WHAT IS YOUR STORY? – By Artie Dewey
(Note from JJ Several people have asked Artie for a summary of her presentation at the Gathering. She has written it up in three parts. Enjoy.)
Have you ever seen the Jack in the Box commercial where Jack and his cohorts are standing in a loud nightclub on the sidelines trying to talk? Jack asks “Why are we here?” One guy says “You said we should try Club Chipotle.” Jack replies “I said we should try a chipotle chicken club.” Then he described the combo and the price of $4.99 which includes fries and a drink. One woman asks “Did you say you wanted a drink?” Jack answers “I said a drink comes with a combo”. She gets all excited and asks “You know how to mambo?” Jack, all cool and clever, says proudly “Of course I can do the robot”
Does this style of communication sound familiar in your house? You talk past each other because neither one can “Hear” the other – figuratively speaking in most cases, but I think JJ doesn’t hear as well as he used to, so it’s literal for me – and then you get into an argument over something you may not have even been talking about in the first place!
Misunderstandings like this can sometimes be sorted out if you go back in the conversation and retrace who said what – and women are superior in doing this, even years later. The problem is men don’t admit to saying what THEY said – right?
More difficult misunderstandings to sort out are those that involve our OWN thoughts and beliefs.
Do you believe what you think? This is an interesting question.
Of course we believe our own thoughts because they come from us, right? If we don’t believe our OWN thoughts, whose thoughts DO we believe? Do we, in fact, consciously create our thoughts?
Last year, we learned in my talk about the Healing Code that most of our adult stress stems from unquestioned childhood beliefs we formed from our environment – things our parents, siblings, friends, and teachers did and said to us. As children, we were sponges with no maturity and experience to filter the negative, self-limiting feedback we absorbed into our subconscious. Since many of these childhood memories (the Healing Code calls them “heart pictures”) silently dwells in our subconscious, we aren’t aware of how our past effects our ADULT lives until a stressor triggers a reaction that often isn’t appropriate to the situation.
Have you heard of the statement in The Course in Miracles that says “I am never upset for the reason I think”.? (This is one of JJ’s favorites and he relishes reciting this to me sometimes in an argument – what man in his right mind tells his wife “you’re not upset for the reason you think?”) Why is this statement true? WHY do we get upset for reasons we’re not even aware of?
The answer is in the word “upset”. When we’re upset and emotional, the subconscious takes over and conscious well-thought-out responses fly out the window. Most of our negative reactions that bubble up from our subconscious are AUTOMATIC, like habits and learned skills like walking and driving. Because they’re based on deeply engrained beliefs about ourselves and the world, we’re attached to them and they even define who we are.
Are we likely to give credence to thoughts and feelings that we believe are true because they’ve been with us for so long, even if they no longer serve us (and maybe never did) ? Of course.
How often do we change our minds, particularly our long-held beliefs? Not often, which is why people don’t change that much during adulthood. Do we ever stop to ask if our thoughts are true? Probably not. Our UNINVESTIGATED, engrained beliefs that become our STORY is what I’m going to talk about today.
A book that caught my attention this year after I heard the mention of it by Jenny McCarthy on Oprah, is called “Loving What Is” by a woman named Byron Katie. Katie – as she’s commonly called – was a severely depressed suicidal alcoholic living in the desert of Barstow, California. For years she raged at her family, traumatized her kids, had no friends, and lost her successful real estate business because of her problems.
One morning, after sleeping on the floor of a basement room of a rehab facility she checked herself into because the other women were afraid of her and because she didn’t consider herself worthy of a bed, she woke up in a totally different state of consciousness. Some would say she had a nervous breakdown, others like JJ and I think she may have become a walk-in. She didn’t recognize her body but was fascinated by it, she didn’t know who she was and where, she didn’t communicate in the usual manner, etc. She literally acted like a non-human alien who jumped into a body without preparation.
