How 4 Powerful Questions Can Set You Free

Don’t believe every thing you think. ― Byron Katie

In Getting Unstuck: 4 Steps to Let Go of Limiting Beliefs we spoke about limiting beliefs and what it takes to let them go. Often these thoughts are so unconscious, that we do not even know we are thinking them. We are only aware of their projections into the world, for example when we judge other people or situations. How can we recognize our own limiting beliefs?

Byron Katie developed a simple method, called The Work, that consists of four questions. The key idea is not to believe everything you think 🙂

A thought is harmless unless we believe it. It’s not our thoughts, but our attachment to our thoughts, that causes suffering. Attaching to a thought means believing that it’s true, without inquiring. A belief is a thought that we’ve been attaching to, often for years. ― Byron Katie

For example, let’s assume that one holds the common belief There is something wrong with me and finds himself in the following situation. He has an appointment, but his friend does not show up. While he is waiting there for a long time, he immediately gets furious and thinks something like He/She doesn’t care about me! He/She should have called me! I can’t trust him/her anymore! This is an example of how the limiting belief manifests itself as a projection in the outer world. If he would not unconsciously think that there is something wrong with him, he could consider also other possibilities, for example he might wonder if something bad had happened. And even if the friend would have forgotten the appointment, he would not take it so personally, as a judgement on himself.

Do you often find yourself in similar situations? Do you often judge other people or situations?

Since the beginning of time, people have been trying to change the world so that they can be happy. This hasn’t ever worked, because it approaches the problem backward. What The Work gives us is a way to change the projector—mind—rather than the projected. It’s like when there’s a piece of lint on a projector’s lens. We think there’s a flaw on the screen, and we try to change this person and that person, whomever the flaw appears on next. But it’s futile to try to change the projected images. Once we realize where the lint is, we can clear the lens itself. This is the end of suffering, and the beginning of a little joy in paradise. ― Byron Katie

Would you like to learn more about Byron Katie’s method? Read on to discover how it works 🙂

Let’s assume that you find yourself in a situation where the thought He doesn’t care about me arises. How can you discover the limiting beliefs hidden behind it?

First Question: Is It True?

This first step gives you the opportunity to contemplate the possibility that what you believe is not correct. We normally are so convinced that our thoughts are correct, that we are completely closed to other possibility. It does not matter whether your answer is yes or no, what is important here is to question the belief and widen a bit your perspective. Do not look for a rational answer, just say what comes to your mind. Only a yes or a no.

Second Question: Can I Absolutely Know That It Is True?

This step deeps the inquiry process. Answer just with a yes or a no.

Third Question: How Do I React When I believe This Thought?

Now that your mind is a little bit more open, observe what happens when you believe the thought He doesn’t care about me. How do you behave? What thoughts arise in you? What emotions do you feel? Maybe anger? Or sadness? Where do you feel them in the body? What sensations arise in you? Explore the effects of believing the thought.

Fourth Question: Who Would I Be Without This Thought?

Imagine for a moment that you are exactly in the same situation but without the thought He doesn’t care about me. Would you feel or act differently? Maybe you would not get angry and keep enjoying the day. This step is important to understand that what makes you suffer is not what happened to you, but what you believed about the situation.

Turnarounds

Since the mind works like a projector, to identify a limiting belief we have to approach the situation backward, through turnarounds. For He doesn’t care about me some example are

He does care about me: Think about three examples that show that he cares about you.

I don’t care about him: Think about three examples where you showed that you didn’t care about him.

I don’t care about me: Think about three examples that show that you do not care about yourself. For example when you allow an external situations to upset you so much and ruin your day you are not really taking care of yourself 😉

Ask yourself if any of the turnarounds feel true to you. If so, a limiting belief might be hiding there 😉

Say to Yourself: I’m Looking Forward to Experience This Again

As already discussed in Getting Unstuck: 4 Steps to Let Go of Limiting Beliefs, it takes time before being completely free from a belief, so you will probably need to apply The Work more than once to the same uncomfortable situation. Every time you find yourself in it you have the possibility to release a little bit more of what is holding you back 🙂 Even if our natural tendency would be to avoid as much as possible discomfort, when we say that we look forward to experience the same situation again, we open our mind a little bit more to change.

 I don’t let go of concepts—I question them. Then they let go of me. — Byron Katie

Would you like to try out the method? 🙂 Bring to mind a situation that caused you stress, for example when you felt angry or anxious. Start with something not too intense. To help you identify what beliefs trigger your reactions, you can use the Judge Your Neighbor Worksheet, developed by Byron Katie. You can then apply all the four questions and turnarounds to each of the statements in the worksheet.

Stress is an alarm clock that lets you know you’re attached to something not true for you. — Byron Katie

If this method resonates with you and you want to learn more about it, have a look at the book Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life, written by Byron Katie. Moreover, you can find many free videos with examples of the practice in her website and in Youtube, like the one here below 🙂

You’re either attaching to your thoughts or inquiring. There’s no other choice. ― Byron Katie

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