Category Archives for Identifying Stressful Thoughts

Seventh Annual Address Book Challenge

address book

Every year I challenge myself to make peace with someone.

Take a Look at Your Address Book

In it you will find the names of so many people in your life, as well as people who are no longer in your life. There are names of people that you’d like to spend more time with, and names of those who you’d rather forget.

This exercise is about using your address book to clean up your internal world.

The purpose is not to re-engage in dysfunctional relationships of the past but rather to free yourself of any stickiness left in you from those relationships.

Here’s How to Do It

Open up your address book and scan through the names. Pay close attention to your emotions as you scan. Your emotions are a very sensitive meter for old stickiness.

As you read through different names, you’ll feel that meter bouncing up and down inside of you. Looking at one name, you may feel joy and love, and be flooded with pleasant memories. Looking at another name, you may feel complete neutrality.

Looking at yet another, you may feel a little hint of anxiety, anger, sadness, or disgust as the images of your past interactions with this person show up in your mind.

Here’s the Challenge

When you come across a name in your address book that causes a stressful emotion to show up, slow down and look at the memories associated with that person. Look at the images of past interactions if they arise.

Follow the thread of stressful emotions to a situation where they began—some specific incident with this person. If there are many situations, pick any one that is clearer to you.

This is an opportunity to write a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet on the person from that old forgotten situation.

Healing is Needed Here

It’s as if you have been slowly bleeding from that wound all this time. It’s hardly noticeable, but this can be where your energy continues to get drained today. Here is a chance to go back and stop the bleeding.

My invitation is to write a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet on one person from your address book and to take your time to work through it slowly.

I like to write a worksheet one day, and then question one statement per day until I’ve questioned enough statements from my worksheet that I now feel peaceful instead of stressed when I think of this person or the incident.

This Is About Cleaning Up Your Heart

This is not necessarily about making amends, rekindling old friendships, etc., though that can sometimes happen. What it is really about is getting clean inside. It is about forgiveness and letting go and making peace. That’s all.

It’s your heart that you live with every day. Only you can create peace and order there.

If you want to do this exercise in a classroom setting, join us for The Work 101 starting January 13. (By the way, the Canadian dollar is low this week, so take advantage of the favorable exchange rate.)

Have a great week,
Todd

“I encourage you to write about someone whom you haven’t yet totally forgiven, someone you still resent. This is the most powerful place to begin. Even if you’ve forgiven that person 99 percent, you aren’t free until your forgiveness is complete. The 1 percent you haven’t forgiven that person is the very place where you’re stuck in all your other relationships (including your relationship with yourself).” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

The Gift of Receiving

the gift of receiving

Christmas is a time of giving, but it’s also a time of receiving.

Receiving Is Underrated

If you listen to the wisdom of others, you’ll often hear about the value of giving. How it brings joy to give, whether it be giving a gift to another person, giving money, giving time (volunteering), giving love, support, knowledge, even wisdom.

Giving is a huge turnaround for most of us because we are so often concerned about what we want to get. To give opens up the path of service. This helps to take us out of our selfishness which causes so much suffering.

But Even Turnarounds Have Turnarounds

It just depends how subtle you want to get. In addition to the huge value in giving, there is also a huge value in receiving.

Imagine you are giving someone something out of pure generosity on your part. But imagine that the other person can’t receive it. They deflect it in some way, or keep score in order to “pay you back,” or simply refuse your gift.

How does it feel when someone doesn’t receive your generosity? For me, it often feels like rejection, and brings sadness. It also makes me stay more distant from this person.

Now Imagine the Person Receives your Gift

How does it feel by comparison?

For me I feel my heart expand. I love them. I feel happy. I feel closer, more connected, and glad that I gave it. It’s like I received a huge gift in return.

This is the gift of receiving. It is a true gift. And one that can touch the giver deeply.

Many of us Resist Receiving

We have our reasons not to receive a gift fully:

It’s selfish to receive.
I don’t deserve it.
They’ll think I’m not generous.
I have to reciprocate.
I can’t afford to give back in equal measure.
It makes me dependent on them.
It means I can’t take care of myself.

And so we push it away in one way or another. As a result, we miss the gift that came to us unasked, and we deprive the giver of the gift of receiving.

