Taking Time to Identify What Is Really Bothering Me

pasture in fog

What is really bothering me about the weather here? Is it the fog? Or the cold? Or the darkness? Or is it the wind? And why does it bother you? Is preventing you from hiking? Or is it forcing you to dress differently? Or making you cold? Or is it depressing you?

It’s Not Enough to Find a Stressful Situation

The first step of doing The Work of Byron Katie is to identify a stressful situation and to write down the thoughts that are bothering you. This can be done quickly or meditatively. Both are good.

Today, let’s look at the value I find in slowing down and taking time to identify what is really bothering me. When I do this, I often find that my work really addresses the issue that is up for me and my turnarounds become very targeted medicine for me.

Taking time to see what is really bothering me can be done when looking for one-liners or when writing a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet. The approach is the same.

I First Start by Identifying a Stressful Situation

It helps to find a specific instance where I had a stress reaction. This way, I’m not talking about my stress in general, but have a real live incident to write about.

Once I’ve identified the situation and what was going on, I like to narrow it down a little further. What was the key moment in that situation that upset me? I can often narrow this down to one precise moment (though sometimes this is not so easy, and is not always necessary).

Regardless of whether I can find a specific moment in my situation or am left looking at the situation as a whole, my next step is to identify who or what is causing my stress. Often, it’s someone else in the situation, but sometimes I may find that I’m blaming myself. Either way is fine. I’m just looking for what is really bothering me, and I trust that.

Then I Look at What They Actually Did

I sometimes call it the “statement of fact.” For example, “She interrupted me.” I can simply question this statement of fact as it is. Many times I have put the statement of fact in Line 1 of a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet like this, “I am angry with her because she interrupted me.”

This is what is really bothering me. So I trust that. I write my worksheet on her interrupting me.

But There’s Often Another Layer Underneath

I ask, “What is it about her interrupting me that is really bothering me?”

When I look closely, I often discover that I have a number of interpretations lying underneath the statement of fact. These are usually what are driving the emotions that I’m feeling. These are what make it personal for me.

I find it very valuable to take some time to identify these interpretations. I usually make a list of them before even starting to write a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet.

For example:

Statement of fact: She interrupted me.

Interpretations:

She is trying to control me.
She thinks I’m wrong.
She doesn’t care about me.
She thinks she’s better than me.
She’s trying to dominate me.
She is not being fair to me.

Notice that all of these statements are about her. They are my interpretations of what she is really doing when she interrupts me. Because of these interpretations, her interruption is emotionally charged for me.

I Take Time to Build my List of Interpretations

Sometimes it takes me a day just to do this. And I also take time to consider which interpretation is really at the heart of it for me. It is a practice of paying close attention to my own feelings when I look at what the other person did.

The emotions will be different depending on my interpretation. For example, I feel angry when I think she is trying to control me. But I feel defensive when she thinks I’m wrong. And I feel sad when I think she doesn’t care about me.

Sifting through these interpretations, and adding any more that come up, is something I like to spend time on. I want to see if it’s really anger or sadness. Maybe both are there, but which one is closer to the heart of it for me?

Finding the Heart of my Emotion

With awareness it becomes clearer which interpretation is bothering me the most. But even if I don’t find “the one” it doesn’t matter. I just pick one and get started writing the worksheet. I know that any of them will take me home.

This is what meditating on the stressful experience can show me. When I take my time to identify what is really bothering me about what they did, my worksheet will allow that deepest pain in me to be expressed.

And when I write down all the stressful thoughts that are connected to my interpretation on lines 2-6 of my worksheet, it feels like a deep emotional purge. Just writing the worksheet brings relief. The part of me that was silenced is now allowed to speak.

And when I get around to actually doing The Work on all of the statements that I wrote, they are so connected to my emotion and what was really bothering me that each piece of work feels like medicine that directly addresses and heals what was really bothering me.

It’s Just a Matter of Paying Attention

And I find that there are layers to it. I may write a worksheet about being “angry that she is controlling me,” and when I’m done with it and the anger has lessened or disappeared, I may find that the sadness of her “not caring about me” is coming up more strongly now.

So I may go back for a second pass and write a whole new worksheet based on this second offense, “I am saddened by her because she doesn’t care about me.” It’s the same situation, but it’s a very different worksheet.

Like an archeologist, I can peel off the layers one by one until all aspects of my stress have been fully met with understanding. In this way, I don’t feel a rush to move on to another situation to write a worksheet, I can reach all the way to heaven just working this one.

Have a great week,
Todd

“We’re meditating on a moment in time, and allowing that moment to enlighten you.” Byron Katie, A Mind at Home with Itself

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