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Byron Katie’s 4 Questions: The Work [Explained Step by Step]

Byron Katie’s 4 Questions: The Work [Explained Step by Step]

In this article you can learn the world-famous method of Byron Katie: the 4 questions, or ‘The Work’. Here you will find a complete summary and step-by-step plan, with which you can live in complete peace and tranquility. It’s very simple, so read on.

Contents of this page:

What is Byron Katie’s 4-Question Method?

‘The Work’ is a series of questions you can ask yourself about a theme that keeps you busy. With these questions you examine your thoughts.  In addition, you can see ‘The Work’ as the practical implementation, or a useful tool, to be able to experience the deep / spiritual theory of surrender, acceptance, awakening and  the world is your mirror.

In this article you will find a complete and detailed step-by-step plan to perform this method. In addition, it is recommended to read Byron Katies book  (via Bol.com) so that you get a feel for how to use the 4-question method.

These are the 4 questions from The Work by Byron Katie

Below you will find The Work’s four questions. We have also included the possible intermediate questions.

Preparation: Formulate the thoughts you want to explore, including related thoughts

First we formulate the thoughts on which we will later let go of the 4 questions. You can think of this as making a ‘ starting sentence .’ For this we take the stressful situation (and not the thought yet).

Mentally return to the time and place of this stressful incident and give a written or spoken answer to the following questions:

  1. Now that you are in this situation, time and location, who makes you angry, confused or disappointed and why?
    I am _____ (emotion) _____ at _____ (name) _____ because __________.
  2. Now that you are in this situation, time and location, how do you want this person to change? What do you want this person to do?
    “I want _____ (name) _____ _____ (what you want) _____”
  3. Now that you are in this situation, time and location, what advice would you give this person?
    _____ (name) _____ should / shouldn’t _____ (advice) _____
  4. Now that you are in this situation, time and location: what would you like the other to think, say, feel or do so that you are happy?
    ‘I want _____ (name) _____ ______to (insert) _______
  5. What do you think of this person in this situation? Make a list of everything you think about this person.
    ‘_____ (name) _____ is __________, __________, __________, etc.
  6. What exactly of this situation do you never want to experience again?
    ‘I never want to __________ again.

We have just put some thoughts into sentence form. Now we are ready to explore these thoughts one by one with the 4 questions. So take a thought and run it through the four questions below.

Before we start asking the 4 questions, we keep repeating the relevant thought

Repeat the unwanted thought, obstacle or judgment that you had just put in a starting sentence beforehand. Let’s take two example thoughts:

“Paul should appreciate me more.”

And:

“Nicole makes me sad because she’s teasing me.”

Do you really want to know the truth? Then we will start with the four questions.

The 1st question: Is that true?

What is the real reality of it (for 8 years?) Does Paul appreciate you? (Indeed he did not appreciate me at the time). What is the truth? So what’s actually happening? He doesn’t appreciate me. Welcome to reality. So the thought ‘Paul should appreciate me more’ is not true.

Intermediate questions for when the answer is still ‘yes’

Where did you learn that thought?

Whose business is it? He should have appreciated you … Can you determine that for him? Who are you, God? It’s hard to manage an entire universe, no wonder you’re depressed!

What evidence do you have to say it’s true?

The second question: Can you absolutely know, for yourself, for your own feeling, that it is true?

Can you absolutely know, for yourself, your own feeling, that it is true? If you still think it is true, it means that you are attached to the thought. And I’m not trying to change your mind. This is research. Inquiry.

Interim question if the answer is still ‘yes’

What is the reality?

The 3rd question: How do you react / what happens when you think that thought?

How does this thought {list the thought} determine your behavior towards others and yourself? How do you treat yourself? How do you treat {other people} when you think that thought? What are you doing? Be specific. Make a list of actions. How do you react to other people when you think that thought? What do you say to those people when you think that thought? Make a list. How do you live when you believe that thought, when you attach to that concept as if it were true? What images come to mind with that thought? What do you get when you live / think that thought? How does that feel inside? Where do you feel that? Where does it come in? Close your eyes, it hits you there, how far does the feeling travel further into your body? Everywhere, because it takes over you.

