Working Out Mental Kinks With The Work

“Who would I be without this story, which I cannot possibly know to be true?”

Byron Katie

Byron Katie, who goes by Katie, is the creator of The Work, a method of inquiry to access the wisdom within. Her premise is that we are miserable not because of our circumstances, but because of the stories we tell ourselves about our circumstances, others, and our selves.

I have a friend who is going through a Hard Time. It is hard and I believe it is being made harder by the story she is telling herself. “I’ve failed again. I still haven’t figured out how to get this right. I’m a failure.”

Those aren’t her words, those are my imaginings of what is underneath what she has said.

Whenever we are beating ourselves up, there is usually a story behind the club we wield. Byron Katie’s The Work is a process to examine and dismantle the story.

You start with the story you’re telling yourself, and then you ask the official questions.

The 4 Questions of The Work:

  1. Is it true? (Yes or no. If no, go to question 3.)
  2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true? (Yes or no.)
  3. How do you react, what happens when you believe that thought?
  4. Who or what would you be without that thought?

I’ll use a recurring story of my own as an example.

The story I’m telling myself: “I’m not living up to my full potential. I should be doing more, having a bigger impact.”

  1. Is it true? My friends have important jobs or are running their own businesses. They are doing things that matter. I just have a weekly newsletter that goes to 44 people and write vanity projects—Prince Tarkten, a novel. Sure, I teach a class, but it’s only half a semester, and it’s only 19 students, and 17 of them are taking it because it’s required.
  2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true? I suppose not. Maybe my newsletter will make a difference to someone, and they will make a change that will make a difference that will matter. Maybe if all my writing does is keep me out of trouble or depression, maybe that’s enough. Maybe some student in my class will do something different than they would have. Maybe what I’m doing is enough. I can’t know for sure. I’m not God.
  3. How do you react, what happens when you believe that thought, the thought that “I’m not living up to my full potential. I should be doing more, having a bigger impact.”? I feel tired. Small. Like I don’t matter. It feels like I’ve moved back into my parents’ house and there’s nothing I can do to make anything any better.
  4. Who or what would you be without that thought? I’d be free, released from a heavy weight. I’d float like a fluffy cloud. I’d breathe more fully, more deeply. I’d also want to pull up a blanket and take a nap. Beating myself up is exhausting. I’d want to nap first, then float.

I started writing this reflection to help my friend, but it seems it has helped me. And that’s enough.


Chewing the Cud of Good

closeup of a pink peony
Thankful for favorite things.

 

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