Book Excerpt: “My Mother Wouldn’t Approve”

Chapter 3 from Who Would You Be Without Your Story >>

Are you trying to spare someone’s feelings by denying yourself? Free yourself from that prison. How can you know that they’ll disapprove? And if they do, whose business is that?

Rebecca: I’m very new at this; a friend just invited me to come to your event today, and voilà! Here I am. My question refers to the parent-child relationship. Actually, it sort of stems from a problem that I have with my mother. And I lied when I filled in the Worksheet. The problem was not with [choking back tears] relationships that I have now. It’s . . . probably something that I didn’t work out with her . . . probably am unable to.

Katie: So what is it with your mother that you haven’t worked out yet?

Rebecca: Well, I come from a conservative Jamaican family, and I’ve been living in America now for twelve years, so I don’t have my family with me. And I have to depend on myself, to pat myself on the back and say, “You’re doing okay!” I find myself, though . . .

Katie: Sweetheart, what’s the problem with your mother?

Rebecca: I’m not certain I can get her approval to do what I really, really want to do.

Katie: And what is that?

Rebecca: Well, it’s music . . . yes. They’ve told me in the past that I shouldn’t. In a conservative family, you do something practical.

Katie: So if your life became all about music as an occupation . . .

Rebecca: Well, I can’t even imagine that. I think of it all the time, and it’s . . . [She chokes back tears.]

Katie: . . . and it’s overflowing.

Rebecca: I teach business English, and my business is going very well, and this is something my mother approves of, especially when I’m so far away.

Katie: So what is it she would not approve of?

Rebecca: Doing something impractical, something that’s so risky.

Katie: Like what?

Rebecca: Singing . . . yes.

Katie: Singing where, how? As an occupation?

Rebecca: Possibly, yes.

Katie: So “if you dropped your profession . . .

Rebecca: I dare not.

Katie: . . . and you became a singer, your mother wouldn’t approve”—is that true?

Rebecca: She would kill herself with worry.

Katie: That was a very quick answer. Sweetheart, this is inquiry. This is where you look for answers that are not on the surface. This is where you open your mind and heart to what you don’t already know. “If you dropped your occupation and became a singer, your mother wouldn’t approve”—can you absolutely know that that’s true?

Rebecca: Absolutely? I can’t absolutely know, but I know her well enough to know. . . . It’s not . . . not 100 percent certain, but . . .

Katie: Drop your philosophy. Drop your qualifications, and just give me a straight yes or no. This is meditation. “If you become a singer, your mother would not approve”—can you absolutely know that that’s true? Close your eyes and really look for your answer. It’s okay to say yes or no. Get a picture of your mother. Can you absolutely know
she wouldn’t approve?

Rebecca: [crying] I know the reality that she lives. It’s not a yes or no answer, but I know her reality.

Katie: I understand. You think for her. She thinks for you, and you think for her. [Rebecca laughs.] Have you ever said things and not really meant it? “She wouldn’t approve of you”—can you absolutely know that that’s true?

Rebecca: Can we redefine that word approve?

Katie: No. Can you absolutely know that it’s true she would not approve if you became a singer?

Rebecca: [after a long pause] No.

Katie: Feel that. Now, how do you react when you believe the thought “My mother would not approve”?

Rebecca: Katie, she’s a worrier; she’s a professional worrier.

Katie: Notice that you didn’t follow the simple direction. You get to be right, and you don’t answer the question.

Rebecca: Can you repeat the question?

Katie: How do you react when you believe the thought “My mother would not approve”? How do you live your life when you believe that thought?

Rebecca: Strained, disappointed, unfulfilled.

Katie: So you’re living out everything you don’t want her to experience!

Rebecca: That’s true.

Katie: Close your eyes, and look at her look at you—singing. Now drop your story, just for a moment, and look at her face. Who would you be without that thought?

Rebecca: Freer! Not so cramped, not so unhappy. Not so uncertain, not so hopeless and helpless.

Katie: “My mother would be disappointed”—turn it around.

Rebecca: My mother would not be disappointed.

Katie: Could that be as true?

Rebecca: It could be. She might even be excited!

Katie: Who knows?

Rebecca: But it has its flip side. She’s got enough worries, and I don’t want to be the problem.

Katie: Now we’re out of inquiry.

Rebecca: Oh.

Katie: Can you see how you moved out of answering the questions and into another story?

Rebecca: Yes, I see that.