But You Can’t Just Stop It

It’s not that easy. Not giving is an old habit. And not receiving is an equally old habit. Even understanding this doesn’t help much. There are powerful motives that keep us from giving and receiving.

Receiving is death to the ego. It is total humility. It is the end of “I am an independent person who can take care of myself.” To fully receive, a lot of stressful beliefs have to fall away.

And equally true, in order to give, other stressful beliefs have to fall away. Thoughts like, “I don’t want give” or “I give too much,” or “I need them to like it.”

That’s why I love using stressful situations related to giving and receiving as a starting place for doing The Work of Byron Katie.

Doing The Work on It

The Work is a way to slow down and look at all sides of things. This process gives me a way to re-experience anything from a broader perspective. And it shifts the way I see things not just intellectually, but emotionally.

All it takes to do The Work on this topic is to find a specific situation where someone gave you something and you deflected it somehow (this can be subtle, maybe it was just the thought that they expect something in return, or maybe it was a compliment you brushed away).

Find a specific moment when you could not fully receive and write a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet on the person who was giving to you, then question each statement you write. If you do this work, you may find that the resistance you had to receiving falls away. And what remains is humility, love, and connection.

And the same goes for any situation where you gave something and someone didn’t receive it. That’s a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet on the person who didn’t receive. Can you find a way to be peaceful on that side of the situation too?

Giving and receiving can be a wonderful place to do The Work whether you’re the giver or the receiver. In a way every interaction is about giving and receiving.

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

Merry Christmas,
Todd

“When a friend gives me a gift, the gift is in the receiving. In that, it’s over, and then I notice that I give the object away or keep it for a while.” 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 You Critical Of? This Is a Great Place to Start The Work

spray painted fruit stand sign

My mind can go to “These signs are really unprofessional.” This could be the start of an enlightening piece of work for me.

It’s the Mind’s Job to Criticize

That’s what the intellect does. It notices the differences. It compares. It comes to conclusions based on observation and logic.

This is as it should be. The intellect judges some things as good and others as bad. And to a large degree it keeps us out of trouble. But criticism also tells us a lot about ourselves. It tells us about the parts of ourselves that we are often still asleep to.

If you want to know yourself better, pay attention to your criticism.

Write it Down

Take out a blank piece of paper and write down all of your criticisms about somebody or something. Don’t worry about sticking to one situation, let your mind go wide and get down all of the picky things that they do wrong in your opinion. Include the character flaws too.

She is impetuous.
She is too hard on her children.
She doesn’t spend time with us.
She spreads herself too thin.
She’s is controlling.
She is a fanatic about her food.
She should not be eating fat free.
She is always stressed out.
She is a drama queen.

When you have a list, you can start questioning the statements directly, or you can dig deeper into your critical statements to reveal additional judgments and beliefs.

One way to dig deeper is to isolate specific instances. For example, when I was talking on the phone with her and she became harsh with her child and gave him a time out. Or when she decided not to come be with us after we went out of our way to make it easy for her.

The specific instances are representative of the larger, more general character flaws. When I write down my stressful thoughts about the particular instance, I often become even clearer about what I mean.

I Usually Use a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet for This

For example, I can write a worksheet on her when she said that she could only come “for a few hours” when we rented a place near her hoping she would spend the week with us.

Before I write my worksheet, I like to first identify the statement of fact. What did she actually do?

Statement of fact: She is not coming for the whole week.

Then I write my interpretations of the statement of fact. (I sometimes use the prompt, “And it means that…”)

She doesn’t want to be with us.
She doesn’t like us.
She is afraid we will spoil her children.
She doesn’t trust us.
She is influenced by her husband.

I Pick One Statement to Write in Line 1 of the Worksheet

I usually find that my interpretations are closer to what is actually causing my stress. I scan them, and choose one: “She is afraid we will spoil her children.” That’s a real criticism. And it bothers me. So I write it down on line 1 of my Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet, and continue writing lines 2-6 of the worksheet..

1. I am angry with her because she is afraid we will spoil her children.

2. I want her to smarten up!
I want her to trust us.
I want her to allow her children to be with us.

3. She should notice how much she is trying to control her children.
She should see that this is not healthy for her children.
She should understand that we are not a bad influence on them.
She should consider that children need other adult influences.
She should loosen the rules on vacation.
She admit that she is taking her job as a parent too seriously.
She should change her mind.
She should let them come for the whole week.

