The Work by Byron Katie #3 – How Do You React When You Believe That Thought?

Written by: Jorinde Berben
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I’m not really supposed to be here right now, at home, writing this post. I’m supposed to be at my children’s school, helping clean the classroom as it’s the start of the two month summer holidays. Last night, however, I injured my toe which makes it very painful to walk, so I wouldn’t be of much use. I’m quite sad about it, since we’ve had few opportunities to socialize with other parents and the teachers, and I was looking forward to doing just that while putting in some elbow grease. Instead, I’m faced with a bunch of not-so-kind thoughts that, if anything, make an ideal subject for this third post in my series on The Work by Byron Katie (more information on her website here.)

The Work centers around 4 questions that help you tackle your own thoughts and beliefs. This post deals with the third question. Click on the links below to find my view of the other questions.
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?

How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?

When you’ve already tackled questions 1 and 2, you’re left with a believe that you’ve either established as being 100% true, not really true or that you’re unsure about. This thought has an impact on us, on the way we feel and act, when we believe it to be true (which is usually the case before we start our questioning process).

For this question, I’ll go with the current thought ‘I’m letting everyone down by not being able to be at the school today.’
What happens when I believe this thought to be true? How do I react and feel? What version of myself do I become?

This particular thought comes with feelings of guilt and shame. It conjures up thoughts of weakness, of being a victim of my circumstances. When I believe it, I find myself becoming rather gloomy and upset. I hear other thoughts popping up such as ‘What a bad start to the summer holidays’, and ‘If I hadn’t been so stupid to injure my toe, I’d be a reliable person.’ Obviously, none of these reactions are actually helpful when you’re looking after two tired children and hopping around on one leg. They aren’t very kind to myself either, and the truth value of them is seriously debatable.

When you make the consequences of a belief explicit, it gives you a clear insight into what these thoughts are actually capable of. Even more than the actual reality around us, our thoughts and feelings about it decide how we experience that reality. Do we accept it and move on? Or do we resist it, push against it and let it overtake our emotional world?

Unlike the answers to questions 1 and 2, which are both either ‘yes’ or ‘no’, the answer to question 3 can be very comprehensive. Take your time to really dive into this thought that you have decided to believe up to now, and see what it has brought you in your life. If you’re not right in the moment of this experience, it may take some time to emerge yourself in that particular moment again, so you can feel the feelings again, imagine what it’s like to really believe it to be true again. If it’s a thought you have held for a long time, there could be a lot of effects that you can find connected to it.

This information is key before you move on to question 4, which I’ll discuss in the next post, but it also packs a lot of power on its own. It can really help you get the situation crystal clear. Suddenly, you start connecting dots you may never have connected without it. Were you feeling particularly grumpy after your brother called for your birthday? Maybe the incident from last year affects you still. Do you keep finding yourself in clothes you don’t really like? Perhaps thoughts about your body are keeping you from really feeling like you deserve to wear fabulous clothing.

Thoughts can be very sneaky. They try to worm their way in through our subconscious and can influence much of what we feel, do or say without us giving us the free choice we really want and deserve. Making these thoughts conscious is a way of actually giving ourselves that choice. We are able to choose only when we become aware that there is a choice available. And there always is.

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