Anyway, after adjusting to her body and surroundings, all this lead her to question every thought and belief she ever had – negative and positive -, and this unraveling over a period of time brought her peace from depression, anger, disappointment, addiction, etc. and healed all her relationships. (It resulted in a divorce because her dysfunctional husband was threatened by her new consciousness.)
Through word of mouth, people from around the world came to her door to find out about this peace she had found. She was no New Ager and read no self-help books in her life, so when the New Agers she counseled left her house, they would often say “Namaste”. She thought they were saying “No mistake”, and she thought “Wow – these people really get it!”
Since then, Katie’s teachings have become a machine – she’s written several books with the help of her next husband (I’ve compiled portions of 4 of them for this talk) , she tours the world giving seminars, she’s done personal counseling with thousands, she founded a 28-day facility program for the addicted called Turnaround House, she offers a 1.5 week School of the Work and a follow-up Institute for graduates that offers professional certification. Her extensive web site is www.TheWork.com. Katie offers free audio and video downloads featuring actual sessions with clients in workshop settings, free downloads of resource materials, etc.
Katie calls this process of questioning your thoughts and beliefs “The Work”. I’m first going to cover her 6 basic principles before we talk about the inquiry.
1) Principal #1: Katie’s foundational belief is “I’m a lover of what is, not because I’m a spiritual person, but because it hurts when I argue with reality. No thinking in the world can change it. What is IS.” The principle is notice when your thoughts argue with reality – we suffer when we believe a thought that argues with what is. “If you want reality to be different than it is, you might as well try to teach a cat to bark. You can try and try and in the end the cat will look up at you and say Meow.”
Using “Shoulds” and “Shouldn’ts” in our language suggest a state of mind that projects into past experiences and tries to change the present and the future. They’re evidence of wanting a different reality. You reject what’s happening and interject SHOULD and SHOULDN’T as if they can change reality. “I should be able to trust people” (Wayne). “My boss shouldn’t ignore my intelligent input.” “I should have known this wouldn’t work out.”
What you think shouldn’t have happened SHOULD, because it DID. No mental arguing in the world can change reality – it only causes you stress. The more you stick to the belief that you’re in control of the events and people in your life, the more you’ll fight reality every step of the way. We have no idea what’s going to happen next with total assurance, which makes the game of life exciting, even for God.
This is not to say that we should accept everything that happens without judgment because it’s not possible or desirable. But by accepting what’s happening (but not necessarily liking it), and keeping the mind clear and the emotions calm, positive action to remedy a situation if it’s called for is possible. Instead of cursing the darkness, we light a candle.
Accepting reality not only positively affects our relationships and events in our lives, but also our physical bodies. The book “Intuitive Healing “states “Our beliefs trigger biochemical responses. No organ system stands apart from our thoughts. What you really believe programs your brain chemicals.” The body has its own consciousness and life, but, like the subconscious, the body takes your mind’s direction, whether it’s life- affirming or non life-affirming. The body’s consciousness will tell you through pain and illness when the stresses are more than it can handle.
For example, anger can increase inflammation; anxiety can cause jittery platelets and high cortical levels; grievance can lead to cancer, the most common emotional cause of cancer.
Listen to the body and respect its message – don’t let thoughts that argue with reality enter in to stop the body’s healing process, like “I shouldn’t be sick” or “I hate this tumor. I’m going to battle with it” -Ever hear of the “courageous fight with cancer” statement often used in obituaries?
You’re not present to help your body if you deny or fight against what’s happening to it. Do you think your body will heal from illness most efficiently when you’re tense and fearful, fighting it as an enemy? Use compassion and acceptance and ask the body what it needs from you. Be grateful for its health and support and calmly and rationally give it what it needs to heal.
Another way we argue with reality is when we tell ourselves we HAVE to do things – I have to go to work, I have to clean the house, I have to go grocery shopping. These things become stressful chores when we argue with reality. In knowing that we don’t HAVE to do anything and that we only do what we DECIDE to do right now, we just do things in peace and acceptance, and they can even become pleasurable. This is an important point I personally have learned over the years in regards to housework. I have complained and martyred myself that I HAVE to do all this housework and nobody appreciates it (sound familiar?). When I get the response, “if you don’t want to do it, don’t do it”, that just twists the knife – if I don’t do it, who will??? Finally, in my old age, I realized that I do chores because they make ME feel good when I do it, and I would do it even if no one was around to appreciate it, so I might as well enjoy the process instead of fighting it and making everybody around me miserable.
