Problem #3: Your Identity

Posted on April 26, 2012


As you’re working on your lizard thoughts, you may find yourself resisting a Turnaround because it deeply conflicts with your identity. The Work is, in essence, a Buddhist-like practice whose main purpose is to undo ego-stuff that causes you suffering. Your ego and your identity are pretty much the same thing. When you find a thought that causes you suffering, but that also is intricately tied up in your ego, you will, most likely, resist anything that proves it otherwise. 

Take Jan*, for example, who is a passionate, animal-rights activist. Having learned of a recent, underground dog-fighting ring in Atlanta (where many dogs were grossly abused) Jan spent the next two weeks feeling miserable about the whole thing. 

“I hate feeling this depressed,” she told me. “But every time I think about those poor dogs, I get deeply, deeply upset.” 

Jan tried to use The Work on the thought, “The dog ring should never have happened.” When she got to the Turnaround (the opposite of her original thought), it then became, “The dog ring should have happened.”

As I’ve explained to you in other posts on Byron Katie’s Work, the point of the Work is to learn to accept reality, not to condone it. But Jan’s identity is so tied up in protecting animal abuses, that just to accept the reality of the dog ring felt like a personal betrayal to her. 

“I see how this works, ” she told me, “But I just can’t bring myself to say the Turnaround. I don’t truly believe that this should have happened. I’ve spent so many years trying to educate and prevent things like this from happening that even if I give reasons why The Turnaround is true, I won’t accept this reality.”

There are going to be times when you find yourself in Jan’s shoes, with a Turnaround that goes against everything you identify with and stand for. And when this happens, you are going to resist completing the exercise. And I believe that’s okay. If you want to keep your story, then keep it. 

Many people associate acceptance with allowing. They are afraid to say that something should have happened, they are afraid to accept something awful, because they then believe they are condoning it. It’s a complex problem to overcome psychologically.  

Although the enlightened among us may have completely dissolved their egos, many of us have not. Trying The Work out on some really huge thought that is intertwined with your ego may not work for you. Today, that is. In the future, you may find that it does. Especially if the thought continues to make you feel like crap.

Like I’ve noticed time and time again with my clients, when you’re ready to do The Work, you will. Eventually you may get to a point where you get so fed up with a thought, that you are really ready to unravel it. Until then, you have the right to feel however you choose to feel with the thought that’s causing you suffering.

As always, your thoughts are your choice. If you want to keep them, I’m certainly not going to try to convince you otherwise.  

*Name changed for privacy reasons. 

Posted in: Thought Work