Finding the Balance Between All and Nothing

photo of a horse... it's not helpful to have all-or-nothing thinking with a horse.
There are more than just two options with horses. It’s not just “Stay away from them completely” or “Let them gallop away out of control with you.”

All-or-Nothing Thinking Is Common for Me

I just finished a long worksheet on my mom from when I was 17. This was follow up work that I did after writing the article, “Surgery: An Exercise in Surrender.”

In that article, I described how I went 30 years without getting medical attention for a growth in my sinus and back of my throat. The reason was partly due to my thinking about my mother, who was a doctor.

I first noticed the growth when I was about 17. I remember looking in the mirror at it and wondering if I should do something about it. But I didn’t want my mom to make a big deal about it. And I didn’t want her to take charge and not let me have a say in how things went. So I chose not to say anything to her, or to any doctor, for 30 years.

I Saw Only Two Options

I could say something to my mother and give up completely to her (100% surrender of power), or I could say nothing to her and keep 100% control but lose any support from outside expertise.

I chose the latter, but it was not really a solution. The growth in my sinus didn’t get better on its own and I watched powerlessly as it grew and grew. This is the trap of all-or-nothing thinking.

But All-or-Nothing Thinking Can Be Questioned

And that’s what I recently did with this issue. I already had the surgery, so I had already surrendered to asking for help. But that was not enough. It was still all or nothing. I just went to the other extreme: let the doctor have full control.

But when I did The Work on the old situation of looking in the mirror at age 17, seeing the growth in my throat, and thinking, “I don’t want Mom to make a big deal about it,” I started to find the balance.

I found through my inquiry that it didn’t have to be all or nothing with my mom. The option I couldn’t see at the time was that I could tell my mom but then continue to engage as an adult with her asking questions, requesting that we move a little slower, and making sure that each step was okay for me.

I Thought I Had to Leave Myself Out of It

No wonder I didn’t want to tell her. I thought I would have no say once I told her. But that was my own mental conditioning. I didn’t realize that I could still be an active participant in the process. I didn’t have to give up 100% to her and let her just carry me off wherever she saw fit.

Instead, I could still exercise some degree of control—not 100% control like when I didn’t tell her at all. But it was not 100% out of my control either. This was the middle ground that I couldn’t see until I did my inquiry.

Each turnaround and each statement that I questioned kept pointing me in this direction of balance. And now, it has become more a part of my muscles. I see now that I can employ doctors to help me learn more about my options, but I don’t have to just do everything they say.

This Feels Like Balance

With this perspective, I don’t have to stay away from doctors completely. And I don’t have to do anything they ask me to do. There is a lot of freedom in this position.

And last week, I had a chance to put it into practice. I got bitten by a feral cat (yeah my fault petting it when it was hungry and cold). It was a pretty bad bite and I thought it could get infected and maybe I should have it checked out.

My old thinking immediately kicked in and said, “Don’t go to a doctor, you’ll be fine.” But after a day, I saw that it was getting pretty inflamed so I decided consciously to override my thinking and go to the emergency room.

But I Wasn’t Giving Up Completely

This time, I didn’t “surrender” 100% when I went to emergency. Instead, I saw this trip as a chance to get an expert opinion. I don’t know much about infections or cat bites, so I consulted (key word for me) the experts. And they gave me expert advice.

The doctor said that it wasn’t too bad, and he gave me a prescription for antibiotics in case I needed it, but he also said to wait another day to see if the inflammation would do down on its own.

After my work on my mom, I saw that my mom and all the doctors she would have taken me to, were all on my team. I didn’t have to surrender to them. I just had to listen to them and make my own decisions (even as a minor) based on everything they were telling me.

This Feels So Free

Now, I’m not afraid of doctors. Now, I see them as a resource for me, nothing more. They give me options. But I am the final decision maker.

For me, this is the balance point. And it gave me courage. While I was there, I asked about a spot on my skin, and the doctor told me it was actinic keratosis (a mild form of skin cancer that was easy to take care of). He suggested liquid nitrogen, I thought it was a good idea, and he took care of it in just a few minutes.

It’s great having a team of experts to help me. Now I don’t have to learn every detail of health myself in order to take care of myself. I’ve got support. But it doesn’t mean that I’m at the mercy of the doctors either. I still have a say.

This Perspective Came from Doing My Work

I spent a couple of months working through that Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet about my mom. And each layer of it revealed more and more clarity. By the end, action like I took with the cat bite and skin cancer was easy because what I learned by doing my work was alive inside of me.

If you’d like to start doing The Work on a regular basis with me, consider joining my online course, The Work 101 for Busy People, starting Feb 10 and going for 9-months. In this course, you will experience this process first-hand, and you’ll learn all of the nuances of how to hold yourself in inquiry effectively.

It’s going to be a small course, so it’s a great chance for lots of personal attention. Read more and sign up for The Work 101 for Busy People here. Registration closes Feb 7.

Have a great week,

“If you feel balance and joy, that tells you that your thinking is more in keeping with your true identity, which is beyond identity.” Byron Katie, A Mind at Home with Itself.

Further reading: Surgery: An Exercise in Surrender