I've encountered several people I know lately who are struggling with parenting issues. And an interesting thing I've noticed is that they all culminate in the same troubled thought, that they aren't enjoying being around their kid. This brings with it a lot of pain, even if the person isn't fully aware of how much. It just hurts to believe we don't like spending time with our child/ren. And that we should.
And to add insult to injury, the next thought that follows (as I'm hearing from these people) is ...
and there's nothing I can do about it. That's just who my kid is and it triggers me.
Many people try to rationalize it away: "Well, it's not all the time, just sometimes. When they do _____, when they're being like _____ . And that's just normal for a parent to feel this way."
Some of them are blaming themselves:
"I shouldn't be feeling this way" "What's wrong with me?" "I'm a bad parent"
... while some are blaming their child:
rely on me too much
don't appreciate how much I do for them
just can't get it together
are too different from me"
And then other people are blaming God, even if not consciously, with thoughts like:
"It's too hard when we are so different"
"Something went wrong that I got this kid/this kid got me"
Bottom line is, we blame someone: ourselves, our kids, God. Or rather, the mind does. Someone must be at fault!
Of course, many of us don't want to bring this stuff up to talk about with our friends or family. We feel like we're failing. We can go into shame very easily. (I've got an Olympic gold medal in the Suppression/Denial Method and believe me, it doesn't work!)
It can be easier to talk about if our perspective is slanted more towards blaming our kids, because then we feel it's okay to vent about it. It's natural to want to share what we are struggling with ... it feels like getting the struggle out from inside us so we're no longer holding it. Like letting the poison out.
But if you've noticed, it still doesn't solve the actual issue we're having. At best, we just feel less alone.
I can relate to all of this. I can remember, pre-The Work days when my now 19-year-old was still very young, being in a loop of anger or frustration or exasperation at her, then anger at myself for that ... all a confusing, tangled mess of feeling crappy and not able to find my way out.
I just couldn't see what I was actually upset about underneath what the trigger was. I was a tired, working single mom, riddled with PTSD over my daughter's health, with perpetual anxiety at not having enough money.
I really don't know how I lived without having inquiry in those days. My daughter and I often find ourselves saying now, "Thank God for The Work. I don't know how people do it ("it" being life) without it."
If you're not familiar with The Work of Byron Katie, what it does is show us what we are missing, what we are not seeing that -- when we see it -- fills in the puzzle. Things click into place and I always find myself breathing a huge sigh of relief that reminds me of the wisdom of, "The truth will set you free" and the oracle at Delphi, "Know Thyself." ( ... Which is the name of the new podcast that I'm co-hosting with my daughter!)
That is, I learn a bit more of the truth about myself and life every time I do The Work.
And, maybe best of all, I can see my daughter clearly, without the lens of my stressful beliefs (beliefs like, "I need her to be happy, It's my job to make her happy, My life is too hard, She is in constant danger, She could die at any moment. She's selfish. She doesn't know how to be a friend").
And these truths I see when doing self-inquiry always brings me peace.
I remember when I was new to The Work, I was concerned that I was going to have to face some hard truths about myself and this kept me from doing it as a practice for 4 years! I wanted to feel better about myself, not worse!
It is work, no question. But like Katie says, the only thing harder than doing The Work is not doing it.
It's funny when I think of those 4 years between when I found The Work and when I actually started doing it as a practice, how I thought it would be harder to do it than not. But then life got even harder, and I begged, "Okay, okay, please show me another way!"
Katie also refers to inquiry as "the shortcut" as in, if we want to feel better quickly through seeing the truth of things, this is the way.
When people are new to The Work, I've also noticed that they can be worried, believing The Work is about fixing them. And hidden in that belief is that to do that there must first be judgment towards themselves. That indeed, their worst fears will be confirmed: that there is something wrong with them.
Truly, the practice of self-inquiry that is The Work couldn't be further from this. In fact, the opposite is true: you will get to see your innocence and perfection. Perhaps for the first time.
It's so natural for the mind to get a glimpse -- maybe hear a snippet -- of something and then draw conclusions about what it is.
The mind loooooves to know things. And it can get it so wrong.
For example, some people hear about the "Turnarounds" and just use this part of The Work. They skip the 4 questions, which come before this, entirely. As Katie says, this can feel like a knife to the gut rather than a kiss.
So what actually helps is the experience of The Work. And we can't think our way there. Taking snippets from it is trying to 'figure out' through the intellect (left brain) the answers as opposed to experiencing (right brain) our inquiry.
So allow yourself to not-know (my favourite thing in the world!), come to The Work with an open mind about what it actually is (and you don't need to understand it beforehand in the slightest! ... and see what you see.
The Work has allowed me to freely judge my daughter (on a worksheet) when I am triggered by her.
I don't hold back. I write it all out ... I get up close and personal with those judgments. I've learned that when I'm triggered by her, it's worksheet time.
Katie has said that "all war belongs on paper." And when I'm unhappy about something I'm experiencing in my daughter, this is a form of war. I'm at war with how she is showing up. And it feels terrible.
Maybe you can relate.
And because I introduced The Work to my daughter when she was young, she does the same with me. She lets me have it on paper. Sometimes we find ourselves in the old way, accusing and defending ... but we know that nothing works but The Work to sort out what is between us.
So we go to our separate corners and write our worksheets on each other and then read them to one another. It took a long time for me to be able to receive the judgments on me from other people. I couldn't imagine experiencing what Katie described: getting excited to hear what people see in you. All the judgments. For a long time it was really painful for me. Which was okay, because ... I had The Work. I know what to do with painful thoughts.
My daughter and I get to see what is causing the trigger and in that seeing it's released. It brings us closer together and it brings us closer to ourselves.
I wouldn't want to be in any kind of relationship without The Work. Because the mind (intellect) isn't up for solving the problems of relationships -- it can't. It doesn't have access to the whole picture. For that, we need the intelligence that is beyond the mind. And that is immediately accessible to all of us when we know how to do self-inquiry.
If you'd like to learn how to work with any judgments you're having about your child/ren (of any age!) and feel MUCH better about it all -- including finding a deeper connection with them -- then feel free to join me on my upcoming FREE webinar (it will be recorded if you can't make it live). I'll send the registration and link out next week so be on the lookout!
And in the meantime, I'm happy to support you to learn self-inquiry -- just book a session through my website and use code 30LIGHT for $30 off your first session ($97).
You'll be amazed at what is possible and how differently you will come to see your child and yourself.
All blessings, Kathryn