Personal Growth

4 Simple Questions That Will Reverse Any Negative Thought w/ Byron Katie

February 3, 2020

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Stuck in a dark, negative place? You're just four questions away from freedom (yes, really).

These revolutionary questions come from Byron Katie, a woman whose work has made such a tremendous impact on my life and today’s guest on The Marie Forleo Podcast. I was so honored to get the chance to speak with her about The Work, a simple but profound process of self-inquiry that can help you deal with stressful, painful thoughts. 

As she says, “It’s not the problem that causes our suffering; it’s our thinking about the problem.”

Byron Katie has written numerous bestselling books including, Loving What Is, I Need Your Love - Is That True?, A Thousand Names For Joy, and A Mind At Home With Itself. I first discovered her over 20 years ago when I read her book, Loving What Is

Here's what's really interesting about Byron Katie (she also just goes by Katie). She wasn’t always a renowned author or spiritual teacher. She didn’t start sharing her most important work with the world until her 50’s. 

And well into her 40’s, she suffered from deep depression, agoraphobia, and thoughts of suicide. She’s the perfect example that it’s never too late.

Today you’ll hear about the moment that changed her life, and the resulting four questions that led her to develop The Work. You'll learn how to use these questions anytime you feel stuck in a dark mental space. 

Tune in to our interview to hear Katie demonstrate the four questions on a real situation with me — aka listen in on what feels like a very public therapy session.

You’ll also learn:

  • 1:25 — How Katie healed 10 years of depression in a single morning.
  • 8:40 — Why procrastination is actually guilt in disguise.
  • 14:35 — A LIVE demonstration of how to use the 4 questions to reverse any negative thought.
  • 15:45 — A surprise solution to a universal relationship problem: the toilet seat!
  • 31:00 — What you should do instead of trying to change the world.
  • 37:15 — The 3 kinds of business (and why you gotta stop worrying about everyone else’s).

After you listen, be sure to check out the links from the episode below, and a special journaling challenge you can do right now to start using Byron Katie’s four questions.

Links mentioned in this episode:

Byron Katie’s 4 Questions + Bonus Challenge

Byron Katie’s four questions (aka “The Work”) is a simple and profound process that will help you transform stress and negativity by questioning what you think and believe.

To start, think about a specific, stressful situation that involves another person. It may be a family member, a spouse, a coworker, a client, a loved one, your child, etc. In order to get the benefit of The Work, you have to isolate a specific, concrete moment in time that you’ve experienced — like a conversation, meeting, or exchange that you’re upset about. 

I highly recommend you follow the precise instructions on the Judge Your Neighbor worksheet. If you’ve read my book, Everything is Figureoutable, then you know writing things down is a transformative process. Same here. 

I cannot emphasize the importance of using the Judge Your Neighbor worksheet enough. You must write down your answers and be as specific, judgmental and petty as possible while you do it. Use simple, short sentences. Be brutally honest. The Work works, as long as you work it. 

Once you’ve completed the full Judge Your Neighbor worksheet, ask yourself the following four questions about your initial thought.  

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

Next Important Step: Turn That Thought Around.

Once you’ve completed the full Judge Your Neighbor worksheet and asked the Four Questions, you’re going to flip that initial thought. This is often where the biggest a-ha moments happen.

Your goal is to find at least three specific, genuine examples of how a turnaround might be true for you in this situation. For example, let’s say your initial painful thought was “Jen lied to me.” You’ll try on a number of alternate possibilities, or what Katie calls turnarounds to see if those might feel more true. In your effort to turn that thought around you may experiment with a variety of thoughts like:

Jen didn’t lie to me.
I lied to me.
I lied to Jen.

When you begin to see a stressful, painful situation from a variety of alternate perspectives, the stress loses its grip on you. Anger and resentment melt away. Laughter and compassion often emerge. (Not to mention a bit of embarrassment when we start to see what arrogant buttheads we humans can be from time to time.) 

The turnaround process is an intense and valuable exercise in perspective taking. Most importantly, it works. One of the most valuable insights you’ll gain from doing turnarounds (and The Work in general) is how often our minds automatically think other people are the problem. “My mother should understand me.” “My boss should appreciate me.” “People should be more socially aware.” 

As Katie wisely shares, “You have the key to your own happiness. But the last place we look is to ourselves. Whatever we think another person needs to do, we need to do.” (If you want another example of this, check out the talk I did on the Tamron Hall show for a story on how I used this with my mom.)

Almost always, whenever we think another person needs to do something different, it’s us who need to take that advice. It’s us who is the “problem.” This is fantastic news because it also means we’re the solution!

To be clear, The Work is a rich, detailed, nuanced process. As I shared in the episode, Katie has countless free resources and demonstrations on her site (as well as across the web). I highly recommend you take the time and care to do The Work fully, completely, and with an open mind and heart. 

Now I’d love to hear from you.

What insight did you gain from this episode? If you did the full Judge Your Neighbor worksheet including the 4 questions and the turnaround, did you notice any thoughts or feelings shift? Let me know in the comments below.

Please share as much detail as you can. Hundreds of thousands of souls come here for insight and inspiration. Your story may be just what someone needs to see things from a fresh perspective.

Important: please share your thoughts and ideas directly in the comments. Links to other posts, videos, etc. may be removed.

No matter what you’re facing, you have what it takes to figure anything out and become the person you’re meant to be. As Byron Katie says, “There is no dark place that we have experienced that we cannot meet with understanding.” 

With SO much love ❤️,

XO

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