December 16, 2007

Focus on Facilitation: The Subtle Seasoning of Sub-questions

At the School for The Work, facilitators-in-training are not introduced to sub-questions (questions that deepen the experience of answering the basic four questions) until about midway through the nine days. Especially as new facilitators, we're encouraged to trust in the "basic four," and to use sub-questions when the client needs a little help in reaching within themselves.

Sub-questions are also extremely useful when self-facilitating our own beliefs in writing. You can see these on the One-Belief-at-a-Time worksheet, available for download here.

The following sub-questions are additions to and variations of the ones that Katie and others have provided over the years. Experienced facilitators may find them useful, particularly with "difficult" clients. I also like to ask them of myself; try them first with your own written work, and see how they feel to you.

I love the elegant simplicity of the four questions. Do not use these, or any sub-questions, if they seem to complicate the process for you or your client. The idea is not "whoever uses the most sub-questions wins." Eventually, as a facilitator, you will have an instinct about when to use sub-questions, and which ones to use. I encourage you not to over-salt the Work soup: add sparingly, to taste, only when appropriate. Listen deeply to your clients and notice when you want to manipulate their answers...or impress them with your vast knowledge of Work tricks (speaking from experience).

Questions One and Two:
*(Thanks to Celeste Gabriele for this one) "Before we begin, I invite you to answer these questions as if you've never done The Work before." (Not a sub-question, but a great way to prepare one's mind and hold the space for an honest and clean investigation.)

Question Three:

*What assumptions are you making when you believe this thought?
*What are you avoiding when you believe this thought? ("What are you avoiding?" is a question my former therapist used to ask me, cheekily, when I was being entertaining during our sessions...bless his heart!)
*How has it served you to believe this thought? And how is that working for you now? (Thanks for the inspiration, Dr. Phil!)

Question Four:
*For self-judgments: If you were meeting yourself for the first time, how would you see yourself without this belief? Look at yourself without a story, as if looking at someone about whom you have no prior knowledge or history.
*If this person where not who you say s/he is, how would you respond to her/him now? (In other words, there is no prior "evidence" with these person, there are no labels or diagnoses; there's just a human being in front of you.)
*Who were you prior to this thought? Go back to a time before the belief ever occurred to you.
*Without the thought, do you feel more peaceful? If not, can you identify what still feels stressful?

For the turnaround to the opposite (paraphrasing Katie): If this terrible person or thing, appearing in your life as it is, puts you on your perfect path to self-realization, would you still want it to be different? (This may also be used along with Question Two if the answer to Question One is "yes.")

If you have any "signature sub-question seasonings" in the spirit of The Work (in other words, without mixing modalities), feel free to share them in the "Manifestations of Mind" comments.

©2007 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.


Jon Willis said...

I feel awash with alliterations - good job :-)

One of my favourites is under question 2:

- Can I absolutely know I'd be happier if I got what I want?

(This often has me pause as I think about what it is that I want, since many of my inquiries are about not wanting life to be the way it is)

With love,


Mona said...

For question 4:

What would you be able to appreciate without this belief?

And you can get specific with it depending on what the original thought was about.

If it's: My partner should listen to me...the way to ask it is: What would you be able to appreciate about your partner if you didn't believe this thought?

Or: My body shouldn't be sick.

What would you be able to appreciate about your body if you didn't believe this thought?

So you can be general with it or get more specific.

And what I like about it is that it highlights the fact that WITH the thought, appreciation isn't usually available. Without the thought, it is.

Christi said...

Hi Carol.... Thanks for this post. One of the questions a friend of mine asks me when she facilitates me is this....

If you dropped this thought, what are you afraid will happen?


Without this thought what is the worst that can happen? (and then you get to notice you're almost always already living it! LOL)

Carol L. Skolnick said...

Hi all, thanks for your additions. Jon and Christi's are "traditional" onces that have appeared in facilitators' guides at one time or another. "What do you fear would happen" is a personal favorite of mine. "Can I know I'd be happier if I got what I wanted?" is a great reality check.

Mona's suggestion is an original; I love it. It's great to delve into what is available to us without the belief. Maybe that could be a sub-question too: "What else is available to you (or, to whom are you available, and how are you available) when you aren't believing this thought?" "I would be present and available" is something I often notice when I'm answering question four; it's enlightening to get specific about it.