Nope, this article isn’t promoting selfishness or self-absorption. Its purpose is to help you increase self-awareness in the most positive way.
I'd like to tell you about a client of mine—let’s call her Abby—whose work involves serving a particular group of people. Someone from that population—we'll call her Cruella—recently decided Abby was failing miserably in her work and angrily scheduled an appointment to tell her all about it. Got dread? Abby’s mind climbed onto the trepidation treadmill and, for several days running, would not get off.
There are so many things Abby and I talked about as this event unfolded, and so much wonderful work she did around all of it. In honor of brevity, I want to hone in on one aspect of the whole adventure: how it was all about her—and all for her.
It was astonishing to me how Abby took Cruella's bad opinion of her and, for a window of time, looked only through that to frame a vision of herself. Through this woman's eyes, Abby saw her professional self only in terms of what she was doing wrong, what she was failing to do, what she hadn't done enough of, what strengths she lacked, what she hadn't yet developed in her program—and on from there.
You may know that The Work of Byron Katie is the simple, powerful system of inquiry I use to help people question their limiting thoughts. Question 3 in this process serves to explore cause and effect; it allows you to look at the life you get when you believe the thought you're contemplating. The actual question is “How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?” and many subquestions can be used to tease this out from several angles. One subquestion for #3 is “What do you lose track of, what do you fail to notice when you believe this thought?” It's a good one.
When Abby took on Cruella's version of her performance—in a nutshell, “I'm doing a terrible job”—Abby couldn't see anything she was doing well. She couldn't see all she'd done all year that had had a powerful impact on the people she served. She couldn't see her good influence, her dedicated presence, her effective, creative development of a successful program.
Not yet realizing the extent to which her mind had run with this, I innocently asked, “Well, you've had a big success recently, right?” She looked at me blankly. She said, “You mean, . . .” and named a recent moment when she'd responded to something in her personal world in a nonhabitual way. I said, “Uh . . . the grant? The new program you're launching?” Her face gave a funny little twist then laughter broke out. “Oh,” she said lamely. “Um . . . forgot about that.”
We were both fascinated. As I probed deeper, I learned that Abby hadn't been talking to people about the grant she'd been awarded. No announcements, no celebration, no relishing the success. In fact, she'd adopted the warnings people above her had delivered about what the grant meant: all eyes were on her, everything better go just so—all kinds of ways to frame it to make it a burden instead of a joy.
In other words, Cruella wasn't the only one who was quick to miss what Abby did well.
When Abby and I first sat down to prepare for her meeting with Cruella, looking together at how she could actually receive what her accuser might say and what she might say back, Abby was completely focused on defending and trying to get Cruella to see things differently. Abby was making it all about the other.
It's never about the other. If it's happening to you, if the other is bringing up anything in you that feels dreadful and miserable or makes you launch a defense, then it's surely all about you, and it's all for you. I like to tell people to drop the other person out of the story and see the whole thing as happening between you and God—or you and you.
Why would God show up accusing Abby of doing a bad job? Because Abby doesn't know how to focus on what a good job she does. Abby is her own worst accuser—but she couldn't see this till it showed up with someone else's face on it. If it hurt when Cruella came around prodding Abby about what's not good enough, it's only because she was jabbing the bruise from Abby's self-inflicted harm.
Abby was so ready to face Cruella by the day of their meeting. I coached her in literal listening (Byron Katie's trick for deleting the tone and dropping interpretations—just taking someone's words at face value and answering them); seeing Cruella with compassion; getting curious and inviting Cruella to say more about anything she said; agreeing with any part of what Cruella said that could be true (and remembering later to look for how the opposite could be true as well—sure, I can find the program's weaknesses, and now I'm going to find all its strengths); remembering that Cruella has a right to her story but that doesn't make it true . . . we covered all this and then some, and Abby felt equipped to meet her accuser.
But more important, Abby had sat, by her Day of Reckoning, with what she needed to get square with herself. She took in the level to which she neglected savoring her own successes, appreciating her own hard work, valuing what she did and thus fueling the creative energy to be able to do more of it with joy and increasing effectiveness. She committed to tooting her own horn, to spreading the word about the grant she'd been awarded, and to enjoying the work as she stepped into the new program. She got that this event was between her and God, or her and her: a new way and new level of valuing her work was being required of her. Cruella was just a player in the scene to help her look at herself.
Want to know how the meeting went? I can't tell you. Cruella never showed up.
I seem to have the belief that no one in Northern states attends regular indoor workshops during the summer. Obviously, I can't know that's true. But the thought isn't stressful for me; it's simply guiding my programming--getting me outside more and infusing lots of play into my work.
I'm very joyfully looking ahead to a Maine retreat in July for the very specific population of single lesbians over 40. I'll get more inclusive in my fall offerings. JUNE IS RELEVANT HERE because the early-bird fees deadline is on the 11th. Make Way for New Love! All details on my breakuptobreakthrough website. Or download my flier and send it to your favorite 40+ lesbians--disseminate it far and wide! (Photo above courtesy of Nurture Through Nature eco-retreat center, site of this retreat)
I won't be running parenting workshops at Jillian's Drawers in Ithaca during July and August. There will still be two drop-in sessions in June for parents who wish to try inquiry. Read more about Four Questions to Peaceful Parenting.
I will be guest-leading Yael Saar's post-partum depression to joy workshops at Jillian's Drawers in July--while she travels to her native Israel.
I will be traveling to Michigan for the Michigan Wymyn's Festival in August to offer workshops there on The Work of Byron Katie and strategies to get clear of attachments to bygone lovers and to make way for new love.
Stay tuned for news of my fall weekend retreat at Light on the Hill in Van Etten, NY: "Releasing Victimhood, Establishing Trust: The Work of Byron Katie," October 28-30.
Free Exploration Sessions in their current evolution I'm now offering free 60-minute sessions to people curious about coaching if and only if they fulfill a simple assignment before scheduling it, or between scheduling and meeting. You can see what that entails right here. I'm completely in love with this aspect of my work and still enjoy--in fact, enjoy more and more--the precious opportunity to sit with another human being, possibly for one time only, and offer something that truly has the potential to change his or her life. Because there's a limit to how many I can offer, I'm setting it up so I'm showing up fully for those who are also truly showing up.
My New Love Affair with Facebook Whodda thought? I resisted, resisted, resisted and now that I've got a professional page on Facebook, I can't get enough. It's such a cool way to offer daily tidbits to anyone who wants inspiration, encouragement, and (potentially) timely reminders. I get my posts out of current content in sessions with clients or whatever I'm dealing with personally. Topics include coming back to presence (as opposed to merely getting present), clearing negative self-talk, meeting every face as the face of God, tuning in to magic and synchronicities, self-trust and more trust, and . . . the fun never ends. Come visit anytime! https://www.facebook.com/jayathetrustcoach