If you’ve never heard of Byron Katie, I’m delighted to introduce you.
Meet Byron Katie.
In not-so-spiritual terms, she’s basically just a peace teacher.
Katie was a real estate investor in the Southwest back in the 1980’s. She suffered from massive depression and agoraphobia. Her self-esteem was so low and her self-loathing was so powerful that she couldn’t care for herself or leave her house. She often describes herself in those days as being aggressive and violent with her family. She was placed in a halfway house for people with eating disorders because it’s all her insurance would cover.
She was sleeping on the floor one morning when she woke up and her depression was just gone. She describes the experience as having gained the ability to evaluate her own thoughts. The change in her was so profound and noticeable that people started asking her to help them find the same peace, and “The Work” was born.
Sounds fantastic, right? We all want to “get over it” and “move on” and “think happy.” We wear our little fingers out liking inspirational quotes on Facebook and repinning them all over our Pinterest boards. (Me too!) We see something that rings true or sounds like freedom, we say “Yup!,” we click “like,” and then just go on with our regular life. The wisdom doesn’t sink in to our real lives. We recognize the truth in it, but we don’t know how to get there.
Plenty of people can tell you to, “get over it,” or “think happy,” but no one can tell us how to actually go about “getting over it.”
She travels around holding workshops for everyday people where she walks them through their problems step-by-step. He process is so simple and so easy that it seems insane. It involves filling out a simple worksheet with a few questions about what’s causing you to suffer. She calls her method “The Work.”
The questions you answer on the worksheet cut through your emotional attachment to your problem and get to the core of what’s hurting you – your beliefs and assumptions about yourself and the world. The process guides you through identifying where your thinking is going wrong to alleviate your distress about your problem. Not only does it make you feel better in the moment, it also prompts your brain to behave differently in the future.
“The Work” allows you to untangle your suffering now, and also prevent suffering in the future.
Katie didn’t make up any of these concepts. They aren’t unique to her. She stumbled upon and fleshed out a greater truth that’s also reflected in the wisdom and teachings of many many other great leaders.
What is unique about Katie is her implementation of the concept. It is what pushes her to the front of the stop-suffering-be-happy movement. Her simple method gives people the ability to start healing themselves. Her calm presence makes people find the courage to be vulnerable. She inspires a triumph of heart over ego. Many of the people Katie works with begin their session in tears, and finish it smiling and laughing.
She has written several great books that teach the step-by-step method and lay out the framework for a kind and peaceful mental landscape where depression is impossible. Imagine if we learned to implement this method in our own lives. Imagine if we taught our children, and they taught their children. The whole world would change.
I practice “The Work” in my own life. It helped me dissolve the guilt and shame about my divorce. It helped me work through the insecurity that was keeping me shy and small. I stopped getting upset. I stopped judging myself and others. I developed an outlook of positivity and hope and humor. “The Work” has become an integral and automatic part of my thought process. My mind checks in with my heart before deciding to be negative. I am constantly and consistently asking myself the first question on the worksheet, “Is it true?” and most times that’s all it takes to keep me aligned with positive vibes and a happy mind.
We all think our suffering is so unique and personal, but the truth is that everyone’s suffering operates on common themes. As Katie refers to it, “There is no new stressful thought.” Check out these videos below to watch the process in action.
These are my favorite five videos of Katie performing “The Work” with everyday people at her workshops
1. Questioning the experience of Death and Loss
2. Questioning Breakups
3. Questioning our Boundaries
4. Questioning Victimization
5. Questioning Politics