The bottom line is that when we argue with and reject reality, we create a fantasy life, and live it as if it were true. We believe a lie. We aren’t present in our own life when we deny the truth of it and we aren’t present for others when we deny the truth of who they are because we’ve detached ourselves.
2) Principle #2 : Stay in your own business. There are 3 kinds of business: Yours, mine and God’s (that which is beyond anyone’s control). Much stress comes from living outside your own business or “sphere of influence” as Steven Covey calls it – there is separation from yourself and you’re not living your own life, because you’re not in it. Every wonder why people who’s life is tied up with minding others’ have lives that don’t work? Nobody’s living it! When you think you know what’s best for someone else, you not only avoid facing your own problems but you’re also frustrated, anxious and lonely because you’re out of your area of control. The next time you’re feeling stressed, ask yourself whose business you’re in mentally – it’s usually not your own.
3) Principle #3 : Meet your thoughts with understanding. It’s not our thoughts but the ATTACHMENT to them that causes our suffering. Attachment means believing a thought is true without questioning it. Most people think they ARE what their thoughts tell them they are without question. It’s amazing when I watch shows that help people – lose weight, or get themselves together financially, or help them heal relationships, etc. -how many of them say they feel worthless and unworthy – it seems to be a common denominator. They believe their own thoughts and beliefs despite proof to the contrary. This is why obese people who lose a lot of weight often gain it back because they don’t see themselves as thin regardless of what the mirror or scale says. Outward success doesn’t change the inner dialogue.
Unfortunately, we can’t control our thoughts. (According to Deepak Chopra we CAN control them because they are not us – we are not our thoughts, emotions, body, etc. ). I disagree. Just because we are more than our thoughts doesn’t mean we have control over them – just as we are more than what happens to us doesn’t mean we can control what happens to us. Our thoughts come unbidden, they usually come from the subconscious so we don’t CONSCIOUSLY create many of them, and sometimes they work against our own best interests. Ever notice this? How many times do you say something that just pops out of our mouth and you wonder “Where did THAT come from?” Or you meditate and get all excited that you didn’t have a thought for 10 seconds, but then realize you just had a thought that you didn’t have a thought? Byron Katie believes we don’t really think – we’re BEING thought. This seems far out, but if we’re the thoughts of God, as JJ teaches, then maybe she’s right.
Katie’s theory is that if we can’t control our thoughts, don’t try to control them, or suppress them (this leads to cancer) ,or change them (as in positive affirmations) , or let them go (as in meditation practice). They will let go of YOU if you meet them with understanding. Be the observer of your thoughts and treat them like friends coming for a visit, but don’t automatically believe them. The only way to unravel them and release their power over you is ask questions about them – are they true?
Do you believe or find credible your thoughts while dreaming? No. They come from you, so why not? Because they come from the subconscious and they’re often silly and don’t make logical sense. Thoughts from the subconscious aren’t any more reliable just because you’re awake. Once a thought or belief that is painful is met with understanding AND skepticism , the next time it appears you may find it interesting or even funny. After that, you may not even notice it.
4) Principle #4: Become aware of your stories, which are your thoughts about what’s happening that are untested, uninvestigated theories of what things mean. What things mean is the left brain’s job – to make sense of our environment. When unexplained and/or unexpected events happen – for example, when someone doesn’t contact you when they’re supposed to (common culprits are contractors), when your boss invites you to come into his office at 4 pm on a Friday, when a cop’s siren goes off behind you on your teenager has missed his curfew by an hour – the left brain begins creating stories to defend yourself, explain the situation, blame the other person, etc. Ever notice that? I must be a great storyteller because before I know what’s happening for sure, I’ll weave a story about what’s probably going on and I upset myself – and then I find out what really happened – totally unlike my fantasy – and I feel stupid. Anyone ever do that?
