by Sherry Scheideman, MA, Registered Clinical Counsellor.
My favourite counselling tool is a process called The Work, by Byron Katie. My respect for this tool is shared by the Huffington Post’s weekly parenting advice columnist, renowned psychotherapist and marriage/family therapist Susan Stiffelman. Susan is the author of the best-selling book “Parenting Without Power Struggles”, which describes how The Work of Byron Katie helps parents to “raise joyful, resilient kids while staying cool, calm, and connected.” One of my favourite spiritual leaders, Eckhart Tolle, says that this book “shows parents how they can transform parenting into a spiritual practice.”
Susan’s focus is on parenting, but her observations about The Work are applicable to any challenges and relationships in our lives. As Susan notes, “This process is equally valuable with spouses, bosses, and neighbours.” (pg. 19)
Following are a few excerpts from Susan Stiffelman’s book which demonstrate the helpfulness of The Work of Byron Katie:
“Katie’s approach is based on the understanding that it’s not the events around us that trigger our upset, but our thoughts about those events. In the context of parenting, it’s our beliefs and stories about how our kids should behave that cause us to lose our cool. The Work is about looking at these beliefs and reactions so we can be free of their negative influence on how we respond to the challenge of parenting.” (pg. 15)“When we become willing to take an honest look at the beliefs and stories we maintain – often while we’re busily gathering evidence to support their validity – we become more capable of dealing with our kids in a way that promotes their receptivity rather than their resistance. Taking an honest look at our judgements about their behaviours allows us to have conversations with our kids that don’t come with the aroma of needing them to be different so we can feel better.” (pg. 19)“If you want your children to be receptive to you, clean up what’s going on between your ears – the thoughts and stories that precipitate your anger, fear, or disappointment – before you try to have any influence over them. Difficult conversations go far better without the negative stories and judgements that affect how you conduct yourself.” (pg. 19)“Consider whether what you’re saying opens or closes the door to the other person you want to influence. Does being under the influence of your negative beliefs help or hurt in getting your message across? Most likely it sabotages your goal of resolving a problem by transforming what could be useful discussion into a power struggle.” (pg. 20)“If you try these strategies for stepping back from the thoughts and beliefs that kick you into the mire of frustration and anger, it will no longer be so easy for you to get thrown off by your child’s behaviour.” (pg. 32)“Rather than asking you to ‘just think positive thoughts’ or to vent about your frustration, I invite you to challenge the beliefs and stories that cause you to lose your temper. Doing so will help you dissipate anger at its source. I’m excited for you to try these approaches, and confident that if you do, you’re going to find yourself no longer willing to be yanked around by the stories that bring on those bouts of shouts. It feels good to parent from a place of quiet authority. And yes, doing so is within your reach.” (pg. 32)“When a thought shows up that has the power to make us sad, angry, or anxious, we don’t have to believe it. We can question the thinking that fuels our bad feelings, and we can jump off that train of negative thought before it arrives at its gloomy destination.” (pg. 212)
I wanted to share these quotes from renowned therapist Susan Stiffelman because, like Susan, I hold The Work of Byron Katie as one of the principal foundations of my counselling method. Like Susan, I use The Work to help clients question their thinking so they can feel good about the way they deal with the challenges of life.
This post was written by Sherry Scheideman, MA, Registered Clinical Counsellor, Victoria BC
To do The Work with Sherry, on parenting or other issues, go to sherryscheideman.com