C.Faith Holland

Soul Coaching

Question and Answer from Bryon Katie February 28, 2013

Filed under: Love — C. Faith Holland @ 1:54 pm

Dear Katie,

I read a saying of yours: “Hurt feelings or discomfort of any kind cannot be caused by another person. No one outside me can hurt me. That’s not a possibility.”

What’s the best way for someone who has suffered (such as a child who was beaten or a person raped) to make sense of this philosophy?

Should a person ignore or glide over such things? “Oh, the person stomping on that child’s head and killing her is fine, I’m judging him, and I shouldn’t do that, it’s the child who needs to recognize that the person stomping on her head and taking her life is just part of this magical journey. That’s hard to do. And besides, how convenient for the perpetrator!

Can you explain this, please?


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Dearest Candice,

Thank you for the questions. I will comment on your post line by line.

What’s the best way for someone who has suffered (such as a child who was beaten or a person raped) to make sense of this philosophy?

The best way is for them to identify and question what they were believing in that cruel situation as it was happening. They can do this later–even years later. They can fill out a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet and do The Work on those thoughts.

When children (or adults, for that matter) believe the thoughts they are thinking during and after a painful event, they suffer. It is not the painful event that causes their suffering once the event is over; it is their thoughts about the event. This is hard for some people to hear, but if you take a closer look, it is obvious. The event is in the past; the thoughts are in the present–thoughts of shame, anger, humiliation, depression, unworthiness, resentment, and so on–and it is only in the present that we live. Children have no way to question these thoughts, so they can’t help suffering over them. It’s not their fault that they suffer. They just don’t know that suffering comes from believing our painful thoughts. This is why without inquiry, it’s so difficult to overcome a trauma during and after the fact.

The thing that happened as a child, or the thing that upset us yesterday, will stay with us for as long as we live, as long as we still believe what we were believing in that situation. Inquiry can break the spell; it wakes us up from those living nightmares, and many people who have been raped or beaten or tortured and who later discovered The Work can testify to that. As little children we can’t question our thoughts, but as adults those of us who have been fortunate enough to have stumbled upon The Work do have an opportunity to set ourselves free. Some people will dismiss this possibility with thoughts such as “It’s not possible,” “It can’t be that easy,” ”There’s no way out of such suffering,” “Katie is wrong, or crazy.” But if your mind is open, even a little bit, you may be able to try The Work and see for yourself. The Work is not a philosophy. It’s a way that will let you discover that all suffering has been a misunderstanding, our own. I don’t ever expect people to question their thoughts. My job is to simply offer a way out of suffering, and to pass on what I have come to understand from experience. What I love about The Work is that anyone can do it and can end their suffering. It just takes an open mind and a sincere desire to know the truth for yourself–not my truth or anyone else’s, but your truth, the truth living inside you that will set you free.

So in my experience, the way to make sense of what I am saying is to do The Work. Just try it. I don’t know a better, or another, way.

Should a person ignore or glide over such things?

I was never able to do that. I suffered before I found The Work, and stopped suffering after I found The Work. It has been a long time since I felt any anger, sadness, or fear. The way I became free was by not ignoring or gliding over such things. I had to face them, to look back on those terrible and seemingly unjust situations that I suffered as a child, and as an adult, to write them down and question the thoughts I had at the time. I had to travel back and to see in my mind’s eye that situation, no matter how terrible it was, and to fill in a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet. I had to fill out one Worksheet for each situation. I remembered as much as possible of what I was seeing, feeling, thinking, and believing in those moments. I used to suffer when those images would arise in my mind, and now I don’t. In fact, all those old memories bring a sense of compassion, freedom and gratitude, not ever suffering.

