The fearful beliefs underlying our seemingly uncharged thinking.
Sometimes our greatest fears are hiding under what we believe to be grounded, logical, or supportive arguments. One way to get in touch with the root of the issue is to shine a flashlight under all that solidity and see what’s lurking beneath the boxspring. That’s just what Jack needed. He wanted to get married, but experienced a lot of blocks when it came to dating:
Jack: I can’t seem to meet a woman I like.
Jack: I work on a construction site. Not exactly Ladies Central…
Chana: Is that the only place you spend your time?
Jack: I don’t get out much.
Chana: Why is that?
Jack: I like being on my own.
On his own? This statement contradicts his original desire for companionship and hints to a Monster Under the Bed. It’s time to turn on the flashlight and ask Jack about his fears.
Chana: What do you think would happen if you got out?
If I’m wrong here and Jack had a preference rather than a fear, he’ll let me know. In this case, my gut feeling is spot on:
Jack: I don’t know. I… I don’t know how to act at parties and stuff.
Jack: I’ll say something dumb, or lame, or just totally off.
Chana: What do you think would happen if you didn’t believe that you’d say something totally off?
Jack: I might say what’s on my mind. I wouldn’t be careful. And then I’d make a total fool of myself.
Chana: So if you don’t believe that you might say something off, then you’ll say something off?
Jack: Yeah. It… protects me.
Chana: How do you react when you believe that you’ll say something off?
Jack: I get jittery. I get super self-conscious.
Chana: And how do you act around women when you believe the thought?
Jack: It’s hard for me to concentrate on what they’re saying. I’m just too focused on what I’m going to say or when I should laugh or smile or something.
Chana: And then what happens?
Jack: I end up saying stuff that’s totally off cause I’m not listening so well, so I’m not in tune to what’s going on. I become too selfconscious….
Oh! I get it! When I think that thought, I get more off. Not less. Whoa! But…
Jack: But it’s hard not to be self-conscious. I don’t want to say something dumb.
Chana: What do you mean by “dumb?”
Jack: Like if I got a fact wrong.
Chana: What are you afraid would happen if you got a fact wrong?
Jack: That girls would laugh at me. I know they wouldn’t be rude enough to do it out loud, but they would be – on the inside – cracking up.
Chana: What are you afraid would happen if they laughed?
Jack: That would be so humiliating!
Jack: Then no one would want to have anything to do with me.
Chana: What are you afraid would happen if no one wanted to have anything to do with you?
Jack: I’d be all alone.
Now, let’s walk up to the ATM.
Chana: What would it mean if you were all alone?
Jack: That I’m absolutely unlovable. Worthless.
Jack’s real fear is that if he puts himself out there socially, he’ll be exposing himself to experiences that would prove the underlying belief that he’s unlovable. We could work on visualizing him going to parties, practice asking girls out, and disproving his concern that people would laugh at him, but it wouldn’t uproot the fear of unworthiness lurking under the surface. So, let’s go right for the Monster with our own claws unsheathed.
Chana: What feels the most painful: the belief that you’re unlovable or that you’re worthless?
Jack: That I’m worthless.
Chana: So. You’re worthless. Is it true?
Jack: When you put it that way… it sounds less true.
Chana: So not a certain, “yes?”
Chana: And how do you react when you believe the thought that you’re worthless?
Jack: My body collapses. I feel drained.
Chana: What else?
Jack: I feel like a hole wants to suck me into the ground.
Chana: What comes up for you emotionally?
Jack: I feel really sad. Just want to curl up into a ball and cry.
Chana: What are you unable to do when you believe the thought that you’re worthless?
Jack: I can’t think straight. I don’t want to talk to anyone. Definitely don’t want to go to a social event. For sure not. I just want to disappear.
Chana: Now. Take a deep breath and clear the air. Good. Imagine you’re thinking of going to a party and the thought that you’re worthless isn’t there. Who would you be without the thought?
