Can The Work be used to resolve distress over judgments about one's self?
I'm not sure if any experienced practitioners of The Work are still around, but I'll post my comments and questions about this process in hope for a connection with those who have explored this method with success and/or struggle
I've read many, but not all of the posts on this thread. I began reading the posts from April 2007 and fully digested the discussions through mid-August 2007, so I'm fully halfway through the over 750 posts. I've studied many of Katie's videos on youTube, read articles about her, visited her website, and become familiar with the main elements of the process of The Work. I've also read and engaged with the material from Naomi Aldort's book Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves, which is in part directly related to using The Work to analyze our reactions in parenting conflicts with our children.
The thoughts/reactions in my life that are most distressing to me have to do with myself. xochimama mentioned the original emphasis of Byron Katie's process is to focus outward, and that is fully supported by Katie's statements in the Little Book, an excerpt from Loving What Is, which Katie provides for free on her website as an initial starting place for doing The Work.
I have practiced secular Buddhism and mindfulness meditation for more than 20 years and was a remarkably calm person in the face of many of life's day to day stresses prior to becoming a parent. I find that some interactions with my child bring out a strong anger reaction in myself that was not present in my 15 years of work as a teacher of young children in child care, preschool, and parent education programs.
When I struggle with my feelings in a situation such as my 5 year-old daughter whining, I don't think that "she shouldn't whine," so it seems the ~Judge Your Neighbor~ concept doesn't directly apply. I'm not distressed explicitly that she is whining, but moreso that I am reacting to it with impatience. The stressful thought is, "I shouldn't be impatient when my daughter whines." But in truth, as I write it out here with some space from a conflict, that thought is not stressful at all. I can see how it is true and also not true. [True because the impatience isn't the most gentle way to react, Not True because I should be impatient, it's me- it's how I came to be in that moment. Although it is not how I want to be, so I don't accept the "should" as I "should always" be impatient or as permission to be impatient.] The thought becomes, "I shouldn't be frustrated with myself for feeling impatient when my daughter whines," but then that is not stressful either.
The stress comes from imagining the embodiment of the impatience and frustration, not thinking about whether or not it should happen. For example, I feel stress when I think about the impatience within me when my daughter whines, when I recall fully within my mind, body, and spirit vividly how that impatience felt.
So my question seems to be about the formulation of a deeply personal distressful thought/feeling and how The Work does or doesn't apply to inquiry into such thoughts. Katie states quite clearly and frequently that she feels the tools of The Work can end all suffering in the world, so I assume this includes the suffering brought from our thoughts about ourselves. My distress brought for inquiry becomes, "When my daughter whines, sometimes I react with impatience and anger."
~~Previous Inquiry from mothertoall~~
To some extent, I feel like my question relates to the inquiry that May May and mothertoall were dialoguing about in July 2007. mothertoall was wishing to address her unease with a situation at home related to the flirtatious behavior of her niece and ultimately resolved the distressful thought for inquiry as, "My niece should know better than to flirt with grown men." It seems the process became stalled and I am curious if the context of the framing of the thought was part of the difficulty.
I'm going to hypothetically investigate that distressful thought, "My niece should know better than to flirt with grown men," not as I think it applied to mothertoall, but how I imagine it or similar thoughts might apply to myself. I use it here because it has become a part of the history of this thread and readers are familiar with how difficult it was for mothertoall to apply The Work to that situation which she found so distressing.
If I imagine myself in a situation like the one mothertoall described, I would probably also feel distressed, but the statement, "My niece should know better than to flirt with grown men," wouldn't bring me much distress. I would take out the ~should know better than~ because I am familiar with children's psychological development and am aware that children's actions are based on their experiences and their developmental stage. So now I have, "My niece shouldn't flirt with grown men." I'm not distressed about that idea at all. I think it would be safest for my niece to not flirt with adult men, but once again, she is a child and is behaving according to her experience and development. What would be distressing for me would be if there were older men who took advantage of my niece's flirtatious behavior in a way that was developmentally inappropriate or abusive. And still, thinking, "Adult men shouldn't take advantage of younger girls," doesn't bring me any distress. I agree with that thought and Katie has mentioned many times that it is only the distressing thoughts that need to be brought to The Work.
It seems that the actual distressing part of the flirtation, as mothertoall attempted to flesh out, is that when her niece is flirtatious with older men the girl is in a dangerous situation and mothertoall felt unable to resolve it in a way that kept her niece safe without feeling a lot of pain and anger and judgment inside herself. That danger is real and is the responsibility of adults who act inappropriately, not children who are flirtatious. In no way, unless married, can a child legally consent to sexual behavior (including kissing, discussions of a sexually provocative nature, etc.) with an adult in the United States. So I think mothertoall was most distressed with her reactions to her niece's flirting and how worried she was about her niece's future.
Does this make sense or clarify anything? It was distressing for mothertoall to see her niece flirting, but the idea, "My niece shouldn't flirt with grown men," was not the summation of the distressing part of the situation. Perhaps the distressing part could be framed as, "When I see my niece flirt with adult men, internal pain and hurt based on past experiences keeps me from acting effectively and compassionately to protect her."
I'll stop here because I am out of time and hopefully there is enough information in the above two examples (mine with a reaction to whining and mothertoall's with a reaction to flirting) to explore how and/or if The Work can be applied to investigating our distress and judgment of our own reactions to stressful parts of life.