Mental/Emotional Indigestion and How to Overcome It

churros

If I had eaten all of these churros and chocolate dipping sauce, I would probably have indigestion. Indigestion happens when I overwhelm my digestive capacity.

Mental/Emotional Indigestion

There is such a thing as mental or emotional indigestion. And it’s not much different than stomach indigestion. Any experience that cannot be processed by the system bogs it down. It can be food or it can be any experience.

For example, let’s say someone you love dies. Unless your system is able to process the experience completely, it can tie up your internal resources for years or decades. Even if you’re “over it,” there may still be a thread of sadness or depression or anger.

This is an undigested experience in the heart and mind. And as long as it’s sitting there in the system, there is less appetite for more experiences. The system overall is weakened.

It’s Not Just Negative Experiences

Positive experiences can overwhelm the mind and emotions too. I remember I had a year or more of very positive experiences in my twenties. I was going to bed very early, doing yoga and lots of meditation. I felt a kind of spiritual high a lot of the time.

That became an overwhelming experience for me in a positive sense. And I’ve spent many years yearning for that again. A positive experience can tie up my energy just as easily as any negative experience.

In both cases, positive or negative, we’re dealing with mental/emotional overload, which can lead to either aversion or attachment and tie up the mind for a long time.

Experiences Make Impressions

Non-charged experiences make very slight impressions. For example, I know I had lunch the other day but I don’t remember exactly what I ate. It didn’t leave much of an impression on my mind because I didn’t judge it as “very good” or “very bad.” It just was.

But I can remember in vivid color where I was when I got the call that my mom died. I judged that experience as “very important” and “not good” and it became immediately very charged.

Charged experiences occupy the mind fully and can keep it going around and around in circles for years unless you do something to improve your mental digestion. When digestion is weak, it is easily overwhelmed. When it is strong, it can handle almost anything.

How to Process Undigested Experiences

The Work of Byron Katie is a way to strengthen your mental/emotional digestion by dealing with the unprocessed stuff. You start with any stressful experience that’s running in your mind. The fact that it has a charge means that it is overwhelming the “digestive system” and is bogging down the energy.

The Work starts there by identifying the emotional charge and finding the thought associated with the charge. When the thought is questioned, and space is given to experience the effect of the thought, the mind often becomes willing to look at other interpretations of the experience. You can literally rewrite history—a more truthful history, and a more peaceful history—by questioning your thoughts in this way.

In this meditative practice, the energy caught up in a stressful thought is freed. As the mind starts to see things differently, the emotion relaxes, and the experience fades the same way my experience of lunch faded away. There is no undue importance given to it anymore, and the mind can let it go. It is neither “very good” nor “very bad,” it just is.

Trapped Energy Becomes Available Again

All the energy used to contain the undigested experience and to circle around it again and again, can now go back into the pool of energy available to process new experiences coming in.

In my experience, the mind becomes stronger and stronger with the ongoing practice of The Work. The more stories that that I question, the more energy I free up. And the less likely I am to get bogged down by new experiences.

The Work is literally a way of strengthening my “digestive system.”

The Work 101, my eight-week online course in The Work of Byron Katie, is a great way to go deeper with The Work.

Have a great week,
Todd

“People who do The Work find that when they question their stressful thoughts, the whole world changes for the better. They discover that everything happens for them, not to them. They begin to realize that they are 100 percent responsible for their own happiness. This is very good news, because we can’t change the world right now, but we can certainly change how we experience the world.” Byron Katie, A Mind At Home With Itself

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Turnaround Examples that Reinforce the Original Belief

fake turnaround example for a filthy sink

If I’m questioning the thought, “This sink is disgusting,” a turnaround would be “This sink is beautiful.” But I miss the heart of this turnaround if my example is, “Yeah, it’s beautiful for someone with no standards.”

Moving from Negative to Positive

Turnarounds are about moving away from negativity, closed-mindedness, blame, and suffering, and moving towards positivity, open mindedness, self-responsibility and peace.

The principle of The Work of Byron Katie is simple: if it hurts in this direction, try moving in the opposite direction.

But the Mind Is Attached

It doesn’t always want to look in the opposite direction. It’s afraid it will lose control, be wrong, be humiliated, etc. Until the mind gets first-hand experience of how much peace can be experienced from looking at the turnarounds, it may resist—by either saying no to The Work completely, or by doing The Work in a tricky way.

One trick of the mind is to find examples for the turnaround that reinforce the original belief. These “examples” are not really examples of how the turnaround could be true, but are examples of how the original statement is true.

