May 29, 2008

Ask a Facilitator: Shouldn't You Be Happy All the Time?

Q: Wouldn't an expert in The Work such as yourself have fully overcome depression by now, rather than go into a dip such as you speak of in this post, if indeed, The Work is so powerful as Byron Katie claims it is—she who supposedly is always happy now? Shouldn't you be always happy now too, if The Work really works?

A: Thank you for asking, it's a great question.

Simply put, The Work works when you answer the questions. If I'm in a dip, that's a clue that I'm believing something that's not entirely true for me. It means I'm making a painful assumption that I haven't yet investigated.

"Happy now" is the point; we can only be happy or unhappy "now." Happiness, like sadness and everything else, is a moment-to-moment phenomenon; Katie says as much when she writes, "You don't wake up forever. It's now. Now. Now."

I don't see depression as something to "overcome." That's the old way, and the old way was disappointing; it didn't work. "Fighting" depression in order to eliminate it is violent. The key for me is to understand the root cause of my sadness, in order to meet sadness with understanding.

In a nutshell, The Work is a way to identify and question thoughts that cause stress, suffering, lack of inner peace. The Work is just some good, targeted questions, which we choose to answer or not; all of its power comes from our own answers. It stops working the moment we stop answering the questions and begin to defend the "negative" concept we're questioning. And, of course, like everything else—exercise, or meditation, or taking vitamins, for example—it doesn't work at all if it's not practiced consistently; you don't do it a few times and it's done for all time.

Back in 2001, the answers within me that met these simple questions ended my sense of myself as "depressive," and occasionally I notice that I want to be right when the world doesn't give me what I think I want. That's the minor tantrum that sometimes leads to depressive dips; sadness is not my true nature.

I have already been opened to what's true for me, so depression is no longer the default setting. It soon becomes really uncomfortable to stay in my stuff, and once again I inquire with an open heart. When I do—so far without fail, and I"m open to being wrong—I come to laugh at myself and to love my world once more.

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


Anonymous said...

Thank you for answering my question! I'm still suspicious of the claim that Byron Katie is happy all the time. Sounds like marketing b.s. to me. At least you don't make her extreme claim. :-)

Jon said...

Further to anonymous's comment, I would also add that there are different definitions/ideas of what happiness is - I've noticed it has changed for me as I've continued with the work - from a striving to always be happy, smiley to something that is more about being at peace regardless of how I look on the outside.

And more accepting of when I don't feel 'good' - not trying to fix it, just being curious about it.

As to what or how Byron Katie is - who cares, how she is is her business :-)

With love,


Heidi Fischbach said...

This is interesting, indeed. As someone with big ranges of feeling and someone interested in seeing through the stories and someone who practices inquiry into stressful thoughts, I am coming to really appreciate the whole range of what takes place in this human experience of mine. I have had experiences of crying that in the past I would have named sadness, and maybe from the outside looking in someone else still would, and all I can say is that tears happen and there's a washing through me that can feel like such grace... I can usually sense what it's related to, but am quite learning to enjoy not having to understand and make "sense" of it. Indeed, the trying to make sense of it can be for me related to trying to stay in control of it all.

I've seen Katie crying. I've read about it. It's a beautiful thing to notice that there can be tears and full ranges of human experience in someone who is happy and free. I love my humanness. The more I resist things like "depression" or for me these days a sense of heaviness, the heavier it gets... It's heavy and wants me to lovingly turn my soft-eyed attention to it, not with an inquisition but with inquiry, not with a stick but with a warm lap for it to sit in while we have a look.

Love you, Carol! I love that you continue to write about how it is, rather than how one thinks maybe it should look. And I loved the questioner who prompted this wonderful exchange.


Carol L. Skolnick said...

Yes, it's interesting how we want to label things as "fear" or "sadness" when they could easily be "excitement" or "grace." The words themselves have charge which tends to increase the sensations we call "uncomfortable." Recently I noticed how I call something "pain" when it might not even be pain; I even anticipate it. I stub my toe, the expletive releases from my mouth, and I haven't even felt the sensation yet!

We're so funny, we human beings/doings.