4. I need her to put herself in my shoes.
I need her to see that it hurts to be denied access to her children.
I need her to notice that she is punishing us too.
I need her to be vulnerable with us.
I need her to explain what’s going on for her.
I need her to see that we are trustworthy.
I need her to apologize for excluding us.

5. She is untrusting, controlling, distant, fearful, confused.

6. I don’t ever want her to deny us access to her children again.
I don’t ever want her to not join us again.

I Then Question the Statements I Wrote

I use the four questions and turnarounds to question as many statements as I like on this worksheet. For example, I can start with “She is afraid we will spoil her children.” Is that true? Can I absolutely know it’s true? How do I react, what happens, when I believe she’s afraid we will spoil her children? Who would I be without that thought?

Each question is a meditation. Each question brings up answers from within me. I often see things that I never saw before when I question my critical thoughts in this way.

And I see even more when I turn the thought around (and find examples of why each turnaround could be as true):

For example, “She is not afraid that we will spoil her children.” Maybe she just wants her children to herself – after all, her children don’t live with her except in the summer.

The Work Turns Criticism into Self-Reflection

When I’m critical, and I do The Work, I start to see my own mind. I get to see that I’ve got some assumptions going on too. This work brings sweet humility as I see my part in things. It also brings forgiveness and a much more open mind for what may be going on for others.

Join me any time for a private session if you want to do The Work with me.

Have a great week,
Todd

“I criticize what she eats—and I’m the one who could take a look at that in my own life.” Byron Katie, I Need Your Love, Is That True?

Why Bother about Differences between Wants, Shoulds, and Needs?

wine grapes

What’s the difference between a pinot grigio and a pinot noir? They’re both wine, right?

Be a Connoisseur of Stressful Thoughts

A connoisseur is one who enjoys something with discrimination and appreciation of the subtleties. You can be a connoisseur of anything: wine, art, jewelry, detective novels, tea, cinema, ice cream, honey, etc.

Why not be a connoisseur of stressful thoughts?

This may sound strange at first. But if you’re familiar with The Work of Byron Katie, you know that stressful thoughts are the entry points into freedom and peace.

A Stressful Thought Is a Doorway

When you identify a stressful thought and question it using the four questions and turnarounds of The Work, you open the door. And inside is often an amazing world that is both stranger than fiction and yet truer than truth.

Through the doorway of stressful thoughts, the mind can find what it’s really looking for: itself.

So Why Not Become a Connoisseur of these Doorways?

Of course, this is an art. Just as being a connoisseur of coffees is an art. The connoisseur never thinks, “All coffees are the same.” A connoisseur is fascinated with the subtle distinctions between one brew and another.

Each coffee offers something different to the connoisseur of coffee. And each stressful thought offers something different to the connoisseur of The Work.

Here Are Some Subtle Flavors to Look For

When writing a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet, there is a separate line for writing your “wants” and your “shoulds” and your “needs” in the same situation. At first, this may seem repetitive. But to the connoisseur, this the place to pause and savor the different aromas.

Wants – Line 2 of the Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet is where you list your wants. These stressful thoughts have the flavor of being driven by pure emotion. They have a strong body with a sharp nose.

Shoulds – Line 3 is a place to write advice for the person who offended you. This a very subtle flavor, easy to miss. These rarefied stressful thoughts are collected from a dew-kissed image of the offender seen nowhere else in the world but the mind of the victim. These projections of mixed understanding, when harvested with care, can provide deep insight and direction when turned around.

Needs – Line 4 is about looking for what you need to be happy again. These nectarine stressful thoughts hold the key to forgiveness and to unlocking the heart again. The mind believes that the other person holds the key. When you write these thoughts and question them, the spell is broken and the way to happiness opens.

Sure You Can Write the Same Thing on Each Line

Just as you can eat ice cream without noticing anything other than it is cold and sweet.

But if you have a connoisseur’s mind, you may enjoy reveling in the subtle distinctions between the wants, shoulds, and needs. I find that when I do pay attention these subtleties, my work is more satisfying to me, and I’m less likely to have to redo the work I’ve done before.