This is how the mind goes through the motions of doing The Work, but is not really doing The Work.

Here’s an Example

Original statement: he insulted me.
Turnaround: I insulted him.
Fake turnaround example: Because he deserved it.

This example reinforces the original belief that he insulted me. I’m not giving up anything here. I still hold fast to the belief that he insulted me and I’m using the turnaround to justify why it’s okay for me to insult him (because he insulted me first).

This is still 100% war. No peace comes from this example because I’m not really putting my weapons down. Peace only comes when I find my part and surrender. When I see that I also insulted him, I naturally start to drop my attack and start to see us more as equal human beings. That’s when my heart relaxes.

Here’s another Example

Original statement: I want him to shut up.
Turnaround: I don’t want him to shut up.
Fake turnaround example: I don’t want him to shut up because I want everyone to see what a jerk he is.

Again, I’m not giving up anything here. I’m right and he’s wrong. I still want him to shut up, but now I’m trying to shame him into it. My heart is still closed.

To find examples that open my heart, I have to look for how it really is okay that he doesn’t shut up, how it’s good for me, or for him, or how it’s not the end of the world if he doesn’t shut up. As I start finding the good of it, my heart naturally softens.

You Can Always Tell if You’re Getting Closer

If your turnaround examples touch your heart or bring sweet humility and acceptance, then they are moving you out of suffering. If they bring more stress, arrogance, and anger, then they are not really taking you out of suffering but are reinforcing the same belief system.

All I have to do is pay attention to the emotions inside as I find my turnaround examples. Are they bringing me peace or reinforcing my experience of stress? If I pay attention to this, I can navigate from darkness towards light in any situation.

Join us for The Work 101, my eight-week online course in The Work of Byron Katie.

Have a great week,
Todd

“Humility is what happens when you’re caught and exposed to yourself, and you realize that you’re no one and you’ve been trying to be someone. You just die and die into the truth of that. You die into what you have done and who you have been, and it’s a very sweet thing; there’s no guilt or shame in it. You become totally vulnerable, like a little child. Defense and justification keep falling away, and you die into the brilliance of what is real.” Byron Katie, A Thousand Names for Joy

The Work Is Not an Intellectual Exercise

mechanical cogs

Intellectual means mechanical, detached from emotion.

Intellectual Is Dry

Have you ever had what I like to call “intellectual food”? You see this kind of stuff at health food stores. For example, health food store cookies taste like sawdust to me. Who wants to eat that crap? A lot of “healthy” food is actually just intellectual. I don’t buy it.

Or think of atonal music. I heard a guitar performance like this when I was in college. It was awful. No emotion at all. Just making noise in my opinion. Purely intellectual.

Sometimes People Think The Work Is Intellectual

The Work, of course, is as you see it. If you bring only your intellect to The Work, you’ll experience a very dry, intellectual process. But if you bring your raw emotion to it, you’ll be touched to the core by The Work.

At first The Work looks like just some intellectual jugglery. But it is not. The Work is an experience.

Here’s What It Looks Like

You start with a stressful emotion. This is the anchor point. This is what roots The Work in the heart, in direct experience. You’re dealing with something real when you bring a stressful emotion to The Work. It is deeply connected to you.

Then you identify the thought associated with the emotion. This moves up to the intellect, but remains connected to the emotion. A bridge between mind and heart is found.

Then you question the thought associated with the emotion. Because the emotion and the thought are intimately connected, when you move one, you move the other.

That’s How The Work Works

When doing The Work, you play with the thought. You transform your thinking, and because the thought is connected to the emotion, the emotion gets transformed too. That’s what keeps it real.

This is very different from doing a crossword puzzle or a Sudoku game, which use the intellect but are not connected to an emotion. These are just intellectual play.

The Work moves the emotions with each twist and turn of the intellect. That’s what makes it feel powerful to do The Work. That’s how it changes lives.

The Work Is an Experience

The Work is a way to re-experience any stressful situation first hand. When I do The Work, I am literally walking through a stressful situation and re-experiencing it anew. This changes my whole understanding of it. This gives me a whole new experience of it.

I am getting clear about what actually happened, as opposed to holding my previously limited story about it. As I see that there is more to it than what I thought, my emotions shift from stress towards peace.

But you Have to Walk Through It

It’s easy to say, “Yeah, I get it. I was confused there” without really re-experiencing it. Even though I “get it” intellectually, the images that my mind plays when I think of the stressful situation have not changed. And my emotions are generated from those images.

