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Shifting Perspectives: Exploring Self-Inquiry with Byron Katie's Method

Updated: Mar 20


The year was 2014. I was sitting in a room full of strangers and adults who were angrily writing down the answers to the first question our mentor had asked us.

‘’Think about a very stressful moment in your life, a challenging conversation you had, maybe with a colleague or a neighbor, or maybe with one of your friends. You were left with a feeling of anger and resentment, and afterwards, your perception of them drastically changed. You started to see them as ‘bitter’, ‘hateful’, ‘negative’, ‘full of themselves’.


But now I want you to ask this to yourself: 


‘’Is it true?’’ If you answer yes and still insist, ask yourself again: 


‘’Can you be sure of it?’’


While I was staring blankly at the paper in front of me, there were questions that my mind had a hard time believing otherwise. I was 16, and the only person I hated the most was the guy who made my life a living hell in high school. 

I believed he was immature; he didn’t care about anyone’s feelings, was so full of himself, and was also very popular. But I was staring at the second question, and I knew in that moment that I needed to see him and the situation from another perspective. 


‘’Can you absolutely know it's true, Penny?’’ 


This was mind-blowing at first. I hesitated. I saw him as a creature who had no heart, just like Frankenstein’s creature, but you know, that was not the true essence of the creature. That's how people saw it.


So, I was sitting in that room on a warm May afternoon and started answering the most difficult questions I had faced in my life. I never knew how hard it was to get rid of our prejudgments and look at things from a fresher perspective. 





The questions I’m talking about were founded by Byron Katie, born Byron Kathleen Mitchell, who is an American author and speaker known for developing a self-inquiry method called "The Work." She was born on December 6, 1942, in Breckenridge, Texas. Katie's life took a significant turn in 1986 when she experienced a profound awakening, which she describes as a moment of clarity that freed her from years of mental health struggles.


After this awakening, Katie developed "The Work," a simple yet powerful method for self-inquiry aimed at challenging and questioning one's thoughts and beliefs. The essence of "The Work" revolves around four questions. 

 

Before answering these questions, you have to first identify a stressful thought.

 

  • Is it true?

 

This is meant to pause and make you aware of the thought. As we are often in automatic pilot, we don’t stop and wonder if any arising thought can be actually true or not. This makes us step out of the automatic pilot and brings us to a more mindful and open state of perception.





  • Can you absolutely know that it's true?

If you answered ‘no’ to the first one, you could skip this; however, if you answered ‘yes’ to the first question, then you still have to be working on the part of your brain that wants to believe that this story is still true.


  • How do you react? What happens when you believe that thought?

This is the perfect opportunity to step back and look at yourself and your life from a bird's-eye view. Write down any emotions or blockages you are feeling when you react to this thought. Do you feel breathless? Anxious? Angry? The sole purpose of this question is to show you how you and your life are affected when you hold on to this thought.





  • Who would you be without the thought?

This is the most liberating question of this exercise. You would probably be more peaceful, free, happy, and relaxed without that thought that’s bothering you and disallowing you to be your best self. Remind yourself that this indeed is possible; all you need to do is work on your beliefs more!





These questions are designed to help individuals investigate their beliefs and perceptions, ultimately leading to a deeper understanding of themselves and the world around them. Through this process of inquiry, Katie suggests that people can experience profound shifts in their perspective and find greater peace and freedom. For me, I saw an immense shift in how I saw my high school bully. I noticed that I was looking at him from only one perspective. This method allowed me to forgive him and end my own suffering revolving around this.


At first, while doing this exercise, your mind tends to not let go of the negative assumptions you attach to situations or people. If this has been going on for a long amount of time, this resistance will not set you free. However, it’s possible to end your own suffering because we tend to see things as we want to see them, and when we do that with our own perspective, we don’t see the true essence of any situation or any person.





The mind likes to create stories from situations. For instance, let’s assume a scenario where your partner didn’t pick up their phone and called you back 2-3 hours later. Your mind inevitably goes to the worst-case scenario, thinking you've been replaced or forgotten.


However, before you go into that spiral, you can stop in that stressful moment and ask yourself, ‘’ Is this really true? Can I be absolutely, 100% sure of it?’’ and do the rest of The Work. I know that your life will alter in the best way possible.

How did you find The Work? Have you had any experience with it before? Let’s meet in the comments below!


Until the next post,


Penny

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1 Comment


natonyam7
Mar 25

Hey Penny, this is a profound topic! I believe we all do this especially with negative thoughts. We jump and run with the first thought that comes to mind and let it control the overall thinking process. I like The Work because it helps you outline your thoughts better. Instead of exaggerating what the situation might be you look at it for what it really is and it just might not be that bad. Great read!


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