One of our most profound teachers is Byron Katie. Here is a summary of her powerful story and amazingly simple process, which she calls The Work—both an inspiration and power set of tools to help us transform ourselves.
Before her transformation, Byron Katie, a mother of three and self-employed businesswoman, described herself as “completely depressed, suicidal, stuck in total pain and self-loathing.” Sometimes she couldn’t get up for days or weeks to bathe or brush her teeth. Eventually, her self-esteem became so low that she didn’t feel she deserved to sleep in a bed and began sleeping on the floor.
One morning, she awoke on the floor when something crawled across her ankle. She opened her eyes and saw a cockroach—and in that exact same moment, something else awakened in her. She realized that all of her suffering came from her thoughts about her situation—My life is horrible. I don’t deserve happiness—not from the situation itself. She began to laugh. It suddenly seemed so clear. When she believed her thoughts, she suffered, and when she didn’t, she was happy. And she saw that it was the same for everybody: all suffering comes from believing our thoughts. …
What she now calls The Work consists of asking yourself four simple questions about your painful thoughts and beliefs:
- Is it true?
- Can you absolutely know it’s true?
- How do you react when you believe that thought?
- Who would you be without the thought?
Then you apply a “turnaround” statement, a sentence expressing the reverse of your thought or belief.
For each turnaround, you find three genuine examples of how the turnaround is true in your life. This is not about blaming yourself or feeling guilty. It’s about discovering alternatives that can bring you peace.
When we do The Work, we free ourselves from the effects of believing stressful thoughts such as “I am not good enough,” “He does not love me,” “She doesn’t understand me,” “I’m too fat,” “I need more money,” and “Something terrible is going to happen.” We can turn our stress, frustration, and anger into a freedom that we never dreamed possible.