Jack: Oh. I just think about who might be there and whether I want to hang out with them or not. I can also feel if I have energy or if I’m tired. I’m more open to asking what’s good for me. There’s not all this tightness and pressure around the whole thing. It’s simpler. Do I feel like going or not?
Chana: So let’s turn it around. You’re worthless. What’s the opposite?
Jack: I’m not worthless.
Chana: Yes. Tell me how that’s as true or truer than the original belief.
Jack: I have a number of friends who like hanging out with me even though I can be an awkward hermit at times.
Chana: What else?
Jack: I love my family, and they love me.
Chana: Feel that. Doesn’t sound so worthless, does it?
Jack: No. They’d actually be sad if I disappeared.
Chana: Yes. Tell me another reason you’re not worthless.
Jack: I’m a fantastic architect. My clients really appreciate how I find creative ways to design what they want and more.
Chana: Beautiful. Another one?
Jack: I volunteer at a soup kitchen. The people there really appreciate it.
Chana: And how about another turnaround.
Jack: I’m worthy?
Jack: Um… My parents fed and housed me growing up. So I guess they thought that was worthwhile.
Chana: And how about now?
Jack: They continue to invest in me, I guess. I mean they don’t give me money anymore because I support myself, but they offer advice and time and love.
Chana: They don’t think they’re wasting their time and resources.
Jack: No. It’s not like a guilt trip for them. They seem to be happy to have me over and ask me about my life. And they keep nudging me about dating – they want me to be happy. They know I don’t want to be alone.
Chana: What’s another reason that you’re worthy?
Jack: Uhh… I don’t know. I’m stuck here.
Chana: Okay. Try this: who defines a person’s worth?
Jack: I dunno. I guess every person is different. They can’t all be measured the same way. I don’t know if I could say exactly the worth of a kid or someone who’s blind or handicapped. I guess even someone young and healthy like me. I don’t really know what makes me worthy of existence. Now that I stop to think about it, I have no clue. I guess only G-d could know that.
Chana: And is your heart still beating?
Chana: Who’s making that happen?
Jack: Not me.
Chana: Did you turn it on this morning?
Jack: No. I didn’t turn it on. I can’t just turn it off, either.
Chana: So who does?
Jack: G-d, I guess. Oh! I get it! G-d is keeping my heart beating. So I must be worthy of existence.
Jack: But wait. That sounds too simple.
Chana: Does it?
Jack: Hmm… Maybe I just made it complicated.
Chana: Perhaps. Who decided that you weren’t worthy?
Jack: It felt like everyone was telling me that when I was a kid.
Chana: Did they actually tell you that?
Jack: (Pauses to think.) No. I guess I just thought that’s what they meant. Like I had to earn my keep.
Chana: And meanwhile….
Jack: My heart’s been beating the whole time.
Chana: Did you have to “earn” that?
Jack: Can’t be. It beat even when I was a baby. And I couldn’t earn anything back then. I was just a whining, pooping blob!
Chana: So can you know with complete certainty that you have to “earn” it now?
Jack: No. I can’t know that. Maybe there’s no such thing as earning it at all.
Chana: How does it feel when you believe the thought that your existence doesn’t have to be earned?
Jack: Like a million bricks have just rolled off my back. It’s such a relief. I feel like I can breathe.
Chana: And how would it feel to go to a party believing that you don’t have to earn your worth?
Jack: I could just be there. And talk to people. Or not. Either way, it’s okay. Thank you. This feels very good!
By directly asking Jack about his fears, we were able to discover his Monsters Under the Bed. In the light, Jack faced his subconscious assumptions about his worthiness, was able to question their validity, and chose a kinder perspective for himself.
Summary of Monsters Under the Bed
Use the Monsters Under the Bed technique when your language implies fears lurking under the surface. Trust that when you ask, “what are you afraid would happen if…” answers will come bubbling to the surface. These answers can build a meaningful Thought Bank to kickstart pivotal change.
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