April 4, 2008

Focus on Facilitation: Deepening Inquiry with "Turnaround Tricks"

In The Work, the turnaround is the final piece of the investigation. When we turn our thoughts around, we are not simply seeing if the opposite of our belief could be as true or truer than the original statement; we're also deepening our realizations as we expand our awareness.

Here are three ways to get "added value" from your turnarounds.

Acid Tests

After a client answers question four of The Work, "Who would you be without this thought?"—and just before the turnaround—Katie sometimes provides this theorem: "With the thought, stress. Without the thought, peace. Therefore it can't be about __________ . (Insert subject of inquiry here, e.g. "your son" or "the government.")

This trick brings us back to noticing how belief shapes our perception of reality...or, as the Stoic philosopher Epictetus pointed out centuries ago: "We are disturbed not by what happens to us, but by our thoughts about what happens."

In other words, my son isn't driving me crazy; my thoughts about my son are driving me crazy. It's not government corruption that bothers me; it's what I think it means. (And this doesn't mean I'll knowingly support dishonest politicians.)

Another way to apply an acid test is to return to the original statement after the turnarounds. Does it still appear to be true?

One more acid test: re-read the entire Judge-Your-Neighbor worksheet, turned around to the opposite, or to "I," or to "my thinking."

Using "my thinking," a worksheet on the body might sound like this: "I am angry at my body because it is weak. I want my body to be stronger. My body shouldn't get so tired. I need my body to have more stamina. My body is out of shape, sickly, and fragile" becomes "I am angry at my thinking (about my body) because it is weak. I want my thinking to be stronger. My thinking shouldn't get so tired. I need my thinking to have more stamina. My thinking is out of shape, sickly, and fragile." Interesting, eh? What is weaker, the body, or the mind that believes a body can be a problem?

When writing about a person, try turning the entire sheet around to "I": "I am saddened by my brother-in-law because he is too angry and impatient with my nephew. I want my brother-in-law to see his is damaging his family. My brother-in-law shouldn't yell at Charles. I need him to get professional help. My brother-in-law is out of control" becomes "I am saddened by me because I am too angry and impatient with my brother-in-law. I want me to see I am damaging my family. I shouldn't yell at my brother-in-law (if only in my mind). I need me to get professional help. I am out of control (especially about my brother-in-law, in his business mentally all the time)." See how it works? It is as much about me as it is about the fictional brother-in-law.

Try reading an entire sheet as an opposite: "I am not saddened by old people because they are not needy and demanding. I don't want old people to die before they become incapacitated. They should live beyond their physical usefulness. I don't need them to not be a drain on their children's time and finances. Old people are (fragile, useless, disgusting) strong, useful, beautiful."

Once, a client of mine wrote a worksheet about her sisters. After we worked through the entire sheet, I asked her to put "my thinking" in place of "my sisters" and read the worksheet aloud that way. For instance, "I am saddened by my sisters because they are cold and distant" became "I am saddened by my thinking because it is cold and distant" (especially my thinking about my sisters). Try taking any worksheet you have written and put "my thinking" on all of it. Does it apply?

The Worst-Best Turnaround

Katie has said, "The worst that can happen is the best that can happen, but only always." How can that be? Test it. Take one of your statements that you have turned around to the opposite. "I want my wife to outlive me." "I don't want my wife to outlive me." What is the worst that could happen if your wife died first? "I'd be alone in my old age." Turned around, "The best that could happen is I'd be alone in my old age." Find at least three genuine ways that being alone in your old age could be for your highest good. Examples might include, "No one to dictate what I eat, what I wear, how much golf I play." "No fighting." "Room for wonderful new people in my life." "She won't have to watch me die." Of course, no one wants their spouse to die; this is about facing fear, and we fear what we do not understand.

Is the Universe Friendly?

This is a variation of the "worst-best" turnaround. "If the universe is friendly, why is ___(insert scary turnaround)___ a good thing? This is a riff on the Einstein quote, "There is only one important question to ask: Is the universe friendly?"

Allow your mind to open, and come up with at least three examples for yourself, and/or—if you can do it without crossing the line of "their business"—for the planet, for the person or institution you are writing about.


Original statement: "There should not be war in the world."

Turned around: "There should be war in the world." That's reality, there is war in the world. (It need not be forever, or even five minutes from now.)

If the universe is friendly, why is it a good thing that there is war in the world, presuming there is war?

1) War raises consciousness about injustice and violence, and brings together people who are interested in fostering peace.
2) War mirrors for me how I create war within myself, my family, on my job, and in my community when I believe stressful thoughts. I can do something about that war.
3) War creates jobs and provides salaries for people who work in the military, food service, uniform manufacturers, architecture, armaments, vehicle manufacturers, technology, journalism, toxic waste cleanup, medical personnel, government, politics, and even anti-war activists. (That's how it is now, and here's to plentiful peacetime jobs!)

©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.

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