When I walk through the four questions of The Work and find turnarounds and examples, the images I had of that situation actually change. I don’t see it the same way now. I see it much more clearly. And my new images are not stressful.

So now, when I remember the scene, I am not stressed by it. This new experience doesn’t come from intellectually “getting it.” It comes from walking through it meditatively and re-experiencing the same scene with a new perspective.

This Is Why The Work Is Not Intellectual

Sure it uses the intellect. But what it is really doing is transforming direct experience, which is never dry or “intellectual.” I invite you to step out of the safety of your intellect and dive into the experience of doing The Work.

Walk yourself through this process on the experiential level. That’s when it can really touch you. And do yourself a favor, leave those health food store cookies on the shelf.

Here are some tips for how to do The Work with the heart.

Have a great week,
Todd

“To simply turn thoughts around keeps the process intellectual and is of little value. The invitation is to go beyond the intellect. The questions are like probes that dive into the mind, bringing deeper knowledge to the surface. Ask the questions first, and then wait. Once the answers have arisen, the superficial mind and the deeper mind meet, and the turnarounds feel like true discoveries.” Byron Katie, A Mind at Home with Itself

Radical Honesty vs. Complaining

radical honesty is like putting your clothes on the line

Radical honesty just means hanging out your clothes to dry.

The Purpose of Honesty Is Freedom

I like to favor being honest because it liberates me. As I become more willing to share what is really going on with me at any moment, I find there is less and less that I have to be afraid of or ashamed of. Making friends with the truth is freeing.

Being honest is humbling. It doesn’t matter if I’m being honest with myself or with others, it is exposing my uncensored self to the light that both humbles and frees me.

This Can Take Many Forms

For example, asking for what I want is a way of being radically honest. I say “radically” only because it sometimes feels so different from the usual way of hiding. It takes courage to do this when I believe that others will judge me for it.

Similarly, saying no is another form of this kind of honesty. Exposing my true opinion even if others may disapprove. Honesty is the opposite of hiding. That’s why it feels so freeing to engage in honesty.

But There’s a Fine Line Between Radical Honesty and Negativity

For some reason, people assume that if you’re being negative, or saying what others don’t want to hear, you’re being radically honest. But that’s not necessarily true.

Being negative, complaining, being hurtful or manipulative sometimes masquerades as radical honesty. But the difference is easy to see when I look inside myself.

Being honest feels like peace, a relief. I am revealing my vulnerable side to the light of day. Being negative feels stressful because I still want the world to change and I want to hide myself.

This Comes up in Feedback

When I give feedback to someone, if I am truly being honest, I am sharing my heart with them. But if I’m using feedback to complain, I don’t feel the connection heart to heart. I’m simply reacting, and calling it honesty.

Of course it is honest to share, even if I am reacting. But I can be much more honest in giving feedback if I can find the vulnerable part inside of me that is trying to hide. If I share that part, I join the the other person. I’m no longer attacking them with feedback (in the guise of being honest).

I’m now an equal, sharing my raw heart with another person. There is no violence in that. Only humility, love, and peace.

How to Transform Complaining into Heartfelt Honesty

One of my favorite things to do when I notice that I want to give someone feedback, is to write down my feedback and question it using the four questions and turnarounds of The Work of Byron Katie.

When I do this, I find my humility. I see my negativity. I own my own reactions and hidden motives. And the charge goes away as I do this.

I love to do this before I ever share my feedback so that when I do it comes from a true place of humility, which is the only place I can join another human being.

But even if I give feedback without questioning it first, it is also rich to question it after the fact. Questioning always leads me to a balance of radical honesty and humility, which is the end of even the faintest hint of violence.

Join us in January for The Work 101, my eight-week online course in The Work of Byron Katie. Or attend one of the many events offered by other facilitators of The Work.

Have a great week,
Todd

“When you’re honest about your yeses and noes, it’s easy to live a kind life. People come and go in my life when I tell the truth, and they would come and go if I didn’t tell the truth. I have nothing to gain one way, and everything to gain the other way. I don’t leave myself guessing or guilty.” Byron Katie, A Mind at Home with Itself

He or She Is Toxic, Is It True?

dead leaves in water

If I think this water is toxic, I am repulsed and run away.

I Love the Propaganda of the Mind

When the mind is triggered, it doesn’t think in calm, rational thoughts. It uses dramatic, inflammatory words and pictures to drive home the idea that this is life or death, and to provoke immediate action.