“Oh, the person stomping on that child’s head and killing her is fine,

No, of course not. Free doesn’t mean crazy. A free mind is intelligent, kind, and loving. It understands what an abused child is going through, and it also understands the pain that the abuser is going through. Anyone who would harm another human being is confused, and confusion is the only suffering in this world. I have come to understand from experience that if I believed what that person believed in the moment he or she was abusing the child, I could be doing the same thing. If the child, now grown up, comes to me and wants to be free, I am totally available, and if the abuser wants to be free, I am totally available. It is never fine to hurt anyone. That is not what I was talking about when I said, “Hurt feelings or discomfort of any kind cannot be caused by another person.” Someone may cause me pain, but if my mind is clear, there will be no suffering on my part. Suffering is a mental reaction, and it comes from believing my thoughts about what happened. It is true that no one outside me can hurt me, in the sense of causing me mental or emotional pain. I have questioned my mind, and I have discovered an inner peace that flows beyond anything I could have wished or prayed for. (I also invite you to consider that even physical pain is a projection of mind. You can discover this truth for yourself through inquiry.)

I’m judging him, and I shouldn’t do that,

Of course you should do that. How could you not do it, since you are believing your thoughts about him? Have you noticed that you are stomping on him in your mind and justifying it as being okay? This is the lack of awareness that is so painful in each of us. Each of us can ask ourselves, Where am I like him when I am attacking someone I love? Where do I do to him and to others in my mind what he has done in physical reality? Whom have I mentally or verbally attacked today?

We all make judgments, all the time. That is how the ego survives. With The Work, we put those judgments on a Worksheet and question them. Judge the perpetrator, by all means, but use that judgment for inquiry, as a way to enlighten yourself about yourself and the real cause of your suffering. This is nothing that I can teach. I can point the way to it, and everyone has to find their own freedom for themselves. And when you do, that very perpetrator–perhaps in your own life, the adult who abused you when you were a child–can be your way to forgiveness and self-understanding.

it’s the child who needs to recognize that the person stomping on her head and taking her life is just part of this magical journey.

The children in pain cannot recognize it. It is only possible for the adults, the ones who used to be those children, to go back, identify what they were believing in that hurtful situation, question it, and set themselves free. A sane mind is a fearless mind and through inquiry can see that all of life is good without exception, even the apparently bad things that happen. Forgiveness is love in action and the result of self-inquiry.

That’s hard to do.

Yes, it is. Our children learn fearful and angry beliefs from us, and they, like us, have no choice but to live what they believe. What are we teaching through our own negative, fearful beliefs?

And besides, how convenient for the perpetrator.

I cannot excuse or condone the perpetrator. It is very painful to hurt a child, or to hurt anyone, and anyone who does suffers for it, lives in guilt, anger, and self-hatred that they may not even be aware of or able to articulate. If I hurt a child, it is because I am believing my negative, unquestioned thoughts about me, the world, and even that innocent child, and I am crazy enough to justify those beliefs as well. If I hurt a child, I suffer all the days of my life, or until I wake up to reality and begin to make right the wrongs I have done. But as long as I believe my negative thoughts about you, about me, about any hurtful situation, I will continue to do the negative things that I have done. So as long as I can’t stop myself from hurting children: if you care about me, please stop me; lock me up for my sake, the child’s sake, and your own.

I often say that reality is good just as it is, and when people ask me if that means that I condone war, rape, violence, or cruelty, I say, “Certainly not.” I just notice that if I believe they shouldn’t exist when they do exist, I suffer. My job is to end the injustice in my world, the war inside me, and that has made the world a better place, since there is one less violent, angry person in the world now. If I am at war with reality, I’m continuing in myself the very thing that I want to end in the world. A sane mind doesn’t suffer. Through inquiry, you can begin to eliminate war for one human being: you.

Can you explain this, please?

I hope that this has helped you, dear one. I am very touched by the honesty and courage of your response to my quote. I hope that I have made it a bit clearer. Ultimately, though, understanding can’t be arrived at by any kind of reasoning or explanation. I could finally only understand these things from within the questioned mind. So I invite you to test the quote for yourself by doing The Work on someone who has hurt you badly. Judge that person, write it down, ask four questions, and turn it around. This was my way to freedom, and maybe it will be yours too.

In salute to your courage,
Byron Katie