The Work by Byron Katie #2 – Can You Absolutely Know that it’s True?

Written by: Jorinde Berben
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In my last post, I started describing the process of doing The Work by Byron Katie. It’s a self-coaching technique you can use to deal with thoughts or emotions that become difficult to deal with. I discussed the first question ‘Is it true?’ in detail, and today, I want to move on the question number 2!

The 4 questions are as follows:

  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?

When you have a thought, a judgement, a problem that keeps coming up, you first ask whether it’s true. If you’ve answered ‘yes’, you then proceed to ask yourself the following question: ‘Can I absolutely know that it’s true?’

For me, this second question was even more impactful than the first one. I found that in many cases, I couldn’t really know for sure whether the statement I had made, the judgement I had made, was true. Often it was just an assumption (and you know why they say not to ass-u-me …). If I would think something like ‘He’s angry with me because I didn’t invite him to come along’ I could base this assumption on the fact that he reacted with a single word text-message. Or thinking ‘I’m a bad cook’ could be based on the idea that my children don’t want to eat what I’ve cooked. In both cases, there are, of course, other possible explanations for what’s happening. Perhaps he has little time to reply. Perhaps the children are picky eaters.

The question whether you can know something to be absolutely true means you have to go looking for other possibilities, other explanations that may be just as plausible. Even when we’re making statements about things we seem 100% sure about, such as ‘I am unhappy at my job,’ or ‘I am really sick’, it challenges us to find out where those statements might not be 100% true. Maybe we love our coffee breaks at the job we hate. Maybe our mind is in a healthy state even if our body isn’t.

As soon as there is doubt, as soon as you answer ‘no‘ to this question, there is room to manoeuvre. You find yourself breaking free from the locked cage you were living in. There’s a glimmer of hope, the door is ever so slightly ajar and what seemed to be etched in stone is perhaps only written in sand.

Again, even to this question it is fine to answer ‘yes’ as well as ‘no’. Perhaps you are 100% sure of what you’re thinking. Perhaps your judgement is objective, or the situation your facing is purely factual (Am I absolutely sure I am divorced? Why yes, I’ve only got to check the registry.) Even then, the act of weighing the statement often throws a new light on it, as do the questions that follow.

For the coming week or so, see if you can question a few thoughts you’ve had during the day and try to feel whether you can absolutely know them to be true. I do it with the thoughts that have engrained themselves as convictions in my mind, but also with thoughts and feelings that come up suddenly. ‘I feel really annoyed right now!’ Do I really? Can I be 100% sure that this is all I’m feeling?’

May this second question bring you the surprising insights and insightful surprises it has brought me!
For more on Byron Katie’s The Work, check out the website full of materials!

Happy weekend 🙂

4 thoughts on “The Work by Byron Katie #2 – Can You Absolutely Know that it’s True?

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