The Work of Byron Katie is an effective way to identify stressful thoughts and to question them.
With the help of The Work we learn to meet stressful thoughts and concepts with understanding and we can open our mind to a bigger and more comprehensive truth. This process is very simple and powerful and every person that wants to know the truth can experience it. The method consists of only four questions and the engagement with the logical turnaround of a thought. The power of The Work unfolds purely through the answers that arise within you.
Many people know different kinds of stress and suffering: the daily trouble at the workplace, conflicts with a partner or in the family, the loss of a beloved one, or endless self accusations, with which we stand in our own way. In the attempt to change our feelings we then reach for things outside ourselves (alcohol, work, sex, food, drugs etc. etc.), in order to find temporary relief.
And…it could be so much simpler, because whatever gives us a bad feeling only comes from believing our thoughts that are in conflict with reality. Without the thought there would be no conflict and therefore no suffering. All too often,we just cannot let the thought go. It is present ! The Work helps us to examine and to realise that even all “opposites” of a thought are true. In this way we come back to our inner balance and to a life in tune with reality. If we go to seek the truth with The Work we don’t let go of a thought, rather the thought lets go of us !
Chaos comes about when we hold onto a concept that seems true for so long, until we examine it. A single stressful thought, left unexamined, can always bring forth new restricting beliefs and concepts. Our inner defence becomes a helpless attempt to control something that cannot be controlled and will not bring us peace.
When we have a stressful thought and examine it with The Work, we can note that order replaces chaos and that feelings can change. The Work of Byron Katie is an invitation to look forward to an uncomfortable feeling, to find clarity through enquiry and to meet one’s own unease with understanding. The single thing that we need in order to restore harmony and contentment is an open mind and a readiness to answer the four questions.
This is the way you can start
First find a situation in which you experience stress, anger, or frustration. Something that has only just happened, or a long time ago, or even back into your childhood. Fill in a worksheet “Judge your neighbour” (to find in Downloads) fill in a worksheet and write down your thoughts and judgements. You can just as well judge another person who is not alive or not in their body any more, or judge Organisations, God, Life, the World and abstract things. Don’t try to be spiritual or wise. This worksheet is an invitation to be judgmental and to let your thoughts run freely on paper.
Subsequently you will will meet the thought you have written down with the four questions of The Work. Then find all the possible turnarounds for the thought and test for yourself if the opposite is true or even truer than the original thought. It is not relevant therefore what opinion others have about the situation or the persons concerned, but important is what appears as truth to you at that moment.
The four questions of The Work are:
- Is it true?
- Can you absolutely know that it is true?
- How do react when you believe that thought?
- Who would you be without that thought?
- Turnaround to me
- Turnaround to the other person
- Turnaround to the opposite
An example from my practical experience with The Work
I try to solve a problem on my computer that I have created and can’t manage. My wife wants to work at my computer and accuses me of blocking her work.
A stressful thought turns up:
My wife should not accuse me.”
Is ist true?
Is it true ?
When answering this question decide whether it is YES or NO. Both answers are equally good. It is not about right or wrong but about what is your truth in this moment.
In my example situation it is a yes – my feelings tell me that it is true for me. She blames me for her stress and I think I am not to blame.
Should you reply to Question 1 with a NO then proceed to Question 3
Can you be absolutely sure that it is true?
With this question also decide to answer with a YES or a NO. In my situation I feel I am so in the right, I really believe that she should not accuse me. This is my truth in this moment.
How do I react when I believe this thought that she should not accuse me and she still does? Which feelings turn up and where in my body do I feel this? How do I treat her in this situation and how do I treat myself ? How do I live my life whilst I believe this thought?
In my situation I close myself off and start to defend and justify myself. I become angry, very angry and livid. I make strong accusations. I don’t listen to her anymore. My body is uptight, my chest is tight and in my belly it feels like an iron fist is holding me. I begin to scream. I get stomach cramps. I become very hurtful to her and call her names. I am at war. Then I withdraw grumbling. I isolate myself totally and I am silent. I poison myself with this, feel lonely and without hope. I also feel guilty and I am stuck. I am annoyed with myself and have a go at myself (Other thoughts turn up: she’s not the right woman for me. I would be happier with another woman. I am an idiot.) In my imagination I see her as the enemy. In my thoughts I leave her and fantasize about being in a relationship with another woman.
Who would you be without the thought?
The situation is the same. Nothing is different, but I imagine that I cannot believe this thought, and be it only for a short time. How do I treat my wife differently ? How does this feel ? What do I see when I look closely without my story about her?
In my situation I see a desperate woman who is very frustrated. I stay with me. I don’t feel attacked. I realise, that she is experiencing a process that has nothing to do with me. She is experiencing her emotions and I can comfort her. I feel grown up. strong and full of compassion. Without the thought I would take her in my arms, I would understand her and I would have understanding for myself. I see how innocent we both are in this situation and I feel that I love her. I could tell her how right she is. That feels very light.
1. I should not accuse myself (Turnaround to myself)
How is that as true or truer than the original thought, that she should not accuse me.
- In my situation I should not accuse myself for not being able to solve the problem with the computer. I attack myself. I should not do that.
- I accuse myself for making her unhappy.
- And in that moment, when I believe she is accusing me, I take her words and accuse myself for not being able to being able to react differently than with arguing and fighting. Can I stop that?
2. I should not accuse her (turnaround to the other)
How is that as true or truer than the original thought?
- I should therefore not accuse her when I feel bad, in that moment when she accuses me. I could also just listen and see where she is right. In my situation she was right in that I tried without thinking to fix the computer myself without really knowing how to do that.
- I should not criticise her for her volatile behaviour. I’m no better than her in that situation.
- I should not accuse her because otherwise I don’t hear what she says. I should not criticise her for her showing me what it looks like inside her at that moment. She says that she has been delayed by this and is stressed through that. To listen to her sympathetically is that which I would wish from her. I could go ahead first to be a good example.
3. She should accuse me (Turnaround to the opposite)
Why is this just as true or truer
- She should accuse me so that I learn to get professional help for the computer the next time.
- She should accuse me because that is how I find out what is important for her and how she sees the world and me. I find out how it looks within her and how she is feeling, that is to say desperate and that is important for her to continue her work on the computer now.
- She should accuse me so that I realise where I accuse myself (not to have brought the computer to the specialist) and can stop doing that. I can be positively grateful to her for that. The order of Creation: Thinking-feeling-acting-having.
When The Work does not work
The Work doesn’t work when we don’t answer the questions or we don’t answer them honestly. When we justify ourselves and want to be right (because, …) we will not find peace with The Work. It is easy to find proof that we are right in that the mind is very good. That has not really made ever made us happy though. The Work does not work when we have another motive than the love of truth. e.g. if we try to change the feelings, the situation, or another person. Then the answers come out of this motive and are not that truth we are experiencing that arises in us, when we, without expectation – without knowing – go into the process of examination.