Any intermediate questions

Can you think of one reason for letting go of this thought {name the thought}, while of course you don’t have to let go of it?

Can you find a stress-free reason to keep that thought that is not depressing, painful? Is that reason peaceful or stressful?

The 4th question: Who would you be without that thought?

Who would you be if you had never heard that story?
Repeat: with the thought {I am someone in painful situations, namely…}, without the thought {I am much better off, namely …}, so how could it be your problem?

After the 4 questions we can make the reverse sentence: the essence of The Work by Byron Katie

Always ask the four questions before doing the reversal question. Then comes the reversal question. So we’re going to turn it around:

What’s the opposite of this? 

The opposite of what you believe is always true.

This reversal question can be interpreted and answered in several ways, namely:

  • Applied to yourself
  • Applied to the other
  • Half applied to yourself and half applied to the other
  • The opposite, variation 1: what is reality?
  • The opposite, variation 2: what you want is already happening!
  • Move the subject of the sentence with ‘my thoughts (, especially on {subject},)’
  • For the inversion of Statement 6, replace the words ‘I never want to again’ with ‘I look forward to it …’ or ‘I am willing …’

Then, for every turnaround you have made, you can find three genuine examples of how each comment is true for you in this situation.

The Reversal: Applied to yourself

“Paul should appreciate me more.” → I have to appreciate myself. 

That’s my job, not his. You need Paul to feel good?

“Nicole makes me sad because she’s teasing me.” → I make myself sad because I tease myself.

No one has the power to hurt me or make me happy, only myself. Painful feelings cannot be caused by another person. No one outside of me can hurt me. Only when I believe a stressful thought do I hurt myself. So I don’t need someone else to stop hurting myself. I need myself to stop hurting myself. Otherwise I make others responsible for my {happiness}, so that I no longer have to be responsible.

Another example: “Nobody wants me as I am” becomes “I don’t want myself as I am!” Because of this story, in which you believe, you lose contact with reality. Then when someone says, “You’re gorgeous,” you think you’re looking at a liar’s face because that person is confirming your myth. You look at him and you can’t believe him.

So from now on if someone says that I am beautiful, I say: I understand. When someone says I’m ugly, I say, I understand. It’s their story, what have I got to do with it? The whole world can say you are fat, but what do you say? Did he insult me? That is not possible. I insult myself with the story I’m telling myself. Nobody can hurt you. That is your job.

The Reversal: Applied to the other

“Paul should appreciate me more.” → I have to appreciate Paul. 

If I believe it should be that easy for Paul to appreciate me, I should be able to do it myself. Let the other person know how hard it is for you to do what you wanted them to do.

‘Nicole makes me sad, because she’s teasing me.’ ‘→ I make Nicole sad, because I’m teasing her (in my mind!).

A mother about her son: ‘Kevin uses alcohol’. When she flips this, it becomes, “I’m using Kevin.” Byron Katie: “Yes.” “I use Kevin to stay depressed.”

The reversal: Half applied to yourself and half applied to the other

‘Nicole makes me sad, because she’s teasing me.’ ‘→ I make myself sad, because I’m teasing Nicole (in my mind!).

The reversal: The opposite variation 1: what is the reality?

“Paul should appreciate me more.” → Paul shouldn’t appreciate me.

(that’s the reality!) unless he does.

One woman told Byron Katie, “I need sex.” “What’s the reality?” ‘I don’t need sex’. ‘Right. Because you haven’t had it for 18 months. That’s the reality. ‘

‘Nicole makes me sad because she’s teasing me.’ ‘→ Nicole should bully me. I look forward to being bullied by Nicole because that grief is a wake-up call to do The Work. 

(because that’s the reality!) unless she doesn’t.

The reversal: The opposite variation 2: what you want is already happening!

