Author: This article was written by Kara LC Jones of Grief + Creativity
At this point in my young life, I’ve come to discover a few things about compassion, self development and how we can work together about the hard stuff to always come back realigned with the joyful stuff.
Now I know many of you may be hearing about things like The Secret, the Law of Attraction, and Abundance Theory. Some of you are hearing it for the first time. Others have been hearing about these things for years. For some, these things seem magical. For others, they seem impossible or at the very least, impractical.
Let me use a little metaphor here to try and explain what I see happening:
Look at music theory. Concepts about music. Written words. Available to anyone with access to a library or the Internet. But reading music theory does not make you a good musician. You have to take the theory and plunk around noisily on the keyboard; practice having all your fingers do different things and yet work together; practice everyday; eventually you can read music or hear music and mimic it; and pretty soon you are good. And then one day, you feel something in the core of your being; music that is pushing its way out through the cells of your being; and you sit at the keyboard and watch as something brand new pours out of your finger tips and you FEEL the music.
You have bridged that gap between theory and core experience.
Okay now, going back to things like Abundance and Law of Attraction – in particular The Secret and some of the broad statements about cause and effect. I disconnect with these theories at the point where a caregiver or friend or family member looks into the face of a bereaved person or ill person and proceeds to say something like, “Well I know your child died, but you have to start thinking positive again” or “Well your dis-ease comes from within, so you have to heal yourself.” These broad statements simply impose another level of “woulda, coulda, shoulda” on the person.
That is like taking someone who has never seen a keyboard before and putting them out in front of a full house at Lincoln Center with piano and saying, “Think positive, you can do it!”
It is unfair, not to mention, if you are a caregiver, it is a dis-service in the biggest way. By caregiver, I mean doctor, nurse, hospice worker, but also therapist, coach, and outreach volunteer. If you do this to a person, you are not following the tenant of “Do no harm.” In fact, you are harming them further by adding a layer of guilt and shame to what they already are dealing with in their lives.
A mother comes to me after her child has drowned while she was inside switching the laundry from the washer to the dryer. She feels guilty that the child died on “her watch” and she feels shame at being a horrible person for letting it happen. These are not rational thoughts, but this is what she is experiencing – emotionally, forget rational!
For me to now say to her, “Well, you just have to start thinking different and focus on abundance” is to not connect with her at all. She will glaze over and get away from me as fast as possible. AND she’ll then add to her already burdened process, a layer of guilt that she isn’t good enough to do this abundance thing right and shame that she maybe isn’t worthy of doing it right anyway. I have just done her an awful disservice.
Instead, there are so many other ways to possibly handle this kind of situation – and as a caregiver especially, it is my job to find out how!!
Now I do happen to believe that things like the Law of Attraction and the Power of Now and Abundance theory are real and work. But I have come to that belief thru my own practice with the theories. And there are tools in this realm that can work when we meet up with people who are in crisis, but we have to be willing to meet the person where they are!!
One of the great tools that can do this is Byron Katie’s The Work. If you haven’t heard of it, look it up online or get the book, Loving What Is, from your library. You can buy the books thru their website, but also she is very generous with information on the website and you can learn all about The Work right there if you take the time to read.
Basically, The Work is about using a few questions and a “turnaround” to shift your perspective – to experience that shift emotionally within yourself – so that the theory becomes reality. Remember that a Course in Miracles and in Marianne Williamson’s book Return to Love about the Course, there is a great definition for miracle.
A miracle is simply a shift in perspective.
And Byron Katie’s The Work is a great tool for making a simple but experiential shift in perspective! I find the first question of The Work to be the most powerful. It asks simply,
Is it true?
Now you might think, okay, big deal. But look at the bereaved mom from the example above. She has written down that she feels she’s a horrible person. Now we ask her simply, “Is that true?” In talking her through it, we find she is a good mother, a loving partner, a talented artist, she and her other children often volunteer at the local food bank. This is not a horrible person. So we ask her again, “Is it true that you are a horrible person?” Something dawns in her face. No. It isn’t true. And from there we go through the other steps of The Work with this mom coming to her OWN realizations, connecting theory with experience and emotion.
Through this experience, this mom begins to feel a shift in her perspective. From there, we can go on to work with other tools as she experiments and makes the commitment to practice trying out other things like The Law of Attraction or the Power of Intention. And each time the gritty stuff of grief comes up, the thoughts that say, “I’m horrible,” we can go back to The Work and ask, “Is this true?”
It is amazing how people can make leaps and bounds in the evolution of their story. Amazing how their perspective of self can change. Amazing how much weight can come off the shoulders.
This isn’t rocket science. It’s not hard to learn about the theories and possible tools available to all of us. It just takes a commitment to practice using the tools ourselves – honestly and fully in our everyday lives. And then also a commitment to meeting other people where they are when they come to us for support.
So please don’t just throw theories around. Check out all the possible tools, use them yourself thoroughly in your own life, and then meet other people where they are in the moment. Really commit to practice the tenant of “Do no harm” – no harm to yourself nor to others.