If you want to become a connoisseur of The Work, you are cordially invited to join us for a six-week online “stress-tasting” course called The Work 101.

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“If you catch yourself thinking, ‘I want_____,’ write it down… Otherwise… prompt yourself by focusing on exactly how you would improve the situation or person. What would make it perfect for you? Write in the form “I want_____.” Play God and create your perfection…

“Thoughts in the form of “So-and-so should or shouldn’t” [are next]. If you are unaware of any “shoulds,” think about what would restore to the situation your sense of justice and order. Write down all the “shoulds” that would make it “right.”

“‘I need’ [is] where you can bring the situation back in line with your sense of comfort and security. Write down your requirements for a happy life. Write down the adjustments that would make things be the way they are supposed to be…” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

Taming the All or Nothing Mind

horse

Even a wild horse can be tamed.

I am an All or Nothing Person

When I do something, I give it my all. If I can’t give it my all, I tend to stop it completely. This is all or nothing thinking. And it sometimes makes my life more stressful than it has to be.

For example, when we were moving and selling the stuff in our house in Jan, Feb, Mar, I was in “all” mode. I worked non-stop from the moment I woke up until the moment I went to bed. And I exhausted myself. I pushed harder than I really needed to push.

And when it was done, I crashed. I didn’t want to ever do anything again. I’m still coming out of that. It was a burn-out. When I’m in this mode, I resist finding the happy medium. Either I’m working without respite, or I’m never working again.

The Problem Is that Neither Is Satisfactory

I’ve been doing this my whole life.

Either I want to be “super successful” or I want to live in a cave. Either I want to have a perfect relationship, or I don’t want any relationships. Either I am enlightened, or I am 100% cynical. Either I fully identify with a group, or I want nothing to do with it.

There’s no in-between. No balance.

The Work Helps Me Find Balance

All or nothing thinking is often stressful for me. And I end up doing The Work on it from time to time. What I find is two opposing desires in all or nothing thinking:

I want to be successful.
I want to be rested.

I want to belong.
I want to be independent.

I want to be liked.
I want to be honest.

These Opposites Are at War in Me

So I sometimes question both sides. I question, “I want to be successful, is it true?” and I see if I can find a balance to that desire. And I question, “I want to be rested, is it true?” and I see if I can find a balance to that desire.

Each desire, one by one, can be questioned and balanced—just to take the urgency and the charge off of it. I may still pursue my desires, but after doing The Work on them, I often find that they become more gentle desires instead of burning desires.

And I often find, with a looser hold on my opposing desires, that there is often a way to fulfill both sides. That’s when the happy medium starts to open for me. I find ways to be successful enough and restful enough, belonging enough and independent enough, liked enough and honest enough.

Enough, for me is that balance point. It is a letting go of “getting all the way there.” It is the opposite of passion. Yet it is not dispassion either. It is somewhere in the middle.

Have a great week,
Todd

“Each thought had a question as its mate. This brought things back to their natural balance. Within that balance I was free.” Byron Katie, A Mind at Home with Itself

What’s Really Bothering You?

old sunflower

You never know what’s really going on until you ask.

Being Heard Is Important for Two Reasons

It’s important for the heart. And it’s a start to inquiry.

Most of my life I grew up believing that it’s bad to have anything going wrong in my life. It shouldn’t be talked about. It should be hidden. I should deal with it silently on my own.

That’s why I found it so freeing when I discovered The Work and found permission to share what’s really going on for me when it’s not pleasant. I learned that admitting my stressful thoughts was not the end of my reputation, but rather the beginning of self-acceptance.

I Especially Like to Do This With Another Person

There’s something about being heard by another if I can be truly honest with them that opens and frees me. I’m not even talking about doing The Work. This is what friends do for each other.

But there’s one drawback to sharing with a friend. If they are not completely impartial, they may end up taking “my side,” the side of my stressful thoughts, and reinforcing the stressful story. This is not actually helpful.

What is helpful is when a friend listens without trying to influence, advise, or reinforce the story. When that happens, something magical takes place: I start to see my story for what it is, a story. I start to see what’s really going on. I get to see my mind objectively as clearly as looking in a mirror.

I Can Also Do It Alone

It can be powerful writing my thoughts with the only motive being to see what they are. Or to write to an objective-minded friend (or some wise person I don’t know personally) even if I don’t plan to send the letter.

