Doing “The Work” on my dad’s dementia

Although meditation has helped me so much with my father’s illness (see this post), I continue to find myself  troubled by the amount of emotional pain I experience while walking this journey with him.  I’ve been doing a lot of writing and talking about it, but needed a tool to investigate my troubled thoughts.

I am a big fan of Byron Katie and her method for examining our troubling thoughts, known as “The Work.”  I haven’t been practicing it for the past few years, but a chat with a friend recently reminded me that maybe I should go back to listening to her teachings and instructions.  I began by re-reading her books and listening to her workshops.  I then filled out one of her Judge Your Neighbor worksheets and began the process of self inquiry regarding my troubling thoughts about my dad.  You can download her “Judge Your Neighbor Worksheet” and apply the “The Work” to any troubling thought you have, but I suggest reading her book “Loving What Is” prior to attempting your own worksheet.

“The Work” is 4 questions and a turn-around.  The questions are:  (1) Is it true; (2) can I absolutely know that it is true? (3) How do I feel when I believe that thought?  (4) Who would I be without that thought, and then you turn the thought around to yourself, to the other, and the opposite.

byronkatie

Doing “The Work” on my thoughts that have caused me stress regarding my dad has helped so much.  I have come to see that it wasn’t my dad’s situation that was causing my pain.  Instead, it was my thoughts about my dad’s situation that were causing my pain.  I was suffering from my unquestioned thoughts.  Now, that I have questioned them, I see that my dad is not suffering.  I was the one suffering because I was believing my thoughts. Doing “The Work” is another form of meditation.  In order to answer the questions, I have to sit with my thoughts.  I had to ask myself the questions slowly and wait for the answers to come.  Although on paper below it seems like the answers come quickly, I actually sat with each question for a while.  I went inside and asked myself the questions and waited for true answers to come.  The Work is self inquiry.   

To show you how The Work works, I have recreated mine below.

My thoughts:

I am broken-hearted watching my father suffer from dementia.

I want my dad to be at peace.

My dad shouldn’t be suffering.

I need my dad to be comfortable and well.

My dad is sick, confused, uncomfortable, in pain, and sad.

My dad is kind, sweet, loving, funny, loyal and generous.

I don’t ever want to see my dad suffer again.

byron3

My thoughts and The Work:

My father suffers from dementia.

  1.  Is it true?  Yes, my dad suffers from dementia, Lewy Body Dementia, to be exact.  Multiple doctors have told me so.  It must be true.
  2. Can I absolutely know that it is true?  No.  I can’t absolutely know that my dad is suffering from dementia.  He may HAVE dementia, but I cannot absolutely know that he is SUFFERING from it.  He may not be aware of what is happening.  He may not be suffering.
  3. How do I feel when I believe the thought that my dad is suffering?  Depressed, broken-hearted, stressed, anxious, fearful, worried, sad.
  4. Who would I be without this thought?  I would just be a daughter loving her dad.  I would just be able to be with him and enjoy whatever time we have together.
  5. The turnarounds:
    1. My dad isn’t suffering from dementia.
      1. Can I find examples of how this is just as true?  Yes, he doesn’t look like he is in pain.  When I ask, he says he is comfortable.  He seems to be well taken care of, fed, and his needs are met.
    2. I am suffering from my dad’s dementia.
      1. Can I find examples of how this is just as true?  YES!  I am the one that suffers when I believe that thought.  I am depressed, stressed, worried, anxious, can’t sleep, etc., etc.
    3. I am suffering from my own dementia.
      1. YES!  I am the one who has confused thoughts.  I think that my dad is suffering and he appears not to be.  That is the truth of it:  he doesn’t appear to be suffering.  But, yet, I believe he is, and I am the one who suffers.  So, yes!  I am suffering because I have dementia (when it comes to the truth of how my dad is).

My dad is not at peace.