There are also stories we tell ourself that encompass more than an event – they’re stories that we use to explain our lives. Small stories breed bigger ones. Bigger stories breed major theories about life and we become defined by the stories we tell ourselves. Your personality takes it as a badge and you wear it. For example, how many people define themselves as cancer survivors, or rape survivors, or a minority, or ADD/ADHD, or obese, or poor, or unemployed, etc. – almost to the exclusion of all else? Some of our stories empower us, many disable us. Every disabling story is a variation on a single theme: THIS SHOULDN’T BE HAPPENING – I shouldn’t have to experience this – This is unfair. When we recycle these stories, we move out of the truth and live in fantasy, which reduces our power of decision.
Most of our stories involve other people, particularly those close to us. The problem is that we often know less about those close to us – our spouse, children, parents – than a stranger we’ve talked to for an hour. We only know our STORIES about them and don’t have a clue who they really are. Also, our understanding of other people is limited by what we think we already know and the projections of our own thoughts we’ve placed on them. This is what happens sometimes in the process of falling in love (more likely, lust) with a person who doesn’t share your values, like a “bad boy” for a girl or a “toy boy” for an older woman. We create a romantic, fantasy story about how wonderful and exciting and attractive the person is, regardless of the facts that may say otherwise. Your friends and family don’t see what you see in the person and you think they just don’t want you to be happy. Sound familiar? Love is blind – we don’t get to know the person, even after we’ve married them, until the “honeymoon is over.”
Tony Robbins, who’s livelihood is helping people to empower themselves, says we get stuck in our negative stories through repetition that tell us we can’t become more. We connect through the pain and problems in our lives even when it’s not necessary. Stories of our problems are the biggest addiction in humanity – they become a pattern. Problems allow us to escape our fears, especially if they’re big enough, bad enough and not our fault. Robbins’ foundational advice is to divorce your story if it doesn’t serve you and marry the truth. Affirmations don’t work because they don’t challenge you to see the truth and tell a different story.
What’s YOUR story? What’s your story that you’ve attached yourself to and may even by part of your identity?
5) Principle #5: After looking at the suffering behind your thoughts, reverse it and look for the THOUGHT behind the suffering. If you have a thought that argues with reality (“this shouldn’t be happening”) then you have a stressful feeling and then you act on that feeling, creating more stress. Rather than understand the original cause – a thought – we try to change our stressful feeling by looking outside ourselves and blaming others. This phenomenon is called PROJECTION or EXTERNALIZATION. When an event happens that causes internal stress, this is the alarm clock that says you need to look inside at what you’re telling yourself. Iyana VanZant has a cute acronym: PAIN: Pay Attention Inward Now.
How do you know when you’re projecting your stuff on other people or events? If you receive what is happening as a point of interest or information, you aren’t projecting. If it causes you internal stress, the mechanical reactive ego will tend to look for fault outside of yourself, as a defense mechanism – we judge in others that which we reject or disown in ourselves. This is projection. The problem is “What we can’t be with won’t let us be” – we have to deal with it. People who do horrible things that land them in prison do these things because they externalize their pain, not because of their pain – they don’t look inward and deal with their pain – they take it out on other people.
Principle #6: Use inquiry to investigate the truth of your thoughts. It’s a way to end confusion and experience peace. Inquiry is more than a technique – it reveals inner aspects of our being – our thought process, our past experiences and what has hurt us, how we see the world, how we protect ourselves or beat ourselves up. Our subconscious thoughts meet the moment because we move thoughts into the conscious mode -out of the dream state. It’s like asking yourself “where am I going?” when you’ve been on automatic pilot mode driving to work when you meant to drive to church. You wake up to reality.
