probably heard:
Your thoughts create your reality.
Change your thinking, change your life!
You just have to practice positive thinking.
She heard this somewhere and began running with scissors, using it to shame her clients into over-taking responsibility for someone else’s bad behavior. That’s not helpful.
The subtleties can easily get lost in translation when you stay on the surface of quippy teachings that fit nicely into a shareable meme, rather than understanding the teachings and helping your clients apply the tools in a meaningful way.
After trying to work with both a therapist and a coach and still not having any clarity, many people would have given up on ever finding an answer.
I’m so grateful this client didn’t give up on herself and kept seeking answers, eventually finding her way to me and the work I do. We had been two weeks into working together, and she told me: “You have already provided me with more actionable tools that I can apply in my marriage than all the other work combined. This is exactly what I’ve needed for so long.”
Are you ready for answers?
If so… I’ve got you.
P.S. For those that follow the teachings of LOA: Yes, attraction plays a role here too. When you get a great deal of momentum going in any direction, you will attract more of the same. She was submerged in really painful experiences…which made the Universe hand her more painful experiences. But I still think we’re making too big of a jump to say she “caused” her husband’s affair. And therein lies the nuance that makes all the difference.