The Work by Byron Katie #1 – Is it True?

Written by: Jorinde Berben
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Lately, I’ve been seeing The Work of Byron Katie pop up here and there in my environment. Usually this means the universe is gently nudging me to check out something, to find value there, so that’s what I’ve been doing.

The Work is pretty straightforward with 4 questions you use to question your beliefs and a turnaround moment after you’ve done the 4 questions.

There is a lot of material on the web about The Work, and Katie offers up free worksheets on her website as well that help you get into it.
Just like any muscle, technique or habit, the process gets easier with practice, so I want to use this blog as a way to explore each question with you and talk about what it means to me or how I understand it.

The 4 questions are as follows (I’ll link future posts on each question so you can click on them in turn.):

  1. Is it true?
  2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
  3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
  4. Who or what would you be without the thought?

1. Is it true?

Our mind if filled on a daily basis with a gazillion thoughts, most of them not all that different from the day before. Thoughts have incredible power over us. We act in complete accordance with our own thoughts, though there’s one small, yet important caveat: for our thoughts to have an impact, we have to BELIEVE them.

Imagine someone telling you: “Your third leg look absolutely ridiculous.” As long as you know you don’t have a third leg, this won’t trigger any kind of emotional response other than, perhaps, surprise. If someone told you: ‘I can’t believe how boring you are’, this will only mean something to you to the extent that you (already) believe the message to be the truth. If you think you might be boring, having someone confirm that idea of yourself can feel very painful (I can confirm).

“Is it true?” is a great way to challenge our own thoughts, from what we think about ourselves to what we think about other people, situations or things. In order to do this, first of all, we need to acknowledge our thoughts, and that can sometimes be tricky. I’m often more inclined to hide from the judgements I hold about other people, because I don’t think I should be having them (I judge my judgements, ironic, but not that uncommon, I’m sure). I’m also pretty aware of the fact that I should judge myself kindly, so the unkind judgements I still hold try to hide in my subconscious. It can take a bit of effort (i.e. a coaching session or journaling) to dig them up.

Once I find the thoughts that I’m actively holding and believing, it’s time to really challenge them:
‘My mother is disappointed in me.’
But is she really?
‘I don’t have enough money to do x, y or z.’
Or do I?

The answer to the question is either yes or no. Byron Katie doesn’t allow any maybes or ‘in-betweens‘. Before you ask the question, take a moment to feel the feelings that accompany the thought, imagine you’re back in the situation that triggered it, and then see which answer arises spontaneously. Whether you answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ doesn’t matter. Either are fine. It only matters for which question follows. If you answer ‘yes’, then you move onto question 2. If you’ve answered ‘no’, you get to skip straight to question 3.

Next time, I’ll dive into what question 2 is all about and how you can apply it to a situation. Until then, I hope these self-coaching tools can help you gain some insight as well.

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