In working with the Byron Katie inquiries, I find that the more turnarounds the better – including turning it from me (if the initial thought is about me) to others. So whether I work on a thought about myself or someone else, I usually find five or six turnarounds, each one shedding light in different ways.
Here is a classic…
I am a failure.
- Yes (It seems true, in certain areas of life.)
- No (Cannot know for certain that it is true. It is just an opinion. Also, I cannot know that what has happened is not better in a certain way than what I hoped for and expected.)
- Believing in that thought, there is… Shame, for not being more successfull – according to my own or society’s standards. Guilt, for not having made better and fuller use of my opportunities. Want to hide my failures from myself and others. Dishonesty in talking about areas where I feel I am a failure – trying to avoid the topic or present it in a better light. Embarrased, especially when with people I see as not a failure in the same way as myself.
Trying to present myself – to myself and others, as better or worse than I am. Making up stories which either emphasize my failures (to dig into it) or my successes (to compensate), and if they emphasize my failures do so with the aim of either connecting with others, go into self-pity, show how insightful I am, show my degree of self-acceptance and so on.
If I believe in the thought I am a failure there will always be an attempt at either show myself as better or worse than someone – others, what I could be, what I can be, and so on.
All of this creates a sense of separation – from myself, others, existence. It brings a sense of alienation, of not being comfortable, not belonging, of being alone.
- Without that thought, I would be OK with what is. OK with myself as I am. There would be a deeper sense of intimacy with myself, others, Existence. There would be no need to hide, no need for shame and guilt.
- (a) I am not a failure. (Yes, that is as or more true. First, the idea of failure is always relative – and it also implies that we can fail, that we are really in charge of our own life, that we are capable of not doing our best. Second, there are many areas where I have done well or OK also. Third, compared with many, my life is pretty good – others have many reasons for seeing my life as a success compared with their own.)
(b) My thoughts are a failure. (Yes, that is as true, in at least two ways. When I believe in them they are always a failure – or more precisely bring a certain failure. Unexamined beliefs bring suffering, however subtly. And my thoughts themselves are a failure, because they are always incomplete and inaccurate representations of what is. They are a map, not the terrain.)
(c) My thoughts are not a failure. (Yes, that is as true. They do their job wonderfully. They present me with an abstractions of the world, which is invaluable in helping me navigating and operating in the world. Without them, I would be lost – not even able to function in the most basic way. Also, when there is a belief in them, they do their job perfectly. They bring about a good deal of suffering which is a nudge for me to inquire into them, to examine them and thus allowing them to be liberated from beliefs.)
(d) Others are a failure. (Yes, that is as true. Each one of us is a failure in one or more ways, especially as failure is defined by whatever measuring stick we use, and we can always use one that makes us or anyone or any acomplishment into a failure. Even compared to me and using conventional measures, many others are failures in certain areas of life – such as not living a meaningful life, not uncovering what is meaningful for them, not having spare time, and so on.)
(e) Others are not a failure. (Yes, that is as true as well. Again, the word failure is relative to an arbitrary measure, and it also implies that we can fail. That we somehow are capable of not doing our best in any given situation. And that we are not perfect and complete as we are, as aspects of a whole beyond and including all polarities.)