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10 Ways We Make The Work into Too Much Work

Posted Jun 02 2009 10:07am
Byron Katie is fond of saying, "I don't call it The Work for nothing," meaning The Work works best when we put in some effort to see things differently...and if we are willing to put aside what's comfortable in place of what's true.

This doesn't mean doing The Work is hard to do. If you're finding The Work to be too much work, you may be doing one or more things on this list.

1. Trying to work with complex, run-on sentences.
"Daniel should pay attention to me so that I can make him understand why I am so upset with him and what he can do to change." This sentence requires a meat cleaver! "Daniel should pay attention to me" is enough to work on all by itself. Other thoughts that can be worked on separately are "I need to make Daniel understand." "Daniel should understand why I'm upset with him." "I want Daniel to change." "I am upset with Daniel." "Daniel can change."

If you fill out your Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet in short, simple sentences, you'll find it's much easier to identify and work with your thoughts. A little editing in the beginning, a little less writing, can make for less work—and more meaningful Work—in the long run.

2. Writing a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet about yourself. Many people come to The Work saying, "I know I'm my own problem." Is it true that you know that? As Katie says, when you're new to The Work, it's better to point your judgments outwards. We've been beating ourselves up, judging ourselves, making ourselves wrong all of our lives. It hasn't changed us yet; it can, in fact be brutal. As you will see, some of the turnarounds on any worksheet will be "I" thoughts and you can sit with these later. Instead of "I should have more self-control," why not start with someone else about whom you have had the same thought? You'll see how you treat them, and in doing so, how you treat yourself when you believe that thought about yourself.

3. Spinning,
as in not taking your original belief all the way through inquiry in favor of switching to another. "Mary is needy. How do I react when I believe that thought? I avoid her, I don't want to be around her. I don't want to be around her, is that true?" You leave the inquiry when you switch beliefs this way; the original belief has not been fully understood. You lose your train of thought and you may find yourself back-tracking. That makes a simple process more complicated.

4. Spinning a turnaround.
This takes you into entirely different territory. "Mary is needy, turned around: Mary is not needy; I am needy." These are good turnarounds. "I am not needy" is a spin, not an opposite but an affirmation that has nothing to do with your original work. It may make you feel better, but it won't do the work of investigation for you and you may find yourself having no resolution.

5. Yeah-butting.
You leave inquiry when you stop answering the questions. "Yeah, but..." is a defense, an excuse, a block to learning the truth. It throws away any prior work you've done on the belief and you end up having to start over.

6. Changing your belief statement after a few minutes. "I need Daniel to change. Is it true? Yes. Can I absolutely know it's true? Yes. How do I react when I believe that thought? I get frustrated...I lean on him...I nag him...but you know, that's not really the issue, it's more like, I need Daniel to be more flexible...I want to work on that instead." Well, if you want him to be more flexible, it does mean you would like something to change. If you stick with your original statement, you may find what you were looking for when you began waffling. You can always go back to the other belief statement later, if you still believe it.

7. "Shoulding on yourself." "I should exercise" could be a covert way of trying to make yourself exercise, or excuse yourself from exercising. This work is about noticing how you live your life when you believe a thought that isn't true for you; it's not meant to be a motivator or to shame you into doing some or into stopping doing something. ("I shouldn't smoke.") So just notice your motives when you question "I should" thoughts. It may be easier to work on underlying beliefs here, such s "If I don't stop smoking, it means I'm weak" or "If I don't exercise, it means I'll die too young, and that means my children will be fatherless, and that means..." What is the core issue? The direct route would be to work on that one.

8. Using turnarounds as a medieval torture device.
"Mary is needy. Turnaround: I am needy - beat, beat, beat. Oh yes, I am, I'm a terrible person, no wonder no one wants me around! I have to stop being so needy!" Oh gosh, don't go there! Simply sit with "I am needy." Is it sometimes true? Have you ever been, needy, especially with Mary (needing her to stop being needy)? This is just an opportunity to notice, no shoulds, no judgments involved. The Work is about self-awareness...which is a gentle noticing and if indicated, a gentle correction. Most of all, with turnarounds like these, we see that we are not too different from the one we've been putting on the torture rack and we can let both them and ourselves off the hook. Whew!

9. Long explanations. Notice when you start using "because" when answering a question: "How do I react when I believe the thought, 'My partner lies'? I feel angry, because it reminds me of when I was a little girl, and my father used to lie about where he was, when we knew he was at the bar drinking anyway." Not only is this justification, it's story-telling, and it takes you out of inquiry. Then you get lost and you have to reel yourself back in. More work than needed.

10. Writing your worksheet in the past tense. It's not wrong or bad to write a worksheet in the past tense; however it can leave you feeling disconnected from the uncomfortable feeling that led you to write the worksheet in the first place. There will be less of a tendency to say, "Well, it was such a long time ago, I don't remember much about it," or "It's really irrelevant, it's over." Try writing in the present. Instead of "My father shouldn't have lied," write, "My father shouldn't lie." Even if the incident happened 40 years ago, writing your statements in the present puts you right back in the place where you first believed the thought. The experience will be more immediate and relevant to you and you won't have to dig so deeply to find your answers.


©2009 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

ADDENDUM: My friend Nicole writes, "Thinking you have to answer all the subquestions on the blue sheet [facilitation guide] each time you do inquiry (exhausting!)." Indeed. If you have any others, I'll post them here.
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