This is good for survival. All animals have it. It has kept us alive for millennia. But it is often misused by the mind. And questioning it can help bring the mind back to a more rational place.

Have You Ever Thought “He or She is Toxic”?

This is such a great word. It immediately connotes images of radioactive waste or bio-hazard signs. And the gut reaction is to get the hell out of there.

Now look what happens when the mind uses this word, toxic, to label a friend, family member, or coworker. Maybe you read about toxic relationships somewhere, or someone suggests that someone close to you is toxic. Immediately, the instinct kicks in, “I’ve gotta get out of here.” Or, “I’ve got to destroy them.”

In that state of mind, the person whom you’re close to is no longer a person. They’ve been labeled. They are now toxic waste to be gotten rid of as soon as possible.

The trouble is that if you look closely enough, everyone is “toxic” in some way or another. And if you keep seeing things this way you can end up being very alone and afraid. You may even start seeing yourself as “toxic” and try to run away from yourself.

It’s Time to Question What You Think

You can literally question, “She is toxic,” or “He is toxic,” even “I am toxic.” I use the four questions and turnarounds of The Work of Byron Katie.

I did this recently with a client. She found that when she believed that her boyfriend was toxic, she immediately pulled away from him. She wanted out of the relationship. She was frozen in fear. And angry at him. She had no patience for him at all. And she had a feeling like a dark energy was contaminating her interior.

When she imagined what it would be like to be in the same situation with him but without the thought that he is being toxic, she was much more neutral. She saw that he was having a hard time. Yes, he was being irrational, but it wasn’t actually dangerous or contagious.

She Saw He Was Not Actually Being Toxic

Toxic was just one way of labeling it (a convenient way of labeling it that fit with other motives running). It was the mind’s spin. The same experience could be seen in a different way: that he was caught in a trap in his mind and couldn’t set himself free.

It’s like he was a fly caught in a spider web of his own thinking. Every buzz of the fly, every complaint, was labeled as him being toxic. But in reality every buzz was just a symptom of his own struggle.

Seeing it this way led to a feeling of compassion instead of fear and disgust.

And It Left Her Open to Be Supportive

It reminded her of how doctors and nurses work around all kinds of dangerous, even contagious, diseases and rarely get sick. They are there to serve, to care for the patient, not to run away in an act of self-preservation.

This turn from self-protection to service changes the whole dynamic. Even if she is unable to untangle the fly from the web, she is available for the fly who is caught.

In this mode, there is no dark energy inside of her. There is only light, her own light that she shares generously. The darkness was only the darkness of her own closed and fearful heart. As soon as it opened again, there was nothing but sunshine inside.

If you want to dive deeply into doing The Work of Byron Katie with me, I invite you to join us in January for The Work 101, my eight-week online course in The Work of Byron Katie.

Have a great week,
Todd

“How do I help people who think that the rope is a snake? I can’t. They have to realize it for themselves. They could take my word for it, because they want it to be true. But until they see it for themselves, they would always in their hearts believe that the rope is a poisonous snake and that they are in mortal danger. Well, thoughts are like that, and inquiry is about the snakes in the mind—the thoughts that keep us from love and from the awareness of being loved. I can see that every loveless, stressful thought in the mind is a rope. Inquiry is meant to help you discover for yourself that all the snakes in your mind are really and truly just ropes.” Byron Katie, I Need Your Love, Is It True?

A Conversation with Grace Bell

cherry leaves

Podcast Recording

Grace Bell and I share the same enthusiasm for The Work. Grace is a certified facilitator, and has been writing a blog about The Work for as long, or longer, than I have. And she has a podcast.

Grace and I got to know each other when we offered a retreat together at Breitenbush Hot Springs last June. When she suggested that we record a podcast episode together, I was happy to join her. I thought you might enjoy it too.

Listen to the recording here, or subscribe to her podcast on iTunes.

And check out what Grace offers on her website, including an online course called, Eating Peace, using The Work as a way to question the thoughts around eating disorders—an issue that she has recovered from herself with the help of The Work.

Have a great week,
Todd

“Every belief is about being careful; it’s about keeping the body alive. I’m not careful. I don’t live that way. I look forward to whatever comes.” Byron Katie, Question Your Thinking, Change The World

The Mind Tries to Avoid Coming Out of Denial

peacock coming out of denial

If this peacock does The Work, it’s probably going to find that it really is quite cocky. It’s not just that the other peacocks are off. He’s as prideful as the lot of them.

