Echinacea helps enhance physical immunity. Inquiry helps enhance emotional immunity.
In our modern world, we humans spend a lot of time, energy, and money trying to immunize ourselves from things that can do harm to our bodies. Granted, prevention is far better than treatment after a health problem has begun, but our focus on the physical side of life is unfortunately one-sided.
If we spent as much time, energy, and money working on immunizing ourselves from the causes of emotional problems as we do for physical problems, we would be happier, more creative, and more loving.
It’s understandable that we don’t focus on emotions for several reasons:
The Work of Byron Katie (4 questions and turnarounds) is a way to work with emotions by working with the thoughts connected to them. When you question a stressful thought connected to an emotion, you open up new ways of seeing a situation. And lying in those options is often a stress-free way of seeing it.
This works in retrospect on any stressful situation from the past whether it was 30 minutes ago or 30 years ago. Once I experience something stressful, I often hold that stress until I can resolve it. Doing The Work can bring resolution to past experiences.
But that’s not the only purpose of The Work. Once a stressful experience is resolved by doing The Work, something changes for the future too. The next time a similar situation comes up, the insights gained from doing The Work may be seen in the new situation, thereby allowing the mind and emotions to avoid falling into the same trap.
This is what I mean by emotional immunity and it is one of my favorite outcomes of doing The Work.
I used to be really triggered by other people’s anger, especially if it was directed at me. Growing up, my family did not express anger directly and I had little, if any, experience with it.
As an adult, I did my best to avoid angry people, and I avoided making others angry at me at all costs. But, despite my efforts, I have been exposed many times to sharp, critical anger.
At first, this would send me into a tailspin for days. I felt justified in believing that others should deliver criticism or frustration in kind, gentle ways. This kind of inability to cope with other people’s anger led me to The Work.
Life would have probably led me to the same place eventually without doing The Work, but I think it would have been much slower. Instead, I have done The Work whenever the chance has come up in facing anger and criticism from others.
The result is a kind of familiarity with this kind of situation. I sometimes say now that experiencing someone’s anger is like watching a thunderstorm from a place safe inside my home. Anger becomes more about the other person, than about me. And their criticism becomes a helpful outside opinion. But it’s up to me to decide whether I will use that opinion or not.
Anger hurt me mainly because I believed I was automatically wrong when someone expressed it toward me. Now, I see it differently. There is more space to look and see.
Either it triggers me, or it doesn’t.
If it triggers me, I know that I’m still not immune to it. And I do another round of The Work to find my way.
But if it doesn’t trigger me, which happens a lot now, I can enjoy the freedom of this newfound immunity.
If you think The Work is only about treatment, you will probably think that there’s no need to do The Work on a situation that has been resolved. For example, someone got angry at you but then apologized and made up sincerely.
If this happens, the stress will probably go away. And without stress, is there a need to do The Work? From the “treatment” point of view, no. But from the “prevention” point of view, absolutely.
If I got triggered, even if the trigger was later resolved externally, it means that there is something in me that was trigger-able. That’s what I’m interested in from a prevention point of view. If I do nothing, that trigger-able part inside me is still there, just waiting for the next situation to trigger it.
To do The Work on a stressful situation that was resolved is simple. Just go back to the situation when it first occurred before the resolution happened. Then, do The Work from there. Forget about the fact that it got resolved later. Hold the moment when it got activated.
Ask the four questions and find the turnaround examples while holding the trigger moment itself. See if you can resolve it yourself in the trigger moment before life had a chance to resolve it externally. If you can do this, your immunity to future trigger moments will be greatly enhanced.
Further Reading: Why I Keep Doing The Work After The Charge Is Gone