by Susan Vielguth
Since testing positive with HIV, my friend expressed that she doubts that her daughter-in-laws genuinely accept her. She shared that while she’s around them she’s constantly scrutinizing; attempting to decipher whether or not their kind words and actions are merely fronts concealing their true disapproval of her.
She recalled a situation, years ago, when she was shaping her eyebrows with a razor in one of her son’s home. Her grandchild ran over to her in an excited pace and just before she could pick the razor off the table herself she heard her daughter-in-law from a short distance, “Mum, don’t give her the razor!”
She felt judged and very hurt. To her mind, it was clear that her daughter-in-law was undeniably stigmatizing her with the fear that she would spread the virus to the little one. She saw it as evidence that she didn’t accept her.
“My daughter-in-law doesn’t accept me”
Instantaneously she felt unwelcome in their home, like she had no dignity, was ashamed of her status and attempted to mask the hate she now felt towards her daughter-in-law. As a result, she stopped her frequent visits.
On the other side of questioning the thought, she was amazed with the discovery that the the pain she felt wasn’t due to the words her daughter-in-law said, rather, it was the meaning her mind gave to the words.
“Believing what you fear makes it true for you, and that doesn’t make it true.” -Byron Katie
In the turnarounds she found that it was truer for her that her daughter-in-law said it out of fear of her daughter cutting herself with the razor- a mother’s instinct reaction- not from a place of condemning her status. She saw that there wasn’t even any way it could have been contracted, there was no blood on the razor, and she asserted that her daughter-in-law would have known this. In the turnaround “My daughter-in-law does accept me,” all the examples flooded in and, this time, she was able to take them in. Examples of how her daughter-in-law would buy her good quality foods when they came into money, order taxis for her when the cues were long at the hospital, and often call to check in to see how she’s feeling.
I love that this Work can reveal the negative assumptions we make about what others are thinking. And through it we can get back our sanity, clarity, and maybe even a little more quality time with the people we love.
by Susan Vielguth
In an individual session this past week I sat on a blanket in the park as I heard one of the participants share what the last class was like for her. She asked me if I had noticed that she had tears in her eyes during one of the exercises we did and went on to share why.
She recounted that after testing positive with HIV the only soul she told, her Mother, swore her to secrecy. She described her Mother as extremely stressed by the news and remembers continually hearing her say that she refuses to have her children die before her. Her Mother’s health started to deteriorate rapidly until she finally passed due to what my new friend described as “being stressed” by her contracting HIV.
She believed that her Mother’s death was her fault. She had been living with this belief for years.
“Your Mother’s death is your fault” - Is it true?
We started with the first question of The Work and as the inquiry unfolded I traveled with her through the internal cause and effect of believing that thought. With the thought she described her bouts of crying, the guilt, the shame, and immense despair. In her mind she saw images of how her Mother would still be alive and healthy today if she hadn’t told her & compared that picture in the mind to the reality of her Mother’s death – she saw it as proof that she was to blame. At this point in the inquiry she was holding her head in her hands with tears streaming down both cheeks.
When it was time to move to question 4 she closed her eyes and, in silence, she waited. When she was moved to speak she shared that without the thought she would be lighter, freer, taking care of herself, and embracing the joy in life.
In the turnaround to the opposite, “My Mother’s death is not my fault” she realized that she had no control over how her Mother reacted to hearing that she had HIV. She saw that her Mother was very stressed by her own thinking & assumptions. She later noted that when she eventually did tell her sister about her status that her sister didn’t become intensely stressed or pass away. And it was as if, in acknowledging this, it reaffirmed that she herself had no control over how her Mother responded and allowed her to consciously recognize that there was never any malicious intent in sharing her status. She discovered her innocence.
As her examples for the turnarounds came to a close, she looked at me with plump tears in her eyes and with a smile on her face said,
“I feel free.”