Reframing our Thoughts with Byron Katie’s “The Work” Exercise

4 steps of WORK

The Work, by Byron Katie:

Notice // Who or what is upsetting you? Be specific - think of an event or precipitating factor. Name it as best as you’re able, identify what about it has made you upset. Can you identify the exact emotions coming up? How do they feel in your body? Any other sensations they bring up?

Write // Spend some time journaling these details. Write down the who, what, where, when, why, the specific emotions, how it feels in your body. What do you wish was different about the situation or someone’s actions? For you to be happy in this situation, what did you need to have happened? What emotions and feelings did the situation make you feel about this person or event? What about this event do you never want to experience again? Conduct this audit without judgement of yourself for any of the feelings coming up. (Judgement for others is allowed.)

Question // Ask yourself these 4 questions:

  • Is it true? (Yes or no - if yes, move on to B. If no, move on to C.)

  • Can I absolutely know it’s true?

  • How do I react, what happens, when I believe this thought? (Images, emotions, reflections on your own behavior)

  • Who would I be without that thought? (Return to the original situation and experience it again, without the thought. How do you feel about the situation or person now?)

Turn it around // Is the opposite more true, or less true than your original thought?

Consider applying this practice to an alcohol craving. Perhaps we have the thought “I need a drink right now” and are experiencing a lot of anxiety about this feeling. After applying The Work, we realize that the thought is not actually true for us, and we are able to walk through what our day could be like without that thought. We are able to remove ourselves from it, and it is no longer for us. (And as an added bonus: walking through this exercise probably took us about twenty minutes, the average length of a craving anyway.)

For more information and interactive worksheets for Byron Katie’s The Work, you can visit this website.
Katie, B. (2020.) The Work is a Practice. The Work of Byron Katie.