The Work of Byron Katie and her four game changing questions seem simple, but for anyone in recovery, we know that ‘simple’ often translates into the shortest route to a deeply profound, even transformational experience. We are difficult, our addiction is complicated, our recovery is complex but the tools are often painfully (and invitingly) simple.
Having an addiction is like living in a giant corporation with multiple managers, rule books and too many keys. It’s next to impossible to affect change in a mega corporation because everyone in the building has an investment in keeping it exactly as it is. It is our stories that can chain us to our addiction, yet when we take responsibility for them, they can set us free.
Byron Katie, author of Loving what Is and more says that we ‘can’t stop the story in our head, however long we try, it’s not possible’, but ‘when we put the story on paper and write it just the way the mind is telling it, with all of our suffering and frustration and rage and sadness, then we can take a look at what is swirling around inside us. We can see it brought into the material world, in physical form. And finally through The Work, we can begin to understand it. …Once the mind is met with understanding, it can always find its way back home. There is no place where you can remain lost or confused.’
Byron Katie suggests we start a worksheet with her four questions and put our ‘stories’ here so they can unravel. We start by naming some of our most ‘sticky’ judgments that usually begin with “I want”, or “I need”, or “they should”, or “they shouldn’t” or “I never…” etc… and then run each of your statements through what she calls an inquiry: the Four Questions and Turnaround. Here they are and what they mean.
Sample judgement: Life is hard and nobody likes or respects me anymore.
Is it true?
Ask yourself, Is it true that… Life is hard and nobody likes or respects me anymore (fill in the blanks with your statement). Byron Katie suggests that you be still. She says “if you really want to know the truth, the answer will rise to meet the questions. Let the mind ask the question, and wait for the answer that surfaces.”
Can you absolutely know it’s true?
Consider these questions: Can I really know that it’s true that life is hard and nobody likes or respects me anymore? Can I ever really know when someone likes or respects me? Has life ever felt simple, or easy, or light? Am I sometimes saying it’s hard when there are parts that are easy?
How do you react when you think that thought?
At this point, examine how you react and how you treat the people around you when you have the thought ‘nobody likes or respects me anymore’. Make a list. For example: “I ignore people when they try to talk to me, I avoid eye contact, I want to drink when I’m with people, I hide out”. Continue making your list as you go inside and see how you treat yourself in that situation and how that feels. “I shut down. I isolate myself. I want to drink. I want to use. I feel helpless and lonely”. Be still and realize how you react when you believe that thought.
Who would you be without the thought?
Now consider who you would be if you couldn’t think that thought. Close your eyes and imagine people around you. Imagine you don’t have the thought ‘people don’t like me or respect me’. Take your time. Notice what is revealed to you. What do you see? How does that feel?
Then Turn it Around
The original statement “People don’t like or respect me”, when reversed becomes “I don’t like or respect myself”. Is that as true or truer for you? Katie says, “When you are mentally out of your business and thinking about what other people should be doing, are you liking or respecting yourself? After sitting with the turnarounds, you can continue a typical inquiry with the next statement or judgement you came up with.”
Byron Katie suggests that the turnarounds are your prescription for health, peace and happiness, and that you can begin to give yourself the medicine that you’ve been prescribing for others.
During our recovery, old stories and fearful judgments can spring up and try to drag us back to where we’ve been. Consider applying these four questions to help move you through the thoughts that keep you stuck so you can continue with the ‘work’ of recovery.