Byron Katie’s book “A Mind at Home with Itself” offers much and is well worth the read or listen (like I prefer to do) but I wanted to offer a very short cliff note type blog here of her four questions. These questions are used to really look at what ever is upsetting you. It is a way to dig deeper into the reality of the situation. And to notice how your suffering has so much to do with your thoughts about a situation, rather than the situation itself.
In her book she provides real examples with real people that she walks through the process. It is always helpful to have those real examples to really get a better understanding and be able to use it for yourself. So again, I offer this as a wetting of the appetite for learning more.
The idea is you write down your frustrations about a person, situation, event etc. I wont go into those initial prompts here but things like naming the person and/or thing that is bothering you, why and what you would like to be different to help you feel better. Then you take those statements you wrote down and ask these four questions about each of them. The four questions, to ask yourself in order, are:
It is a bit like Brené Brown’s shitty first draft. This is where you write out what is bothering you without editing yourself. The time to really get petty, use childish words and name calling or what ever is authentic to your experience. This is not meant for anyone else’s eyes. It is a first dump. No censoring or editing yet. After those “immature” and “unkind” thoughts are given some space or have a place to express out, then the intense fire behind them will naturally die down and we can then have more access to the heart and gut for assessing or analyzing things. This is where we have more capacity to be honest with our answers to the four questions. My therapist used to ask similar questions in sessions and those did help to be able to get a vantage point from beyond the feeling/belief/statement.
This can be so powerful if done well. As we shine a light on ourselves, we see more clearly. After all, the only place we have control is within. Where we saw the other person was to blame and wanted to point fingers, we can more easily see things from a more expanded perspective. Just like Jesus stating that when we point a finger at another, there are 3 fingers pointing back at us. There is wisdom in looking at things differently. After all, thinking the same way has probably only given you more of what you don’t want.
When I sat down to write about a current frustration or recent situation with my partner in order to use Katie’s four questions, I was pleasantly surprised by the outcome. At first though, resistance. Resistance to letting go of my anger, hurt and beliefs about what happened. Because it felt right! Yet it wasn’t comfortable and really, didn’t make total sense. What I mean is I couldn’t see his logic or how he could possible think what I had said was worth getting so upset about.
Part of us holds onto the righteousness of our anger. Because at first we feel so attached to our assessment and beliefs. We trust that we understood and continue to unpack things with those beliefs because it feels like truth to us.
Those 4 questions that Byron Katie offers open us up to alternatives and pokes holes into our iron clad reasoning. It shows where we are assuming, projecting, or simply misunderstanding the person or situation.
I wrote out my beliefs and understandings, in other words my reaction to the situation and to my partner in this most recent case. Please note that writing has a power that thought does not. Our mind will convince us so quickly that we don’t even have room for re-assessing, and we wont notice this by just thinking the thoughts over and over. But put it down in writing, and you can easily see some holes, some projections, and perhaps where the other person is mirroring you - meaning actually you are doing/being that way, to the same or more degree!
So I wrote my statements out onto the page, without editing or censoring. Here is one example I can share… “Doug is sensitive to the negative and goes there quickly, seeing all things relating to a situation that prove his upset without asking questions, or trying a tool he has learned. He shuts down and no amount of love and gentleness shifts it. I have to get angry, sad or upset for him to finally soften.”
First question, is it true? Yes. (seems true to me!)
Second question, Can I absolutely know that it’s true? No. It is my assessment, but I can’t absolutely know it to be true.
Third question, How do I react, what happens when I believe that thought? Well I do the same! I assume I know and understand, I assume he is being unreasonable and wrongly seeing things, I see his unwillingness to get to a better place and then I don’t want to either! I feel justified in my anger, after all I tried first!
Fourth question, Who would I be without the thought? I would be free to ask questions, use reflective listening, maybe a relationship wheel (tool). I would be curious and kind. I would be calm, reflective and seeking understanding - of him and of myself. I’d be my best self!
Wow. I choose that last one! It is how I want my partner to be as well! Or something similar anyway. So if I am not being that, how can I expect it of him?
Try asking those 4 questions of any situation or person you are struggling with. If you can relax, breathe and be honest with yourself, you might just be surprised at your answers. I know I was!
Please let me know if you were able to try this and what your experience was. The more of us that can heal our own lives in both small and large ways, one frustration at a time, the more our world expands in love and joy!
Bringer of Light and Love. Transformation Facilitator. Lover of Mother Earth & Nature