The Work Doesn’t Lie

So if you want to stay safe, don’t do The Work of Byron Katie. But if staying safe isn’t working for you, I invite you to question what you believe. Just be prepared.

This work is not for the faint of heart. It is as gentle as gentle can be. That’s why I love The Work. I don’t know of a gentler way to see the hard truths about myself. But in the end, I’m still looking square at myself in the mirror. And mirrors don’t lie.

The Mind Will Try to Avoid This

And it has many tactics to keep the truth at bay: it may simply deny it, it may go into a renewed attack on the other person, it may tell a distracting story, it may stop doing The Work and go get something to eat, check Facebook, etc.

When faced with the truth, the mind can get very uncomfortable. It may cause the body to shake, or nausea to happen.

Another big way that the mind tries to avoid the truth is to attack itself. It cleverly steps out of itself, becomes a traitor to itself, and joins the “other side” in attacking itself (all to stay “safe.”)

This Happened with a Client Recently

While questioning what she wrote on her Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet, she saw how demanding she was. She saw it in the situation she was looking at, and as a trend throughout her life. It was a clear view in the mirror.

It shook her. She felt nauseated. And immediately the mind began to wriggle its way out of this uncomfortable feeling. She began to attack herself. It’s funny how the mind often chooses self-attack over standing in the truth.

She spoke out her self-attack and defensive thoughts:

I’ve humiliated myself.
I’m so stupid.
I’m making problems.
I’ve been so arrogant.
Everyone hates me.
I made too big of a mess to be cleaned up.
Nobody cares.
They just want to see me gone.
It hurts.
I can’t bear this.
I wasted so much time.
I hurt everybody.
I can’t admit to that.
I’ll get obliterated.

These thoughts could all be questioned. They are the distractions the mind puts up when it doesn’t want to fully sit in the truth, in this case, “I am demanding.” Just knowing that these are the mind’s distractions helps a lot. Questioning them can also help.

The Mind Is Coming Out of Denial

I remember when I fully believed I was a nice guy. Now I know it’s not true. But coming out of denial was scary at first. And my mind did everything to avoid it. But when I could see and fully own the fact that I can be mean, I was free.

Free because I no longer had to pretend.

I didn’t have to keep up appearances of being a nice guy, and covering up when I wasn’t so nice. I didn’t have to cover up by blaming others when I was really at fault. That is the value of standing in the truth. It sets you free.

But you have to really stand in it. A quick peek at the truth is helpful, but there’s no substitute for fully coming out of denial and owning it. That’s what The Work points to over and over in the gentlest of ways.

There’s No Way Around It

The truth must be owned if freedom is to be gained. It takes courage. But it also takes awareness of how the mind tries to dodge the truth.

When you’re aware of what the mind is doing, you can be gentle with it, yet not be fooled by it. Maybe you question the self-attack thoughts. Or maybe you see through them the way you can see through the manipulations and tantrums of a child, and gently guide it back.

If peace is what you want, coming out of denial is medicine.

Join us for my eight-week online course, The Work 101, starting in January. We’ll be uncovering a lot of beautiful, scary, freeing truths as we do The Work together.

Have a great week,
Todd

“The Buddha says that even one glimpse of the truth is worthy of our deepest respect. The basic realization that other people can’t possibly be your problem, that it’s your thoughts about them that are the problem— this realization is huge. This one insight will shake your whole world, from top to bottom. And then, when you question your specific thoughts about mother, father, sister, brother, husband, wife, boss, colleague, child, you watch your identity unravel. Losing the “you” that you thought you were isn’t a scary thing. It’s thrilling. It’s fascinating. Who are you really, behind all the façades?” Byron Katie, A Mind at Home with Itself

The Source of “Too Much to Do”

apple bins

If I told you to peel all these apples, would it be too much to do?

“Too Much To Do” Is a Concept

It’s a stressful thought I sometimes have as I try to balance all the different things I want to do. But each time I question this thought, I find that there really is not too much to do. And that I’m the one who gets to decide what I’ll do next.

The Source of “Too Much to Do” for Me Is Not Saying No

This seems obvious, but to really see it changes everything. If I say yes to everything, I will quickly have too much to do.

But I really want to do all these things. That is the driver.

This thought can be questioned. I want to do this, is it true? I want to do that, is it true? When I question my wants, I often find that I don’t really want to do some things. And that I’ll be okay if I don’t do other things. This starts to form a natural sense of priorities.

But I have to do some things.

