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,
“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?