How to stop worrying about other people

cancer and The Work of Byron Katie

Co-facilitated group with Grace Bell and Anil Coumar begins this evening in Seattle (Ravenna) exploring the experience of cancer using The Work of Byron Katie.

This group is for anyone who has suffered with a stressful thought about having cancer in the past, or present. If you are in remission, or if you are in treatment now, you are welcome to join this group.

Hit reply if you’re interested, or share this with someone you know.

Beginners to experienced in The Work all are welcome.


Caring about other people is a really good thing.


But what about when it’s stressful?

Because it can be very stressful. Very, very stressful.

And when something is stressful, it’s worthy of inquiry.

I’ll give you an example of caring about someone being very stressful.

Let’s say you’re a parent, and you find out your kid is at the emergency room during a school skiing trip.

(Not that I would know anything about this in 2006 when my son broke his arm and I was 10 hours away).

It’s doesn’t matter how old the kid is (they can be truly any age) you want to drop everything and race to the hospital.

Maybe your heart is beating, you’re freaked out if you run into heavy traffic, you feel enormous anxiety and pictures run through your head about what just happened.

Or what about if your spouse or partner is upset about their job?

They call you and say “I just got fired.”

You ask if they’re OK, you’re shocked, you’re wondering what will happen now, and you feel like leaving your own job so you can go hang out with them.

Things happen with people all the time. It’s the way of life.

When you know and love these people, you might feel a surge of suffering, sadness, anxiety or terror….

….even though it’s not you who is actually suffering.

Except, how quickly it happens that you are.

What are your thoughts?

Often, the mind jumps to images and projections of what this situation means.

It doesn’t even have to be a sudden occurrence, like the accident or job change I just described.

It can be watching someone you love slowly become more and more depressed, or addicted, or angry.

  • I’ll lose them
  • there is something wrong with them (or me)
  • if they are hurting, I must hurt too
  • I have to be strong, positive, get them to feel better
  • they can’t die/lose/fail
These thoughts all have a deep assumption underneath, that we often overlook.


This is terrible. 


I can’t handle it, they can’t handle it, this is unmanageable, life will never be the same again, success looks like “x” (and this is not it)….


….this is horrible, wrong, evil, bad, troubling.

I am against this!!!!

But who would you be without the belief that this other person you love, admire, care about can’t hurt or suffer or die, without YOU also suffering, hurting or dying?

I once had a very dear friend who tried to kill himself.

Every time I thought of him, I felt a stab of pain in my stomach.

I would think “I can’t handle it, if he dies.”


Is that actually true?

After encountering Byron Katie and The Work and entering the world of inquiry and questioning my arguments with what appeared to be real….

….I did an exercise that Katie talks about in her powerful bookLoving What Is.

What’s the worst that could happen, in your life?

In this case, the worst I could ever imagine happening was my children dying in a car crash.

Just having it wisp through my mind as an idea made me scared.

But I wanted to know the truth.

I wanted to find out what it might be like to wonder about death, and children, or my friends, or a lover, or a sister or parent.

I wanted to inquire into this belief about living and dying and simply investigate as best I could.

Who would I be without the belief that if the terrible thing happens, I couldn’t go on?

Who would I be without the belief that I couldn’t handle it, they couldn’t handle it, that it wasn’t handle-able?

I had to admit, because it was right in front of my face in life, that people I loved sometimes got hurt physically, or emotionally.

I had to admit, also right in front of me, that adult parents sometimes lost their children.

Children die, friends die, parents die, partners die.

Who am I without the belief that this should not be so, when I’m looking at life and the world and the obvious thing is that people come and go, in these forms called bodies, at all times and at all ages?

When I wondered about this honestly, I found I wasn’t even sure who I would be without the thought.

But this was different than being with the thought that I was against other people leaving, or dying, or suffering.

It didn’t mean I had to like it, or be thrilled about it.

But it was so much easier to breathe, to have that possibility that someone else getting hurt physically or emotionally had a path, a direction, a way about it that I did not have to control or run (I couldn’t anyway).

What a relief.

Turning the thoughts around:

  • I’ll never lose them, I’ll gain them (if they die, or leave)
  • there is something right with them (or me)
  • if they are hurting, I do not have to also hurt
  • I do not have to be any emotion but what is real for me, I do not have to get them to feel better
  • they are free to die/lose/fail

I know it’s a little much to think “this is wonderful” about kids dying in a car crash.

Like I said, this is not about being completely in denial or something.

In fact, this is about becoming sane, and coming out of denial, for me.

To even be able to find benefits for the shifting and changing of life, in bodies….

….this is truly amazing to find.

After I inquired about that worst case scenario, I felt uncertain and slightly confused.

I also had a glimmer of awareness about no longer caring, or worrying, in the suffering way I always had.

“A death accomplishes what ordinary life could never do, letting you experience what is beyond identification: the bodiless self, mind infinitely free…….Sweetheart, we ALL have that place. We can all find it, if we look deeply enough, no matter how much pain we’re in. It doesn’t matter–that place is always there…..Until we know that death is as good as life, and that it always comes at just the right time, we’re going to take on the role of God without the awareness of it, and it’s always going to hurt.” ~ Byron Katie

Without any belief that people shouldn’t suffer, when they do….

….I sit with them without panic or agony.

I watch their suffering change, without my help.

The way of it.

Much Love, Grace

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