Katie: So you turned around the statement “My mother would be disappointed” to “My mother would be excited.” Now give me three reasons why she would be excited if you were singing and loved it.

Rebecca: Because I would be doing what I want. Because I would be doing something she possibly never had the courage to do. And because I’d be happy.

Katie: So she might be excited because you’re doing something you love, because you’re happy, and because it’s possibly something that she wanted to do herself and didn’t. “My mother would be disappointed”—can you find another turnaround?

Rebecca: Because it’s another thing to worry about.

Katie: That’s a reason, not a turnaround. “My mother would be disappointed”—can you find another turnaround?

Rebecca: I’m not sure I understand how to turn it around.

Katie: “My mother would be disappointed.” Turn it around to yourself. “I would be…”

Rebecca: I would be disappointed—if I didn’t do it.

Katie: Is your mother disappointed a lot?

Rebecca: Yes.

Katie: So if you sang, would she be any less disappointed? She’s already disappointed!

Rebecca: But she’s not disappointed in me.

Katie: What’s the worst that could happen if your mother was absolutely blown away disappointed—in you? You drop your occupation, you’re out there singing, and she is very disappointed in you. This is your nightmare. What’s the worst that could happen if she was disappointed in you? [Pause] So you take on the role of your mother, disappointed. Even exaggerate it. And I’m going to be her daughter, the one who loves her very much, the one who is singing her heart out, and loving it. I’ll be you. This is your chance to experience what you think your mother would say.

Katie: [as Rebecca] “Hello, mom. Guess what? I quit my job. I’m
singing now.”

Rebecca: [as her mother] “Rebecca? Have you totally lost it? Have you lost your mind?”

Katie: “Oh, mom, I’ve lost my job, my occupation, everything. I have lost it.”

Rebecca: “What happened to you?”

Katie: “I decided to be a singer. That’s what I want to do. I love it.”

Rebecca: “Rebecca, how are you going to make a living?”

Katie: “I don’t know.”

Rebecca: “Lord help us!” [The audience laughs.]

Katie: “That’s what I’m counting on.” [The audience laughs and applauds.] “So, are you disappointed, Mom?”

Rebecca: “You know we don’t have a lot; I can’t send you any money. I’ve got your father here to worry about; I’ve got your brothers; I’ve got your sister; I’ve got your nephew.”

Katie: “Mom, I don’t know how you do it. Would you like to hear me sing?”

Rebecca: “That’s not funny.”

Katie: “I was serious. It brings me so much joy, I thought maybe you’d want to hear what I was doing.”

Rebecca: “Rebecca, this is probably not the time and place for that.”

Katie: “You have a major burden on your hands, Mom. What I can tell you is, I’m going to help you in any way that I can. And I just don’t know how you do it. You’re an amazing woman.” [As herself] Is that all she would say, honey?

Rebecca: No, she’d say [resuming the dialogue as her mother], “Rebecca, we all worry about you, I worry about you . . . you’re so far away! Who’s going to feed you?”

Katie: “If I get hungry, I promise I’ll call.”

Rebecca: “Rebecca, we love you. I love you. And it’s important— it’s important for me that you’re happy.”

Katie: “Mom, you are so amazing. . . . Do you realize that not one time have you said that you were disappointed in me? I asked you the question and it was as though you didn’t even hear me. You’re incredible. You’ve been that way all my life. You’ve only wanted my happiness.”

Rebecca: “Yes.”

Katie: [as herself] So, “Your mother would be disappointed”—can you absolutely know that that’s true?

Rebecca: [pause] No, I really can’t. That’s just incredible. I feel so much lighter. Thank you.
Katie: You’re welcome. Sweetheart, when you believe what you think, it’s as though you’re living in a horrible prison. And when you question what you believe, you set yourself free. The mind becomes so open that it sees ways that you can have it all—your job, a singing career, you can have it all. But one thing you can know: When you go to work, it’s because you choose it. It could be that you’ll never say, “I didn’t live out my passion because of my mother. I couldn’t sing because I didn’t want to disappoint her.” It just doesn’t sound reasonable.

Rebecca: It makes me sound unreasonable, yes.

Katie: Thank you. So, sweetheart, would you like to sing right now? [The audience whistles and applauds.]

Rebecca: Sure! Now this is not exactly a song my mother would approve of.

Katie: And can you absolutely know that that’s true?

[Rebecca laughs, then belts out a torrid love song. The audience applauds wildly.]

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