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Does The Work Make You Passive?

Last updated on January 25, 2021

rose petals
You might think that The Work encourages you to be a fallen rose petal sitting around collecting dew.

The Opposite of War is “Passivism,” Is That True?

Here’s a great trick of mind. So subtle. So tricky. And so easy to fall into when doing The Work.

It looks like this. “He’s verbally abusing me.” I’m a victim. I do The Work, and find the turnaround, “I’m verbally abusing him.” I notice what I’m doing, and I take it to the other extreme by giving up and becoming passive.

Notice What Just Happened

I just used “The Work” to perpetuate my own victimhood. Now, I feel like I can’t say anything against him (I wouldn’t want to abuse him verbally, you know). My hands are tied. No freedom here.

But this is not the spirit of The Work.

This is the mind using The Work to stay a victim. It’s a trick by the most tricky creature of them all – the mind. The mind will use anything to stay a victim. And in this case it is using a “turnaround” to put another nail in the coffin.

But The Work Is Only About My Internal Experience

The mind likes to miss this point.

When I find the turnaround, “I’m verbally abusing him,” this is a call to notice my internal stance. Am I in a stressful, attacking stance? If so, this turnaround is an invitation to notice it for my own sake. So I don’t have to experience the internal stress of being on the attack.

But the turnaround does not say, “You shouldn’t stand up for yourself.” That’s the way the tricky mind might take it. But that’s not actually a turnaround here.

The only purpose of the turnaround is to stop hurting myself by attacking him. Once I stop hurting myself internally, then I am in a much clearer space to take care of myself. Which could include standing up for myself (the very opposite of passivity and victimhood).

And This Kind of Standing Up For Myself Is Different

It’s not full of anger.

It’s a standing up for myself that is based on clarity. That’s the difference. It’s an internal difference. I might be stronger than ever externally, but internally I am not attacking.

And that’s all that The Work is inviting: internal clarity. When I’m clear, when I’m not angry, then I can act effectively for myself, and simultaneously do no harm to the other person.

The Work Is About Balance

If you’re being passive, your turnarounds will point you towards standing up for yourself. And if you’re attacking, your turnarounds will point you toward backing down a bit. That’s all. Anything else is the mind just being tricky.

Have a great week,

“People new to The Work often say to me, “But it would be disempowering to stop my argument with reality. If I simply accept reality, I’ll become passive. I may even lose the desire to act.” I answer them with a question: “Can you really know that that’s true?” Which is more empowering?—“I wish I hadn’t lost my job” or “I lost my job; what can I do now?” — Byron Katie, Loving What Is.

About the author

Todd Smith has been doing The Work of Byron Katie on an almost daily basis since 2007. He is just as excited about this simple process of self-inquiry today as he was when he first came across it. He also enjoys writing about The Work, and training others in the subtleties of this meditative process. Join Todd for The Work 101 online course, private sessions, virtual retreats, and his ongoing Inquiry Circle group.

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