These “have to” thoughts can also be questioned. It’s scary to question everything, but without questioning, I become a slave to both my “have to” list and my “want” list. I stop asking myself what I really want, and my life feels overcrowded and burdensome.

Formal Inquiry Is Helpful

I like to put my to do list on the chopping block sometimes. I question that “I have to” or “I want to” do each item. I’m not trying to be brutal (I find that I like being busy). This is only for the purpose of being more realistic in the limited time I have.

It can be an amazing experience to question my to do list (both today’s list and my long-term future lists).

This Inquiry Becomes Automatic with Practice

I find myself changing the order of my to do list every day as I go through my day. I give myself permission to not do some things on my list, and to be willing to take the consequences of that (people not liking it).

I do this for my own sanity because it’s not possible to do everything anyway, let alone do everything well. So I pick my projects and leave the rest.

And as I keep rearranging my priorities and cutting what I don’t really want or need to do, I get better at saying no to new requests. I find myself looking at my limited time realistically more often now and asking myself, “Do I really want to give up this task in order to take on this new one?”

I no longer believe that “I can do it all.” So I make some decisions and live with them. It feels much better than the juggling act I’ve always tried to do.

Learn how to question anything. Join us for The Work 101 online course.

Have a great week,
Todd

“There’s never a task too great or too small, because the only task to accomplish is the one in front of me. It might appear that there are a thousand things to do, but in fact there is never more than one.” Byron Katie, A Thousand Names for Joy

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

What Are your Requirements for Letting Go?

Oregon Coast

Letting go is not always easy.

We Have Our Requirements

And these requirements are what keep us from moving on, forgiving, letting go, and finding peace again. Until these requirements are met, we are stuck, fighting with the way things are.

The Work of Byron Katie is a form of self-inquiry that helps us identify these requirements and to question them. When I do this, I often find alternatives that make my requirements irrelevant.

When my requirements fall away, I can’t help moving on, forgiving, and letting go.

To Do The Work, You Have to First Find Your Requirements

This can be done free-form by writing them in a list, or by using the Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet.

The Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet is a great way to get really close to a particular stressful moment and to collect all of the requirements you may be holding that keep you feeling stuck.

Here’s How It Works

In Line 1 of the worksheet, you write the perceived offense that the other person did to you. This sets the stage for the rest of the worksheet.

In Line 2, you write how you want them to change. This is a major requirement. The mind thinks, “I’ll be happier if they change.” So write down all of those thoughts about how you want them to change.

But it’s not enough to want someone to change. It’s hopeless actually, unless I can figure out how to get them to change. That’s what Line 3 is about: how to advise them so that they really do change and move in the direction you want.

But Even this Is Not Enough

Even if they did change, and followed your advice, and started doing it the way you want, there is still a requirement that has not yet been met. And it is needed in order to fully let go and move on. This is why there is another line on the Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet.

Line 4 addresses the wound that the other person caused. I need them to fully own what they did to me, to share what was going on for them as a human being, and to make amends.

This is the missing piece, the final requirement that I need, to fully forgive them. Until this requirement is met, I’m still holding on—even if they do change otherwise.

Of Course, All of this Can Now Be Questioned

That’s the beauty of The Work of Byron Katie. When you have systematically identified all of the requirements you need in a situation, your work is well begun, but it’s only half done. Now, you can question each requirement you wrote on the worksheet using the four questions and turnarounds of The Work.

What I find when I do this is that the requirements I had for the other person are really just requirements for me. My advice to them becomes the perfect advice for me. And what I need them to do so I can forgive them becomes what I need to do so I can forgive myself and them.

The Work takes the dependence I have on them away. I no longer need them to change. I no longer need them to meet my requirements. I simply take my own advice, and meet myself the way I wanted them to meet me. My requirements get filled by me instead of them.

This Can Be Powerful Work

I’ve witnessed deep-rooted beliefs fall away. I’ve watched feuds evaporate. I’ve experienced relationships change. And just from filling in this simple worksheet and questioning the requirements that show up on it.

If you want to get deep practice working in this way, I invite you to join us for The Work 101, my eight-week online course in The Work of Byron Katie.

Have a great week,
Todd

“You don’t need to let go or understand or forgive. Forgiveness is realizing that what you thought happened didn’t. You realize that there was never anything to forgive, and that’s what The Work makes evident. It has all just been a misunderstanding within you. When you can see that, someone else has to say, “Oh, you’re so forgiving,” because you wouldn’t have a clue yourself. That’s true forgiveness.” Byron Katie, A Thousand Names for Joy

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