One of my coaching clients (let's call her Sonia) recently went through a divorce. She has worked hard to get to a place where she can appreciate all the good that came from the relationship.
Her teen-aged daughter is foremost in her appreciation. But it is also in relation to her daughter that she struggles with the most persistent difficult feelings related to her ex.
You see, the ex is now withholding emotional and financial support from his daughter. My client sees that her daughter is hurting as a result of her father's neglect and she wants to know how to best support her.
Although on the surface it may look like the problem is the no-good ex and the daughter's hurt feelings, the solution lies deeper. In any event, we probably won't be able to "fix" the ex's behavior, so what can we do?
It's great when people do the right thing at the right time, but if they don't, it's our responsibility to make peace with the present situation.
The way to do this becomes clearer when we awaken to our greatness and appreciate that circumstances don't determine our happiness, but our thoughts about the circumstances do.
Byron Katie's Loving What Is provided me with the tools (what she calls "Inquiry", or the "The Work") that became a key for me in awakening to my greatness and letting go of my stressful thoughts. I've learned that I can be happy or, at the very least, peaceful in any situation.
Of course, I still have stressful thoughts (like a hundred times a day!) but I know that it's my thinking that's the problem, and not some unpleasant person or situation.
To do the "Work" you ask yourself four questions.
- Is it true?
- Can I absolutely know that it's true?
- How do I react when I think that thought?
- Who would I be without that thought?
And then you do what Byron Katie calls "the turnaround." You take the stressful circumstance ("the facts") and imagine how the opposite may also be true.
It is sometimes challenging to do this, but you will have huge awakenings when you can. In fact, you will often find that you have also transgressed – or are also suffering – in some manner similar to people or situations you have judged.
In this instance I encouraged Sonia to do the Work on her belief that, "My daughter is wounded because her dad will not be 'there' for her – emotionally, psychologically, financially – as other dads are for their kids. She does not get how he can be so detached and unavailable. She's hurting."
I asked Sonia to investigate those thoughts by applying the turnaround. Suddenly "My daughter is hurting" became "I am hurting…I can't get how he can be so unavailable to our daughter."
I know that even if you see the truth in this realization, you may be wondering how it helps Sonia to see her own suffering in this situation – and especially how it helps her daughter.
It helped because seeing her own suffering allowed her to work with her own thoughts and feelings. (The only thing she actually had any control over.) She now had the power to find a better-feeling thought, or do The Work again to explore her own feelings toward her ex, or even talk things over with a trusted friend.
In all of these ways she could come to accept the situation without judgment. And whenever we accept a situation without judgment, we awaken to our greatness and experience more peace. From that place of power, we can also offer greater emotional support to those who are suffering.
In short, by recognizing and letting go of her own negative feelings for her ex, Sonia had more energy to care for her own needs and those of her daughter.
She was able to validate her daughter's feelings – whatever was troubling her – and say "I know this is really hard right now. You and I both wish your dad "got" what an amazing person you are and wanted to celebrate and support you in every way."
When her daughter's feelings were validated she could then say, "I know you will find your way. You are incredibly strong and you have everything you need inside you to be happy no matter what the conditions, and that is more important than anything else."
Her encouragement came from a completely authentic place because she found this to be true for herself. And isn't it always so? When we awaken to our greatness, we shine a light for others. We illuminate the path so they can awaken to theirs too.