“Paul should appreciate me more.” → Paul appreciates me very much. Here are three genuine examples of this, namely …

“Nicole makes me sad because she’s teasing me.” → Nicole makes me happy, because she is nice to me. Here are three genuine examples of this, namely …

The reversal: Move the subject of the sentence with ‘my thoughts (, especially on {subject},)’

“Paul should appreciate me more.” → My thoughts (especially my thoughts about Paul) should appreciate me more.

It is not {Paul} that is stressing me, but it is my thoughts about Paul that are stressing me.

“Nicole makes me sad because she’s teasing me.” → My thoughts (especially my thoughts about Nicole,) make me sad and bully me.

A woman told Byron Katie she fears war will break out. For her, the turnaround was, “I’m afraid of my thoughts (especially my thoughts about war,).” Is that just as true or even more true?

The inversion: replace the words ‘I never want again …’ with ‘I look forward to it …’, ‘I am ready …’ or ‘I love it …’

I never want to be bullied again → I look forward to being bullied.

Final question: Is the reverse sentence as true or even more true than the original?

After every reverse sentence you have uttered, you also ask yourself:

is it as true or more true than the original?

Miraculously, the answer is always yes. Does this yield a negative answer? Then you are still attached to the belief. If you are not willing to drop the thoughts, you are attached, and you are not done with The Work.

Bonus thoughts to deal with with the 4 questions

With the six items that we created in advance, we were already able to get started. You can also create some bonus thoughts. With the following questions you can formulate additional thoughts related to it, to also deal with the four questions.

And it means that … What’s your proof? Then you can do the four questions for all evidence. What are the beliefs behind each evidence? Throw in the four questions. What’s the worst that could happen? And then, and then etc? Make it very tasty. Do the four questions with each statement.

The power of the reversal question: each person ‘creates’ only his/her own reality: Don’t tell others what to do

With the reversal question you discover that everything you think and see on the outside is actually a projection of Your own thoughts: everything is a mirror of yourself. When you see the innocence in the other after the 4 questions, you also discover your own innocence.

Everything you say or think applies to yourself. In fact, I am you. I am who you are when you are clear.

Do you want your child to behave differently? You scream that he must be different than he is. That he shouldn’t be who he is. That is conditional love. You steal his life. You say, ‘Be who I want you to be, not what God wants you to be. Otherwise I’ll punish you. ‘ You love the son of your dreams. Where do you place this stranger? He’s here now. Even though he is what you want him to want to be, he is still here now. Don’t tell others what to do: you are not God! It’s not your business. It’s your son’s business and God’s business. When you are in the moment, love is your business. God is reality because It rules. Anything beyond your control / reach is God’s business.

“She didn’t help me” changes to, “I didn’t help me … By going to her.”

Do you think other people should be different than they really are? This thinking brings deep unhappiness and even depression. Heal your depression. Not the other person’s depression. When you get it, the other will get it too. He will follow. It is a law because it is your projection. If you think it is up to the other, welcome to The Work! Do you want to change someone else? Do you want the other person to do or change something? The only way to convey such a thing is to demonstrate it yourself. Live the example! This way you show how it should be done. Don’t use words, but deeds.

You want peace in the world? You are the world. End the war in you.

You attack and yell at the people you love most in the world. And if we don’t do that verbally, we do it in our head. We see them as poison in our home. We treat our baby, our dearest, dearest child, as our enemy. That is the power of an unconscious thought, a nightmare.

Your communication with your environment is a cybernetic process: when I change, my environment changes with it. This also applies the other way around: when my environment changes, I change with it.

That nightmare is just a story: reality is friendly and good

However, the story we tell is the only nightmare we have ever lived: the reality is always friendly and good. No one has ever hurt anyone. Until you can see that there is nothing to forgive, you haven’t really forgiven. Awaken yourself to the four questions. The worst that can happen is our unconscious beliefs and thoughts (stories). Reality doesn’t contain all those things. The Work dissolves blind attachment to your story, which you have invested in.

God is exactly what is, so everything is perfect as it is. Without the story you have everything you need. Do you think, “My son needs to brush his teeth”? You have 10 years of proof that he doesn’t brush his teeth. So the reality is that he doesn’t brush his teeth until he does. God is everything. God is good. Everything is good. There is no error in the universe.

