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❚ suffering ❚ introspective

Byron Katie’s turnarounds

Byron Katie calls her process of self-inquiry “The Work” she describes her 1986 epiphany as follows:

I discovered that when I believed my thoughts, I suffered, but that when I didn’t believe them, I didn’t suffer, and that this is true for every human being. Freedom is as simple as that. I found that suffering is optional. I found a joy within me that has never disappeared, not for a single moment.

Katie’s experience, as described in her book Loving What Is, is that all suffering is caused by believing our stressful thoughts. This, she says, puts people into painful positions that lead to suffering, as she recognized to be the case with herself. Through self-inquiry, she describes how a different, less-known capacity of the mind can end this suffering.

Specifically, The Work is a way of identifying and questioning any stressful thought. It consists of four questions and what is referred to as the “turnarounds”.

  1. Is it true?
  2. Can you absolutely know that it’s true?
  3. How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?
  4. Who would you be without the thought?

The next step of The Work, the turnarounds, are a way of experiencing the opposite of the thought that one is believing. For example, the thought “My husband should listen to me”, can be turned around to “I should listen to my husband”, “I should listen to myself”, and “My husband shouldn’t listen to me”.

Then one finds specific examples of how each turnaround might be “just as true” as the original stress-producing thought.