Often, when we think we’re being rational, we’re really being spun by our own thinking, which can get us into painful positions we uphold in our mind. Neuroscience identifies a part of the brain called “the interpreter” as the source of the familiar internal narrative that gives us our sense of self. One scientist was quoted in the book Cell Level Healing “Perhaps the most important revelation is precisely this: the left cerebral hemisphere of humans is prone to fabricating verbal narratives that don’t necessarily accord with the truth. The left brain weaves its story in order to convince itself and you that it’s in full control. It amounts to a spin doctor. The interpreter, or left brain, is really trying to keep our personal story together. To do that, we have to learn to lie to ourselves. We tend to believe our own press releases.”
Self questioning – investigating the truth of our thoughts – uses a different, less-known capacity of the mind to find a way out of its self-made trap. It’s an ongoing and deepening process of self-realization where the mind notices each stressful thought and undoes it before it can cause any suffering. This process of inquiry is the meat of Katie’s work. Quoting her: “Through inquiry we discover how attachment to a belief or story causes suffering. Before the story there is peace. Then a thought appears, we automatically believe it and the peace disappears. We notice the feeling of stress in the moment, investigate the story behind it, and realize it probably isn’t true. The feeling lets us know that we’re opposing what is by believing the thought. It tells us we’re at war with reality.”
WHAT IS YOUR STORY? – PART 2
Now, to get to THE WORK:
The first step before self-inquiry is to vent your feelings on paper. Katie developed a “JUDGE YOUR NEIGHBOR” worksheet (available for download on www.thework.com) which has 6 questions that encourages you to “bitch” in delicious detail about some body or some happening. This is a strictly confidential sheet that allows the ego to go crazy without mental or moral censorship. This is the opportunity the ego has been waiting for and it will gladly tell you everything, like a child. It’s best to be judgmental, harsh, childish and petty. Don’t try to be wise, spiritual or kind. Those experienced in doing this process say they get pettier and pettier and more and more uncensored because it gets harder and harder to find something to be upset about over time.
When you commit to writing down your feelings, you find out a lot about your thinking, values, and experience. You take a look at what’s been swirling around inside you for years, without asking yourself what’s the cause and what’s the solution. Sometimes we just get lost in the mind’s chaos and we don’t know what to do to feel better. In writing them down, you see your feelings in physical form and through inquiry, you begin to understand them, deal with them and heal them . This is all a therapist does, right? Why pay a therapist when you can do this for free?
The next step of inquiry is to respond to 4 main questions about the feelings your wrote down:
1) The first question that is the entry gate to opening the mind is IS IT TRUE? Katie says that if you do nothing else, this is the most important question you can ask yourself. What is the REALITY of it? Remember, in reality, shoulds and shouldn’t s don’t exist. They are just observations and wishes.
Let’s say you wrote down on your worksheet “My children ALWAYS disrespect me and I’m OUTRAGED by this. They SHOULD clean up after THEMSELVES so I don’t HAVE to do it. ”
These 2 sentences are rich with examples of the principles we discussed earlier… • “My children always disrespect me” invites the question IS IT TRUE? Is cleaning up after yourself the proof of respect or lack of it for a person you live with? (If so, a lot of husbands ALSO disrespect their wives.) • Do they ALWAYS do this? (Absolutes are a tip off that you’re stretching the truth, even if it’s partially true. No one does anything all the time except breathe. • The 2nd statement has a should, which argues with reality – they shouldn’t clean up because they don’t – that’s the reality of it. • It also implies that you’re out of your business because cleaning up after THEM isn’t your job, it’s theirs. • Finally it has “so I don’t HAVE to do it.” also argues with reality because you don’t have to do anything. If you want to do it anyway, acknowledge that and do it without stressing yourself out.
2) The 2nd question, as a back up is CAN YOU ABSOLUTELY KNOW IT’S TRUE? This question is for those who answer yes on the 1st question IS IT TRUE? We can’t absolutely know anything, especially about what another person is feeling. Going back to the example, I know a lot of people, especially husbands who don’t consider it disrespectful to leave their crap lying around – this thought doesn’t even occur to them. Thinking we know another person’s mind is folly and it keeps us from doing the work to know our own mind.