God is what is: reality. You don’t have to hesitate anymore. You are no longer interfering with God’s business, so everything is perfect. Do you get something different from what you ordered in a restaurant? How can you best respond in this moment without turning it into a story of injustice or other problems? A mother is sad about her daughter’s drug use: “He should be on {drugs} until he stops!” There are no more free seats on the train: “I should stand until I sit.” Understanding this is about awakening!

You are suddenly free when you can say, “I don’t know.” As it should be.

A lady in pain thought, “We should have absolutely no pain in this world.” What is the truth of it? is that true? The lady turned it over: ‘I should be in pain. How do I know? I’ve got it. That’s how I know I must have it: I have it. ‘

We cannot get what we want: we already have what we want. What we want is ‘what is’.

There are no mistakes in this world. Byron’s mantra is: ‘No mistakes’. Everything is perfect there is. This is your path that God has given you. The plan. Your plan. Every problem is there for you. They are an alarm clock to wake up to. They are a gift.

In every situation you encounter, ask yourself, “What if it was a present?”

A lady said to Byron, “Do I have to accept that I am old?” “Are you old?” (“Yes.”) “There you have it.” Everyone dies, no one survives. We don’t have to stop the story, just approach it with understanding.

They are people. It is what is, the reality. They are who they are. They do {negative things}. A dog barks. A cat says meow. {Judging people.} The 4 questions take us to a world that most people haven’t even started with. And that while it is the only real world that exists: reality.

Do not impose unto others how you think it should be, but live the right example yourself

Fix yourself first and lead by example. Then we can talk. You should do it yourself, and you should be able to, because you believed the others could change so easily.

“Don’t condemn if you see a person has a dirty glass of water, just show them the clean glass of water that you have. When they inspect it, you won’t have to say that yours is better.”  Malcolm X

Are your kids throwing their socks on the floor? That is the reality. Even after years of nagging, they still do it. So live the example: ‘I have to clean up the socks if I want to get them cleaned up. The kids weren’t quite happy with their socks on the floor. It’s my thoughts about the socks that make my life difficult, not the socks themselves. And who has the solution? Again me. I can be right or be free. ‘ It is a pleasure to clean them up, children see that and take over.

The greatest service anyone can do is to be a good example.

If you say, “He doesn’t respect me,” what is the case? You don’t respect him! And you don’t respect yourself. Live the right example. “He has to stop screaming.” Becomes: “I have to mentally stop screaming for him to take off his shoes.”

If a wise person demands something from another person, he does it himself first! In this way he sets the example without asking the other. Do you want your kids to tidy up their socks? Then tidy up your own socks. If you want your friends to think about your birthday, think about your friends birthday first. If you want your partner to give you a massage again, give a massage to your partner first. If you want your children to watch less TV, turn off your own TV more often.

Only focus on the positive: this is the law of attraction

Does the other show nine undesirable qualities and one positive? Then don’t tell the other person to change what you observe. Make peace with where the other is, tune in to your desires, and focus your undivided attention on that one good quality.

Let that one positive quality be active in you so that those positive vibrations of that beautiful quality are activated when you say the person’s name. And because that is aligned with what you want, you live in positive vibrations and the universe cannot give you anything other than what matches that positive signal.

What you get is always a reflection of your own vibrations. It’s not the things that are wrong with other people that frustrate you, but your focus on those things, which activates what you don’t want, and which conflicts with what you do want. Read more about this in the article about the law of attraction  (including 59+ tips).

Thoughts are not real …

Every day we have dozens of thoughts that go against reality, such as: the cat should bark. You cannot change much of the reality of the world. How you deal with it and the meaning you give it. “I lost my job. What can I do NOW?” Instead of “I wish I hadn’t lost my job” (this is also a reframing, or rethinking ). Make friends with the cold, rain, wind, pain, changes … All stress comes from resistance to ‘what is’. If you battle reality, you lose 100% of the time.

