The Neutrality of Circumstances

“Circumstances are reality, and when you argue with reality, you lose, but only 100% of the time.” – Byron Katie

Circumstances are facts. Data points in our lives. Outside of our control. Provable in a court of law. Everyone (and I mean everyone) would agree.


                  Things happening in the world e.g., Covid-19

                  I have $100 in my bank account

                  Rafael Nadal has 19 grand slams

                  The alarm is set for 7:30am

                  I have a diagnosis of XYZ

                  My boss said, “Your last day is Friday.”

                  The airline canceled my flight AC565.

                  My son got a D on his report card.

                  I weigh 250 lbs.

                  My husband said, “I don’t love you anymore.”

                  I am single.

                  Our past.

                  Other people.

Circumstances are neither: good nor bad; black nor white; positive nor negative; helpful nor hurtful – until we have a thought about them. 

It can be hard for people to get their head around the idea that a circumstance is “neutral”. Isn’t it true that some circumstances are more negative than others?

Are there not some “big circumstances” and some “little circumstances”? Well, no. There are only Circumstances.

Then we have a thought. And that thought can make it a bigger deal to me, and a smaller deal to someone else. That thought is what leads us to create a positive or negative feeling.

Let’s take death for example.

A death happens. It is a Circumstance.

However, the death only means something to me when I think about it.

The death of a dear friend or family member, will mean something different to me than the death of my neighbour’s second cousin’s friend. My thought about my dear friend or family member will be drastically different than my thought about my neighbour’s second cousin’s friend.

Now I am not saying that one life is more valuable than another. I’m just saying that the actual circumstance is neutral until I have a thought about it.

Some circumstances will trigger thoughts that create more painful feelings than others. (And that is ok – we are not trying to change feelings – we actually want to have different thoughts about different circumstances because that is what makes us human!) But it is still not the circumstance that triggers the feeling, it is the thought that triggers the feeling.

May sound confusing right now, and that’s ok. However, it is powerful to learn more about it. It is empowering to understand that our circumstances don’t control our emotional well being or the results in our life. We get to do that.

Our circumstance is the wind that we can not control. But we get to direct our sails.

We can try to fight the wind, but when we argue with the wind, it will win 100% of the time.