When our remarks contain extreme reactions like “I’m devastated”, “I’m terrified” “I’m outraged” – these often aren’t really true. A common technique therapists use is to get to the foundational truth of what you’re feeling – it usually boils down to fear of loss of love or positive regard of others even when we’re very angry, but manifests as something else to cover our vulnerabilities. Look at not only the truth of the situation, but your own TRUE feelings about it.
If you’re not sure if something is true or not about what you’ve written, there are 5 additional statements that may help to bring your true feelings out:
a) Add “and it means that__________” to a statement you’ve made to bring out more feelings. For example, you might add after the disrespect statement above ” and it means that I feel alone and unloved by my children”. Anger wasn’t the real feeling in this example – it’s hurt and vulnerability.
b) Ask what you think would happen if things were the way you want them. You might say “I would feel loved and appreciated if they picked up.”
c) Imagine what’s the worst that could happen when you write down something you don’t want to happen, and then ask if it’s true. This is a common technique for reducing stress over events we can’t control. For example, you might say “I’m dead and my children never clean up after themselves. The house is condemned and they become homeless and die of starvation.” Ask Is this what could REALLY happen? Extreme worst case scenarios help us put things in perspective. Living with the fear of negative outcomes is often more painful than the actual event, which I call the “wait till your father comes home” threat.
d) Look for shoulds and shouldn’ts you can use if you haven’t already used them to add to statements of fact that are true, but don’t lead to realizing deeper feelings. Saying “my children leave crap around the house” doesn’t evoke the feelings that “my children should clean up after themselves” – the latter statement reveals expectations, beliefs, disappointments, etc.
e) Another way to find the truth: Where’s your proof? Bring all your evidence and ask if it’s true.
For example, the statement “my children don’t respect me” used the proof statement “They don’t pick up after themselves”. I posed the question “is not picking up after yourself proof of disrespect?” 2nd, where’s the proof that you HAVE to pick up after your children? Does your family force you at gun point to do it?
3) Going back to the 4 inquiry questions: the 3rd question after is it true and can you absolutely know it’s true is HOW DO YOU REACT WHEN YOU BELIEVE THAT THOUGHT? Picture yourself in the situation and see the people or events that are causing you stress. See your reactions – what do you say, how do you say it, what’s your body language look like, what feelings are going on inside you? With this question we notice INTERNAL cause and effect as opposed to external cause. When you believe negative thoughts, there’s an uneasy feeling or stress. If you realized from the 1st question that the thought really isn’t true for you, then you’re looking at the power of a lie and what the power of your thoughts can do to you and those around you.
A follow-on question Katie asks to this one is “can you see a reason to drop that thought – and I’m not asking you to drop it because you can’t and don’t even try.” Once you see the truth of it, the thought will let YOU go, not the other way around. A reverse variation on the question is “Can you find one stress-free reason to keep the thought?”
4) The 4th question : WHO WOULD YOU BE WITHOUT THE THOUGHT? With this question imagine yourself NOT reacting, as you did in the 3rd question – just observing. Then imagine who you would be if you couldn’t think this thought. How would your life be different? How do you feel without the story? How do people respond to you? Which feels kinder and more peaceful – with or without your story? In our example, if you didn’t think you’re disrespected just because your kids don’t pick up after themselves, how would you feel? You would feel more calm and have the presence of mind to come up with options. A couple of things I can think of: a) If your kids are young, tell them calmly and pleasantly to pick up their stuff before they do anything fun, and make a game out of it – call them vacuum monsters and set a timer to see how fast they can “suck” up their toys b) if they’re older, make a notation on a chart that they owe you a set amount of money for the task you did on their behalf. By removing a negative emotional response which shuts down creativity and engagement in a solution, you can get what you aim for without shooting yourself first in the foot.
For many people, life without their story is literally unimaginable because they’re so attached to them – they have no reference for it. When asked “who would you be without the thought?”, “I don’t know” is a common answer to this question in Katie’s experience. This imagination exercise helps us to come up with more positive and effective alternative realities that helps to unstick us from long-held recycled beliefs and give clarity to understand the situation and act efficiently. We step back from the situation and become the observer of our scripts, and then decide if and how we want to rewrite them. (Chopra says that the highest form of intelligence is the ability to observe yourself without negative judgment and attachment. As you watch yourself, you gain insights.)