The effect is the same. I get to see what’s really going on in me. I start to see my thoughts more objectively.

This Is Not About Problem Solving

If either I or my friend wants to problem solve, there will be a bias. The stressful thoughts are not free to come out uncensored because the mind knows if it shares what’s really going on it’s going to have to change.

That’s why I like to write with no objective in my mind other than to see what’s really going on. I may never even work this stuff. And when I’m writing, or speaking, I don’t think about questioning anything. I just let myself be heard.

This Is Part One of The Work

I may stop there. And I don’t push myself to “turn it around.” But often I get excited when I start to see what’s really going on. I often do want to question what I’m thinking.

That’s when I start looking at what I wrote, or shared, and seeing if I can find some Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheets there, or some one-liners to question.

When I don’t push myself, I find that I get pulled into inquiry naturally.

Or not.

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“You can’t force this process; you can only inquire and find out what’s true.” Byron Katie, I Need Your Love, Is It True?

How to Identify “Cause” Thoughts vs. “Symptom” Thoughts

Bossy didn’t like me photographing her herd. My stressful thoughts included “I’m a coward (being stood down by a cow).” And “She is bossing me around.” The first is a “symptom” thought (self attack), the second is a “cause” thought (what she did to me).

Every Stressful Moment Has a Mixture of Thoughts

The first job when doing The Work of Byron Katie is to sort through all of those stressful thoughts to find the main ones to question.

One of the main distinctions I use when sorting my thoughts is the idea of “symptom” thoughts and “cause” thoughts. “Symptom” thoughts are secondary thoughts. They arise as a result of the “cause” thoughts.

Though I’ll question any thought (and I mean that), I generally find it more helpful when I question the “cause” thoughts rather than the “symptom” thoughts.

Here’s How I Tell the Difference

I find “cause” thoughts by asking myself questions like this, “What started the war? Who or what triggered me in the first place? Why am I bothered? Who is bothering me? What am I a victim of here?”

These questions help me identify who or what is offending me. I’m reacting to some perceived injustice. Who did it? That’s how I find the “cause” thoughts.

On the other hand, I recognize “symptom” thoughts by the fact that they are reactions. They look like my typical answers to question 3, “How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?”

Thoughts like these primarily include self-judgments (shifting blame to myself instead of staying with who I was originally blaming) or secondary attacks (attacking the person for unrelated reasons).

Symptom Thoughts Are Distracting

Symptoms are usually louder than causes. That’s where the pain is strongest. The mind gets distracted by this and goes into emergency mode dealing with all of the symptoms. But if often misses the cause as a result.

And on top of that, the mind often wants it that way. The mind doesn’t often want to look at the real causes because it might have to give up things if the truth came out. So it keeps the show going about what a bad person I am, or how I’m no good at this or that. It’s a smoke screen.

Or it keeps the focus on some separate issue blaming the other person for something where it knows they were wrong, instead of looking at the issue at hand which might not stand up so well to inquiry.

Which Ones Shall I Question?

I literally will question anything. And sometimes I will question the “symptom” thoughts just to pacify things a bit. After all, “I’m a coward” turns around nicely to “I’m not a coward.”

But the fact may be that I am a coward in that situation. The real work lies in identifying what makes me react in a cowardly way. I’m looking for causes. I this case, I react this way because “The cow is bigger than me.” That could be the new “cause” thought I could question.

It Takes Courage to Admit what the Cause Thought Is

It’s usually something very trivial, embarrassing to admit even, where I was weakly blaming someone else for my misfortune. If I can come to terms with this, and write it on paper, my work is more than half done.

This is why writing simple Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheets lies at the foundation of doing. The Work of Byron Katie. The worksheet almost forces me to look for the thing outside of me that I’m feeling victimized by. And that almost always points to the “cause” thought that started my stress reaction.

Usually everything else, especially the self-judgments, fall away once the cause thought has been questioned.

Have a great weekend,
Todd

“If you start by judging yourself, your answers come with a motive and with solutions that haven’t worked. Judging someone else, then inquiring and turning it around, is the direct path to understanding.” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

How to Find the Offense within the Offense

bas relief face with nose broken

The offense is, “They broke the nose.” The offense within the offense could be, “They hurt my pride.”

