I love Byron Katie. I really do. I had a read a ton of literature on happiness – from academic studies to the Dalai Lama - and nothing helped me let go of my stressful thoughts like her simple process called "the Work."
Earlier this year I had a pretty challenging phone conversation with my father. He wants his grandson vaccinated, but my husband and I have decided not to vaccinate our son.
We made this choice after a lot of thought, and for some pretty compelling reasons, but after sharing with my father the evidence behind our decision, he held to his belief that the benefits of vaccination outweigh the risks.
So my father—seemingly out of the blue—called and insisted that we vaccinate our son. As we talked, it quickly became obvious that I was not going to convince him that I was "right", nor was he going to convince me that I was "wrong".
He was frustrated and angry. I was upset, too. I got off the phone and wondered how we were going to feel better if we were not going to be able to agree.
Then I remembered Byron Katie. And I decide to apply the work to my stressful thought, "My dad should accept my views about vaccinating my son."
To do the Work you ask yourself four questions. I list them now, along with the answers I gave to them at the time of my story.
Is it true?
Yes. I am an adult and the mother of my son and my father should accept my views about vaccinating. He doesn't have to agree with me on the issue, but he shouldn't argue with me about it.
Can I absolutely know that it's true?
How do I react when I think that thought?
I am sad and angry and resentful that my dad is imposing his views on my parenting. I am fearful that he will withhold love or respect if I don't do what he thinks is best.
Who would I be without that thought?
I would love my dad. He is an amazing father and grandfather. There are so many things that I love and appreciate about him!
After going through these questions, you do what Katie calls "the turnaround." You try to imagine yourself in the position of the person you have judged, or whose situation causes you distress.
It is sometimes challenging to do this, but you will have huge awakenings when you can. In fact, you will often find that you have also transgressed—or are also suffering—in some manner similar to people or situations you have judged.
I realized that I was being as obstinate as I judged my father to be. I wanted my dad to accept my views, but I was not able to accept his. Immediately I felt a shift in my perspective and I could see how my dad was expressing concern for my son's well being.
And I saw that I didn't have to agree with him on the vaccination issue to appreciate his concern.
Shortly after I realized this, I e-mailed my dad, explaining how grateful I was that he shared my desire that my son be healthy. It took another few hours, but soon he wrote back saying he respected my position and appreciated the respect I had shown for his motives.
And by doing the Work and sharing my appreciation we were all able to find peace.