Did you know it is possible to reach a new level of freedom? It involves doing “The Work” which was created by Byron Katie. “The Work” consists of 4 questions that will change your life. In this post I’m going to share what they are and give you an example of “the work” in full effect so you can begin to practice it yourself and reach freedom.
I recently finished reading Byron Katie’s book, “Loving What Is: Four Questions that Can Change Your Life” and let me tell you…it has changed my life already. This book is about 4 questions that make up “the work.” The following description is from Goodreads:
“The Work is simply four questions that, when applied to a specific problem, enable you to see what is troubling you in an entirely different light. As Katie says, ‘It’s not the problem that causes our suffering; it’s our thinking about the problem.’ Contrary to popular belief, trying to let go of a painful thought never works; instead, once we have done The Work, the thought lets go of us. At that point, we can truly love what is, just as it is.“
Prior to teaching “the work” to hundreds of thousands of people all over the world, Katie was just a regular woman. She battled depression, which turned to rage and despair until one day after her decade long suffering, awoke to a newfound state of incredible joy. This freedom came from her realization that her suffering was now over. Now she uses what she calls “inquiry” to question our thoughts so that we can reach that freedom as well.
What are the 4 questions?
The 4 questions that make up “the work” are so simple that at first glance, almost don’t make sense. It feels like it should be more complicated but that’s why this works so well. We don’t need to overcomplicate our freedom.
The questions are the following:
- Is it true?
- Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
- How do you react when you believe that thought?
- Who would you be without the thought?
I suggest you save them in your notepad on your phone or write them down in your journal so you can begin to use them to observe your thoughts today.
How to begin
I’m going to show you an example of “the work” as if I were writing this down in my journal, inquiring about my thoughts. But before I do that, I want to share that Katie suggests using her “Judge Your Neighbor Worksheet” to help hone in on your specific thoughts that are causing you the suffering. The worksheet is super easy to follow. In the book, she invites you to be as judgmental and petty as possible when filling out the worksheet because that’ll help with the inquiry.
The worksheet begins with asking which emotion you’re feeling with who and why. Then it asks what you want (how you want the person to change, etc). The third question asks for your “shoulds” in the situation. The fourth question asks what you need to happen (what you need the person to do, etc). The next question gathers your complaints (what you think about the person) and finally, the last question asks, “what is it about this person and situation that you never want to experience again?”
After completing the worksheet, you’d do “the work” for each statement. After that, you’ll do a “turnaround” for each of the statements, that I’ll also demonstrate in my example.
So let me give you an example so you can see “the work” in action. Let’s say I was sad because my mom has stopped calling me. The answers on the worksheet would look something like this:
- I am sad with my mom because she doesn’t call me anymore.
- I want my mom to think about me and call me more often.
- My mom should remember that she has a daughter. She should make the time to call me. She should care more.
- I need my mom to call me more. I need her to say she misses me and tell me she loves me.
- My mom is selfish, careless, unloving
- I don’t ever want my mom to forget to call me during the week. I don’t ever want to feel unloved by my mom again.
(This was just an example. My mom and I have a great relationship)
The work (a.k.a the 4 questions)
After completing the worksheet, the next step is answering the 4 questions for each statement. I’ll go over one as an example.
The example is: “my mom doesn’t call me anymore.”
- Is it true? Yes (I believe that she doesn’t call me anymore)
- Can you absolutely know that it’s true? Not really, no. (I can’t know for sure that she doesn’t call me anymore. Hint: this answer is always no. We can never know something for sure. It’s always our thoughts that make up ideas)
- How do you react when you believe that thought? I become sad and push her further away.
- Who would you be without the thought? I would feel lighter and I’d enjoy my conversations with her whenever we do talk on the phone.
In the turnaround we are finding the opposites of the original thoughts. The purpose of this is to question the turnaround statements as true or truer than the original thought. So if my original thought is: “my mom doesn’t call me anymore,” some of my turnaround statements are the following:
- “my mom does call me”
- “I don’t call my mom anymore”
- “I don’t call me anymore”
Turning the statement around can bring it back on you because at the end of the day, we are the only ones responsible for our thoughts. These statements are made to provoke insight, they’re not meant to use them in a literal sense. So in this example, I may find that the last turnaround statement hits home for me because I don’t feel like I’m being there for myself. Therefore, I’m projecting my sadness on my mom instead of realizing I’m simply upset with myself.
This work is meant to bring self-awareness on our suffering. We’re the ones that cause our own suffering by making up stories about every circumstance we experience. Now that you know all about “the work” involving these 4 questions, I hope you use it to inquire your uncomfortable thoughts that do not serve you. It is possible to shift your perspective and achieve freedom.
You can use these 4 questions on anything causing you stress, sadness, anger, anxiety, etc. One of the suggestions Katie gives in the book if you can’t pinpoint the emotion or circumstance bothering you, is to journal for 5 minutes non stop. Ask yourself “What am I thinking?” and free write without judgments. (I tried it and it truly works).
For a deeper understanding, grab a copy of the book “Loving What Is.” It’s filled with a variety of examples from different people and their experiences. You can also look up Byron Katie’s work on YouTube. She has some seminars that can be super helpful as well. I hope you begin to practice doing “the work” and attain a newfound freedom.
Let’s work together!
- If you’re really ready to create the life you want
- If you want to increase your happiness and feel more confident in who you are
- If you want to trust yourself more and live on purpose