What Hurts Is the Emotional Interpretation

Actions are just actions. They become offenses only when they are interpreted as being personal in some way.

An offending action is offensive because it is somehow an affront to my ego. That’s what makes it personal. That’s what makes it stressful. And that’s why the emotion shows up.

The closer I can get to identifying what’s really bothering me, the more my work addresses that deeper, hidden offense that I am holding in a given situation.

The Work Starts with Identifying the Stressful Thought to Question

This usually consists of identifying a specific time and place when someone did something offensive to you. And you write down what they did:

He hung up on me.
She didn’t reply to my email.
She ignored my instruction.
He spent the money without consulting me.

This is a good way to start writing a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet. Finding a clear offense brings a lot of focus to a worksheet. Once you find the offense, you can simply write it on Line 1 of the worksheet, “I am hurt by him because he hung up on me.

But Here’s a Way to Get Closer to the Offense

Before writing the triggering action down on Line 1, consider for a moment why that action really bothers you. What is is about that action that hurt you, or angered you? You may want to use the prompt, “It bothers me because it means that s/he _________.”

This can lead to finding the offense within the offense.

Here’s an Example

He hung up on me.
It angers me because it means that he overpowered me.
OR
It hurts me because it means that he doesn’t love me.

As you can see, these are two very different interpretations of the same action. This is what makes it personal. What is stressful for me in this situation may not be the same as what is stressful for another person if they were in the same situation because their interpretation may be different.

What matters is how I interpret it in the moment that I was stressed. When I find it, then I’m doing The Work on the thing that’s actually bothering me. I’ve identified the heart of the matter.

And when I do The Work on the central point of my stress, chances are that I will address the issue completely, and my turnarounds will provide the needed balance for my stress.

Practice Looking for the Offense within the Offense

In my experience, it’s usually worth the effort.

But in case you don’t find anything, that’s okay too. I also frequently use the triggering action itself as the offense that I write in Line 1.

Have a great week,
Todd

“A powerful way of prompting yourself is to add “and it means that _____” to your original statement. Your suffering may be caused by a thought that interprets what happened, rather than the thought you wrote down. This additional phrase prompts you to reveal your interpretation of the fact. The answer to the prompt, for the purposes of inquiry, is always what you think your statement means.” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

The Sixth Annual Address Book Challenge

cows by the ocean

If you haven’t been to these pastures for a while, you’ll find some old friends waiting.

Address Books Contain a Wealth of Experience

Every year, I like to take a look at my address book and mine it for stressful situations for doing The Work.

The idea is very simple. Just pick up your physical address book, if you have one. Or open up your electronic address book on your computer, phone, or tablet. You can also use Facebook, or any other system you use for listing your contacts.

Start Scanning

Take your time as you read through the names one by one in your list. And start paying attention to your subtle emotions. As you see a name, do you notice any subtle discomfort?

Do you want to squirm away from that name on the list? Do you notice a slight feeling of anger or sadness coming up?

This is the clue that there are some unquestioned stressful thoughts hiding there.

Here’s the Challenge

Find a name that makes you feel uncomfortable, or stressful in any way, and instead of turning away from it, go into it. Sit for a minute and let the memories start flooding in.

Where is the stress coming from with this person?

Maybe they did something mean. Maybe it’s just one incident, or maybe there are many incidents that come to mind. If there are many, focus in on just one of them—the main one you have not forgiven them for—and write a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet on that particular incident that you remember. And then question each statement on the worksheet.

This Is Forgiveness Work

And for me, forgiveness doesn’t come until I’ve thoroughly questioned all of my stressful thoughts on the incident that I’m holding.

These old situations hiding in my address book are pieces of myself. There is no need to work them all. There are too many, in fact, for that. But I can take just one of these old situations and make peace with it.

Working just one thing deeply is a way of working them all.

Happy New Year!
Todd

“I encourage you to write about someone—parent, lover, enemy—whom you haven’t yet totally forgiven. This is the most powerful place to begin. Even if you’ve forgiven that person 99 percent, you aren’t free until your forgiveness is complete. The 1 percent you haven’t forgiven them is the very place where you’re stuck in all your other relationships (including the relationship with yourself).” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

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