  1.  Is it true?  Yes, he cannot be at peace if he has dementia.
  2. Can I absolutely know that it is true?  No, not even close.  He actually does look pretty peaceful, when I look at him without that thought.
  3. How do I feel when I think that thought that my dad is not at peace?  Fearful.  Sad.  Depressed.  Anxious.  Out of control.
  4. Who would I be without that thought?  Just a loving daughter showing up to visit my dad who is at peace.
  5. The turn arounds?
    1. My dad is at peace.  Can I find examples of how this is just as true?  Yes, he looks to be relaxed and taken care of.
    2. I am not at peace with my dad. Can I find examples of how this is just as true? Yes, I am not relaxed when I’m with my dad.  I ‘m looking for reasons to support my belief that he is not at peace.  I’m anxious.  I’m worried.  I am not a loving daughter just present with my dad.
    3. I am not at peace with myself.  Can I find examples of how this is just as true?  Yes, I am not at peace because I am not seeing reality. I see reality that he looks peaceful, but convince myself that he is not.  This is insane.  It causes me worry, stress, and sleepless nights.

My dad shouldn’t be suffering.

  1.  Is it true?  My dad shouldn’t be suffering.  Is that true? If he is suffering, then it is not true, because it is the reality of it.  But, as seen above, maybe he is not suffering at all.
  2. How do I feel when I believe that thought?  Stressed out because I want to control his experience.  I send emails to his care team that I later regret telling them what they should or shouldn’t do.  I lose sleep. I don’t take care of myself.
  3. Who would I be without that thought?  Just someone noticing the truth of this situation.  He either is suffering or he is not.  Either way, it is what it is.  It is the reality of the situation.  There is absolutely nothing that I can do to change the reality of the situation for him.  All I can do is change my thoughts about it so that I can find peace.
  4. The turnaround?
    1. My dad should be suffering.  If he is, then that is what should be.  But, as seen above, it may not be true at all.
    2. I shouldn’t be suffering (when I think of my dad).

I need my dad to be comfortable and well.

  1.  Is it true?  Yes, I need him to be comfortable and well.
  2. Can I absolutely know that it is true?  No, if he is not comfortable and well, then I don’t need him to be, because that is not the truth of the situation.  But, as noted above, he does appear to be comfortable and well.
  3. How do I feel when I believe the thought?  I feel out of control trying to control his reality, which is not possible.
  4. Who would I be without that thought?  I would be a daughter just observing her father as he is.  I would be someone noticing reality.
  5. The turnaround?
    1. I don’t need my dad to be comfortable and well.  If he isn’t comfortable and well, then I don’t need him to be.  That would be fighting with reality.
    2. I need myself to be comfortable and well when it comes to my dad’s illness.  Yes, I need to accept my dad’s illness as it is.  I need to see the truth of the situation, whatever it is, in order to be at peace.
    3. I need to be comfortable and well in myself.  YES!  That is all I can actually do anything about anyway.

My dad is sick, confused, uncomfortable, in pain, and sad.

  1.  Is it true?  Yes.
  2. Can I absolutely know that it is true?  No, I cannot absolutely know that my dad is sick, confused, uncomfortable and in pain.  In fact, when I ask him, he says that he is not any of those things.
  3. How do I feel when I believe those thoughts?  Sad, depressed, and stressed.
  4. Who would I be without those thoughts?  Just a daughter visiting her dad.
  5. The turnaround?
    1. My dad is not sick, confused, uncomfortable, in pain and sad.  Yes, that could be just as true.  In fact, that is what he reports.
    2. I am sick, confused, uncomfortable, in pain, and sad.  Yes, when I think that my dad is sick, it makes me sick.

My dad is kind, sweet, loving, funny, loyal and generous.

  1.  Is it true?  YES!
  2. The turnaround?  I am kind, sweet, loving, funny, loyal and generous?  Yes!  When it comes to the love I have for my father.  I love him and there is nothing I can do about it.

I don’t ever want to see my dad suffer again.

  1.  The turnaround?  I am WILLING to see my dad suffer again.  Because that will put me back into The Work.  It will get me back to putting my thoughts  on paper again and examining them.
  2. I LOOK FORWARD TO seeing my dad suffer again.  I look forward to having that belief again, so that I will go back to doing The Work and gaining freedom from my troubling thoughts.

byron8

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3 responses to Doing “The Work” on my dad’s dementia

  1. Janifer Wisniski

    WOW!!! What growth you are experiencing!! Beautiful article about love!!!

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