As long as you are at war with your thoughts, you are at war with the world.

Thoughts are fine unless we believe them. Not the thoughts themselves but our attachment to thoughts creates stress.

I’m not saying you’re not your problem, I don’t want to take your hell away from you. 
– Byron Katie

We kill ourselves with our stories before we die. We do this by living it in our minds, and by ego-identifying with pain. You are not the pain. Once you know that, you can take care of it. Love ‘what is’ without the story. If you argue with what is, you lose. In the peace of that, you know what to do. Without the thought you have no more pain and suffering, then you only have pain.

Once upon a time there were two monks. They watched as a woman in an immaculate white dress wanted to cross a river. One of the monks decided to carry the woman so that and to walk through the water so that the woman would come across. The monks continued their day and after an hour the other monk dared to say something: “We must not touch women. Why did you do it? ‘ To which the other replied, “I had only worn her for five minutes and you for an hour.”

Absolutely nothing you think is true. If you believe the concepts, labels, judgments and stories, that world seems real. The mind is so brilliant, strong and beautiful that it even makes its world real. But everything is new to discover.

You can move forward from the peace of ‘what is’

No thoughts, but so what? ‘What’s!’ I need {what’s here}. How do I know? Because {what’s here} is here. Nobody needs more money than he has. How do I know? It is impossible to have more than you have.

People should not experience physical pain on this planet, is it true? My arm should be able to do more than it can now, is it true?

Oh I see it. Your problem is you think your right leg should be exactly the same size as your left.
Byron Katie to a cancer patient with an amputated leg.

When you love what is, you realize when I go into it, it hurts. Arguing with what is is the emotional pain, the confusion. Being a lover of what is is the end of suffering. “{Annoying symptoms} are normal to me.” Normal is what is now. Realizing this does not mean that I am not taking any more medication or going to the doctor. It doesn’t mean anything.

Attachment to the concept is your ‘false God’.

Should we get rid of our thoughts? No, we investigate them

investigate your thoughts byron katie

We cannot drop concepts and thoughts. We can shine a flashlight on it to see what really bullshit is. It is about becoming aware, noticing, not dropping the thought because that is impossible. It’s about realizing what’s true for you, through self-love . Then the thought lets you go.

It’s about realization, not about changing anything. We are a projection. You realize that the world is changing because you are the projector that sees it: the mirror. You realize what is true for you, and the reflection must then change.

It’s not about changing your mind or dropping it, too often that hasn’t worked. it is about awareness. We can’t drop the thought of that nightmare out there because we didn’t make it. We can’t drop what we haven’t made. When you examine and open the mind, the heart opens. So, letting go of the thought doesn’t work, but the special thing is: after The Work the thought leaves you.

Stressful thoughts belong to all of us. There are no new ones. They are all the same collective stories. They are not personal. Everyone has everything but we haven’t realized it yet. And we are often blind to our own unconsciousness. If you want to live without the suffering of your thoughts, do The Work when you are defensive in conversations, or are sure you are right.

This was the full bullet point version of Byron Katie’s four questions

Thank you very much for using this bullet point version of ‘Four questions that will change your life’. I think Byron Katie’s four questions are a very elegant method. Finally, a tip if you do The Work in pairs: if you think the other person is right, say thank you. If you can’t think the other person is right, say thank you.

Good luck with Byron Katie’s method!

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About The Author

Rubin

Hello! Thanks for reading these articles. My intention is to make happiness as simple and clear as posssible. By the way, excuse my English. I am not a native English speaker since I live in Amsterdam. Much appreciated if you use the comments to make suggestions on my grammar. See ya in another blogpost!

2 Comments

  1. Patrick

    When I wake up a divorce comes and fear and panic arise ….. how can I apply the four questions to this.

    Reply
    • Rubin Alaie

      Hi Patrick,

      Maybe you could start by writing the starting sentence:

      “I don’t want to feel fear and panic because (enter the reason …)”

      Do that!

      Now that you have formulated the starting sentence, it is only possible to apply the four questions to it.

      Reply

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