WHAT IS YOUR STORY? – PART 3
Finally, Katie has developed THE TURNAROUND, which is the hardest part of The Work because it requires an open mind and heart. In this process, you take what you’ve written of others and see if your words are as true or truer when it applies to YOU. As long as you think the cause of your stress is “out there”, your problems will never be solved because you’re not in your own business and therefore have no control. You’re forever in the role of victim when you blame the external.
The turnaround is done in 3 steps and you don’t have to believe them – they just open your mind to seeing other options that may be as true or truer for you. If some statements are too hard to accept, add “sometimes” and see if it’s true, or substitute a different but related word. Then list examples of how they could be true for you.
The 3 steps are: (all turnarounds below are applied to the example worksheet statement )
1) Turn it around to YOURSELF • “I should pick up after MYSELF”. Is this true? We all should. Am I setting a good example?) • “I don’t respect ME”. Is this as true for me as I think it is for my kids?
2) Turn it around for the PERSON • “My kids SHOULDN”T pick up after themselves.” They shouldn’t because they don’t – this is reality. Deal with this first. • “My kids SHOULDN’T respect me”. Why should I EXPECT anybody else to respect me or love me? I can’t control that and it’s MY job to respect and love me. Cut out the middle man. If you want something you’re not getting, give it to yourself – that way, you get exactly what you want.
(3) Turn it around to the OPPOSITE • “I should respect me.” Yes. • “My kids should pick up after ME.”(HA HA) • “I don’t HAVE to pick up after them because I don’t have to do anything I don’t decide to do.” • “I’m not outraged – on the scale of the outrageous, this is a 2.”
Katie suggests that you always do the 4 inquiries BEFORE a turnaround because without them to open up your mind to other possibilities, the turnaround can feel harsh and shameful. The judgment turned back unto yourself can set up self-defensiveness, which closes your mind to solving anything. If you’re open to the questions and see other sides to the issue, then the turnaround will be additional revelations rather than mental gymnastics.
Once you’ve learned to go inside for your own answers and opened yourself to turnaround, you’ll see that most everything you think you see on the outside is really a projection of your own mind. We see who we are by seeing who we think other people are. In discovering the innocence of the people you judge, you’ll come to recognize your own innocence.
Katie says after successfully doing The Work for a while, you’ll actually LOOK FORWARD to problems that pop up so that you can process them without stress and defensiveness, and without hopelessly applying willpower to force to eradicate the situation from your life. If you live with the person you’ve judged, you may as well look forward to the problems as you go – it makes life easier. If you don’t live with the person, you probably find yourself living with them in your MIND, so you may as well look forward to it. It’s no longer necessary to wait for people or situations to change in order to experience peace and harmony. Whether you go through life with lots of stress or with peace and acceptance, the trip is the same – the difference is HOW the journey is made.
Only after you’ve done The Work on other people, Katie suggests you can do it on yourself. She says this order is important because the ego will put up defenses if you start with yourself, so you need practice first. We have 20/20 insight vision about other people, but not ourselves.
TRYING to love and approve of yourself can be just as painful as seeking the love of others, and the results are just as unsatisfying. You think other people think there’s something wrong with you because YOU think there’s something wrong with you. By seeking to gain other’s approval, you’re trying to stop them from thinking what YOU are thinking. In every inquiry about painful relationships, you discover that the stress is caused by your own thinking. Katie says “If you haven’t undone painful thoughts about yourself, you can get into a bubble bath, light candles, recite positive affirmations and pamper yourself in every way – and once you’re out of the tub, the same thoughts will come back to haunt you. It’s like staging a seduction, only you’re the one trying to seduce you”
A good place to start in questioning the parts about YOURSELF that stress you out is questioning what you’re most ASHAMED of. Secrets cry out for inquiry – you can’t be free if you’re hiding from yourself.
