How to Avoid Gaslighting Yourself when Doing The Work

Gaslighting is an abusive communication technique in which someone causes you to question your own version of past events.

Self-Inquiry Is Helpful, Self-Abuse Is Not

It is the nature of life that anything can be used to help, or to harm. It all depends on how you use it. The Work of Byron Katie is no exception. 

When held gently, and with a spirit of genuine inquiry and respect for oneself, The Work can unravel stress very effectively. But when used as a weapon against oneself or against another, it can be harmful. 

It’s up to you how you hold it.

Questioning Is Powerful

When used in an abusive way, questioning can be a way of controlling. You control by doubting, or questioning, thereby debasing what was previously seen to be a fact. Then you are not bound by facts. When you use doubt as a manipulative tool it it is called gaslighting. 

Gaslighting is a psychological term for an abusive technique some people use to make the other person doubt their own memory of something. The person says “I told you,” when in reality they had not. And you start wondering if there is something wrong with your memory. 

Calling something “fake news” is an example of gaslighting. The purpose is to discredit or completely nullify something which is valid in order to accomplish some ulterior motive. It is a very controlling tactic.

The Work Uses Questioning in a Helpful Way

The same idea of questioning that is used abusively in gaslighting is used for healing and finding balance and freedom with The Work. The only requirement is that you hold The Work with that spirit.

Here’s how to avoid gaslighting yourself when doing The Work

1. Question Stressful Thoughts

The built-in way of avoiding gaslighting when doing The Work is to question your stressful thoughts. The stress-free thoughts don’t need to be questioned. When you stick to questioning your stressful thoughts, you are questioning your stressful versions of past events. 

Stressful versions of past events are wrapped in exaggeration, victim thinking, etc. These kinds of “memories” are good to question. They are often delusional, and questioning them brings in the light of reality again, freeing us from those victim stories. This is where questioning can be so freeing.

But if I question my genuine, non-stressed observations, I may start gaslighting myself. This is called spinning, and it can be disorienting. The key to stop spinning is to come back to reality. What are my direct observations? Where do I feel peace again? That is where I land.

Of course, I can question anything (stressful or not). And I can avoid spinning myself even when questioning non-stressful thoughts if I hold the inquiry lightly—just as an exploration of possibilities, not something absolute. I can explore anything as long as I keep my feet on the ground.

2. Remember You Are the Boss

At every point of doing The Work, I am the final judge. The Work is not something that has “power” over me. The Work does not tell me what to do. The Work only asks questions which get me to look at things from different angles. 

I may find some interesting ideas when doing The Work, but I am not bound by them. When doing The Work I am merely collecting options. It is then up to me to decide what I do with what I find. 

In other words, I don’t trick myself with The Work. Gaslighting is a kind of trickery or manipulation. The Work is not that, unless I use it that way. That would be a misunderstanding and misuse of The Work. 

The touchstone at every point of doing The Work is my own heart. Does what I find in The Work resonate with me? Does it make sense to me? Does it open my heart? Does it bring me peace? Only then do I take a finding from The Work and make it my own.

When I remember that I am the boss, I can never gaslight myself with The Work, I can only explore with it. It is wonderful to stretch. But it is terrible to be manipulated into stretching. Don’t ever forget that you have the final say in every bit of exploration you do with The Work.

And Don’t Use “Gaslighting” to Get Out of Doing The Work

The ego will look for any reason to not do The Work too. So notice your mind. Are you using the idea of “gaslighting yourself” to discredit the very insights you are finding in The Work? Ironically, then you would be gaslighting yourself!  

Want to Dive Deeper into The Work?

If you would like some guided practice doing The Work, Join our 9-week online course starting Sep 14 called The Work 101.

Have a great week
Todd

“Depression, pain, and fear are gifts that say, “Sweetheart, take a look at your thinking right now. You’re living in a story that isn’t true for you.” Living an untruth is always stressful.” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

Further Reading:  The Work Is Nothing But a Game of Warmer/Colder

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