If a story is stressful, go deeper.
We sometimes have initial stories about ourselves, others, or the world, that are stressful. And that stress is a reminder to go deeper. To look again. To find an interpretation that’s as or more true, and also more kind.
If we have a difficult time finding such a story, there is always inquiry. The Work of Byron Katie is my favorite approach for this.
It’s interesting that in our culture, we tend to have a suspicious view of reality. We think reality may not be kind. But by exploring our stressful stories, we may get to see that what’s more true for us than these initially stressful stories also feel more kind to us. In other words, to us, reality becomes kind.
I wrote a longer initial draft on this topic which I left below.
Underlying patterns and compassion
If stressful interpretation, then go deeper
When (feels) kind and true, then not stressful
Eg. Cruel -> scared, trauma -> identifications, beliefs -> Lila
Collective greed -> systems problems
Racist -> scared / hurt + group identifications
Lost bag -> thieves, can’t trust anyone vs I was flustered/ got myself off balance, not really mine anyway (nothing is, including my body, only on loan for a short time), showed me my (somewhat false) identify of paying attention etc, part of Lila
Find true and kind interpretations, less or no stress (as our more true as the initial less kind / more stressful stories), has to be genuine true for us for the mind to find peace with it, knows when is deceiving itself, doesn’t really work (can pretend it works, but doesn’t really)
Peaceful and true (to us) interpretations, where the mind can rest, come home to itself
Superficial interpretation -> anger, blame, fear etc
Deeper -> understanding, recognition, sympathy etc
(of own/others behavior)
Underlying, often fear
If a story is stressful, go deeper.
If I have a stressful interpretation about the world, myself, or others, then look for a more true and kind interpretation.
Any story or interpretation that creates stress is not kind and not as true as it can be.
And when we find an interpretation that’s more kind and true, then it’s not as stressful.
It may sound a bit naive, but we can explore this for ourselves and see what we find.
Here are some examples:
He is cruel -> He is scared. He reacts to his own pain. He reacts in this way to the pain from his own wounds and trauma. Hurt people hurt people.
People are greedy -> Systems problems. We have an economic and social system where what’s good for the individual people or businesses sometimes harms the larger whole.
She is racist -> She is scared and hurt. She clings to group identifications to feel better about herself. She puts others down to feel better about herself.
I made a mistake -> I did the best I could according to the situation, my situation, the information I had, and the impulses pulling on me.
None of these exclude the initial or more superficial interpretations. Someone can act and behave in a racist manner, we can use that label if it seems useful, and we can still know there is something else behind it.
None of this excludes action. If someone hurts someone else, it’s our task – as society and individually – to stop it in a decisive, kind, and clear way.
The more kind and true interpretations will be slightly different for each of us. And is much easier to find the more we have explored this in ourselves.
How do we explore this? There are innumerable modalities that can be helpful for this type of exploration and healing. For me, I have found different forms of inquiry helpful (The Work, Living Inquiries), subpersonality work (Big Mind process), other psychological modalities (mainstream, Jung, Process Work), trauma work (Tension and Trauma Release Exercises), energy work (Vortex Healing), communication skills (Nonviolent Communication), and just being curious about myself, others, and life.
This guideline – to find more kind and true interpretations about life, ourselves, and others – is, in itself, healing. Stressful stories are uncomfortable, distressing, and creates a sense of unease. And more kind and true interpretations gives a sense of peace and relief. The mind comes home to itself. It allows itself to rest in itself.
Nothing is new here. It’s what number of people and cultures have discovered in the past. Writing this post, I also realize it’s very similar to how Byron Katie talks about it.
Note: Why does this seem naive to some? Why does it seem naive that what’s more true also is more kind and less stressful? Why can that seem like wishful and superficial thinking? I think it’s from worldviews that tells us that the world is inherently flawed or not to be trusted. Our culture certainly has a strain of that thought, fueled by Christianity and it’s idea of orignial sin. What I write about here is an antidote to that view. When we investigate this, we get to see, through our own experience, that more true stories can also be more kind and release stress. Slowly, we get to trust the world a bit more. We change for ourselves the basic view of the world as inherently flawed, bad, sinful, and not to be trusted. We get to see the reverse.