Step 1: Write down “what I’m most ashamed of is” or “what I don’t want you to know about me is___________” (Applied to our worksheet statement: “What I’m most ashamed of is that I sometimes hate my kids and I look for excuses to gripe at them. I like being a martyr and try to make my kids feel guilty.) Step 2: Write down what you think this means: “…and that means that__________” (Ex: “…and that means that I think I’m a bad mother and person.) Step 3: Inquire into each meaning. Is it true that I’m a bad mother and person for feeling this way sometimes? Ask yourself for your own truth – treat each question as a deep meditation – ask and gently wait for the heart’s answer to surface. Step 4: Turnaround your responses, even if they are difficult, and find 3 genuine ways in which the opposite is as true or truer – you may discover that everything you thought it meant isn’t necessarily true. (Ex: “I don’t think I’m a bad mother. I’m not ashamed that I sometimes hate my kids. I’m not supposed to always love my kids until I do.” Is this as true or truer? This inquiry allows the mind to give you other truths that can set you free to love them or not, and to be a very good parent regardless of what you’re feeling about them at the moment. By freeing yourself of parental guilt, you can find your love naturally, and you can really hear your children and be with them, and you don’t have to do anything or be anything you’re not.
Katie has a great quote about being ourselves that can be turned into a meditation: “I am the perfect one to be me and no one else can be it. I must be this height to be me, exactly this weight, exactly this age. That is the requirement to be me. There are 2 ways of being me: one is to hate it and one is to love it. Since I don’t have a choice but to be me, which will it be? I am perfectly myself”. When you love yourself, you love the person you are always with.
Katie says that if you really want to be free, CRITICISM from others can be a gift. Feeling hurt or wanting to defend yourself means there’s something you don’t accept and love about yourself – it’s the part you want to hide. The worst that can happen is that you’re hearing the truth. Isn’t that what you want? No matter what anyone says to or about you, if you experience stress, then you are the one who’s suffering in the moment. Stress is the signal that it’s time to question your own thinking. When someone criticizes you, don’t try to rebut and defend. Settle into it and ask yourself “Is it true? Could she be right? Can I see how someone might see me that way?” An interesting response would be “Thank you for letting me know. You could be right.” Notice what that does to the argument and feelings involved.
The saying goes that friends are people who agree with you. Enemies -and family – are people who don’t.
Quote: “For the personality or ego, love is nothing more than agreement. If I agree with you, you love me. And the minute I don’t agree with you, the minute I question one of your sacred beliefs, I become your enemy. You divorce me in your mind. Then you start looking for reasons why you’re right, and you stay focused outside yourself – when you’ve focused outside yourself and believe that your problem is caused by someone else, rather than by your attachment to the story you’re believing in the moment, then you are your own victim.”
A couple of things to keep in mind about criticism: 1) The person who is criticizing you is telling you what they think – telling a person they shouldn’t think that or feel that way is futile. We think what we think and feel what we feel. Their opinions of you are just their observations and they don’t have any meaning for you except that which you give it, which is true of everything in our lives. You’re out of your own business when you worry about what others think of you. If you live your life and let people form whatever impression they want about you, without your engineering – and that’s what they’re doing anyway – you open yourself to be responsible for your own happiness and live the highest you know.
The 2nd thing to keep in mind: When criticism isn’t true of you, it’s probably a projection from the other person. It’s about them, not you.
Finally, a word about FORGIVENESS. Forgiveness is giving up the hope that the past can be different. FORGIVENESS and inner PEACE is possible when you realize the truth about projections, about your underlying beliefs, about your reactions to others actions based on your past experiences, about minding your own business, and about the fact that we’re all doing our best. You realize that your suffering is largely your own doing. Look at your thoughts, ask questions, see what applies to you, and set yourself free.
I’ll end with a quote from the I Ching: “It is only when we have the courage to face things exactly as they are without any self-deception or illusion that a light will develop out of events by which the path to success may be recognized.”
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