Day 12 of Byron Katie’s inquiry: turning it around to the other

Today I turn my judgment “My father didn’t care about me” around to the other. This is the second turnaround, following the four questions of Byron Katie’s inquiry process called The Work.

This statement, turned around to the other, reads like this:

I didn’t care about my father.

Whew. Boy, that takes me out of “being the victim,” doesn’t it?

I need to think of three ways that I didn’t care about my father.

  1. I’ve already mentioned this, but I did not tell him that I wanted more positive attention from him. I did not give him a chance to step up to the plate, successfully or not. I did not tell him what I needed and wanted, and so he never had a chance to even try to meet my needs for fatherly affection and attention. I missed out, and so did he. That’s a big loss.
  2. When my dad was sitting on the sofa disconnected from everyone around him, I not once asked him what was going on. I didn’t ask him what he was feeling, or what he was thinking. I didn’t ask him if he was depressed or sulking, which is what it looked like to me. I didn’t engage with him at all. Actually, now that I think about it, maybe that was the only way he could get some solitude in our crowded household. Now I’m wondering if maybe he was an introvert like me, someone who needed some daily solitude to recharge his batteries. I just remember feeling disappointed when I saw him doing that and avoiding interacting with him. I wonder what his internal experience actually was. Whoa. I just had a thought. Maybe he needed attention and didn’t know how to ask for it. Wow.
  3. Even though I was the child and my dad was the parent, parents don’t always know what their children need. I’ve experienced this as a parent myself. I didn’t understand that since my father’s own father had died when my daddy was just a little boy of 9, he had no fatherly role model for parenting teenagers. He didn’t know what to do. I can view my dad’s human life in a much more compassionate way now than I could as a teenager. In that way, I didn’t care about him back then.
  4. Okay, I’m adding a fourth reason. I didn’t care about my father all the time because I had my own life to live. No one can care about someone all the time. It’s physically impossible. They have to sleep, eat, drive, decide what to wear, work out, take classes, hang out with others, go to the bathroom. Their attention simply cannot be on caring or on another person all the time. In fact, if it was, think of how impaired they would be, doing nothing but caring about someone! This idea that someone should always care about another is actually like a prison. I could not have cared about my father all the time, and he could not have cared about me all the time, and lived any kind of good life.

I so wish he was here right now so we could talk about these matters and heal. I’m just going to assume that my healing is his healing, even though he’s on the other side. How could it not be, when the ties that bind us are what exist now?

Wow, this Byron Katie Work has a way of really workin’! My interpretation of a situation has just been busted wide open, and all kinds of new possibilities — a new openness and mystery — are at play.

It reminds me of how much I don’t know, and of that little part that likes to know, that believes that knowing will somehow make me feel more secure.

And you know, that’s cool, as long as I remember that my knowing is really just a hypothesis, a temporary truth in the void that allows me to get on with my life (like believing the sun will rise tomorrow), that it’s nothing to write in stone.

Next: the last turnaround, to the opposite.

Day 10 of Byron Katie’s inquiry process: turn it around to myself

I’ve asked the four questions about my judgment “my father didn’t care about me”.

I continue the inquiry process about this painful thought, which I’ve already established isn’t true, by turning it around. There are three turnarounds in The Work. The first one asks me to turn the statement around to myself.

“My father didn’t care about me” gets turned around like this:

I didn’t care about me.

How did I not care about myself?

Katie asks for at least three instances of each turnaround, but even more important is that the turnarounds penetrate and set you free.

  1. I did not ask my father for more attention. How could he have known I wanted it if I didn’t say so? I didn’t care about myself enough to make this request. I didn’t even give him a chance to respond (or not).
  2. I kept my feelings completely to myself. I did not tell anyone that I was unhappy about my relationship with my father. I was clueless about what I could have done about it, and I assumed others would be clueless too. That might not have been the case. This is a new realization.
  3. Because my father didn’t care about me and I was therefore unworthy, this low self-esteem spilled over into other areas of my life. I can see that now with hindsight. I was rather troubled back then and did not pursue living up to my full potential. I did not believe in myself or my abilities back then. This realization is also a new insight.

It takes self-respect to ask for attention, to tell someone when feeling troubled, and to deal with a problem before it grows.

Next: turning it around to the other.

Day 9 of The Work: Who would you be without the thought?

The fourth question to ask when you are doing inquiry (i.e., “The Work” of Byron Katie) about a situation that is emotionally painful is this:

Who would I be without the thought?

Applying this question to my statement that my father didn’t care about me is astonishing.

Without the thought, I am free of these painful feelings. When the thought leaves, the feelings leave.

What’s left is an empty openness. I feel it in my chest. There’s a freedom there that wasn’t there before. It’s as if that thought never existed.

Who would I be? Well, I experience myself as more expansive, more open, lighter.

“Who I am” is my identity, composed of my thoughts, emotions, sensations, and emptiness or spaciousness. Who I am is pretty much how I experience myself in each moment. (Everything else is about me, not me.)

What are you experiencing this very moment as you read this?

It’s so easy to think that who I am is my story: “the woman whose father didn’t care about her” or “the woman whose father had Asperger’s” and so many more stories I’ve bought into and perpetuated about myself. Whenever I think a thought that’s accompanied by emotional pain, I can do inquiry, starting with question #1.

Who I am is not my story.

My father is also not who I formerly believed him to be. When I think of him without this thought, a series of images comes into my mind. Without my story and its emotional baggage, they are neutral snapshots: my father sitting on the sofa, my father at the dinner table, my father driving, my father standing outside his office building waiting for his ride home, my father kissing my mother.

These are much kinder images than those of a father who didn’t care about his daughter.

Man, where did that thought ever even come from? Never mind. Who cares? I’m just glad to have busted this painful, limiting story.

To recap, I’ve already asked:

  1. Is is true? (if no, skip to #3)
  2. Can I absolutely know it’s true?
  3. What happens when I believe the thought?

“Who would you be without the thought” can also be asked “What would you be without the thought?” And whatever your answer is, you can ask again, “What would you be without that thought?”

See where that takes you! (It takes me into a vast experience of empty presence where anything can happen.)

Next: the first turnaround.