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How To Stop Negative Thoughts with Byron’s Help

How To Stop Negative Thoughts with Byron’s Help

When you struggle with negative thoughts, convincing yourself to believe the exact opposite is hardly ever effective. 

But building our strategy on Katie Byron’s American Method, The Work (2003), we can succeed in battling morale at half mast, gloomy moods, confused thinking and even winning over. 

One of the “Most Innovative Spiritual Leaders”, according to Time Magazine, reveals a method which seeks to free us from our inner confusion and from negative thinking leading to depression. Neither therapy nor spiritual or philosophical dogma, The Work is an experience to be lived, critics say.

The Work

Especially when “practicing this technique regularly has changed my life,” states a testimony on Byron Katie’s book on this inversion technique. For her, any thought that we repeat to ourselves and that generates suffering deserves to be revisited in different forms, in particular by applying it to oneself. “As long as you feel that the cause of your problem is external to you, as long as you assume that something or someone else is responsible for your suffering, the situation will remain hopeless. […] Bring the truth back to yourself and conquer your freedom,” author asserts. It is therefore an in-depth work on our projections, when we blame others for what we do not want to see in ourselves, that her technique offers.

Also, seeing how our mind is a barrier to our well-being is very educational, author claims. For instance, Deborah, in her forties, explains her problem: “Pierre, my mate, is not intimate enough with me. He doesn’t care about me, always bringing the conversation back to him….”

By recalling one of Katie’s instructions – “Let the mind ask the four questions, let the heart answer them.” -, Deborah envisions her in a room with her partner and after, little by little, she realizes how far she is moving away from everything, creating intimacy with her partner. She is then suggested to reverse her original thought, that becomes, “I should be more interested in him,” or, “I should be more interested in myself.”

The Questions

“Behind every unpleasant feeling is a thought that is not true for us,” says Katie Byron. When you feel unwell, conduct investigative work: subject your thought to four questions, always the same. Do not hesitate to bring a piece of paper and a pencil, or to talk to a loved one.

About this thought, ask yourself:

  • “Is it true?” Write or list different developments of this thought.
  • “Can you absolutely know if this is true?” If their answer to the first question is yes, this second question gives people another chance to examine the stressful thought and to go deeper into the open mind, which in Zen is called the “don’t-know mind.” Yes is still a valid answer.
  • “Do you have concrete proof of what you are saying? If so why? What elements allow you to say this with certainty?”
  • “What reaction does this thought arouse in you?” Get in touch with the feelings that this thought arouse in you. What kind of behaviors is it drawing?
  • “Who would you be without this thought?” Imagine yourself freed from such a scenario. What would you do differently? How would that change? Phrase it backwards. Several types of reversals are possible: we return the judgment to oneself, to the other person involved and to the opposite judgment. Example: “Paul should love me.” can become “I should love myself.” Reverse the initial statement as you wish until you find the reverse that touches you most.

After the mind has educated itself about a particular stressful thought through the four questions of The Work, people are invited to turn the thought around. The turnaround is a way of experiencing the opposite of what you believed was true. Sometimes there may be just one turnaround; sometimes there are two or three turnarounds to one of the statements on the Worksheet (turnarounds to the opposite, to the self, and to the other).

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