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Visual Composer #1740

Finding Freedom From Our Stressful Thoughts

I had the wonderful ‘bucket list’ opportunity to attend the School for The Work with Byron Katie last year.  Byron Katie has created a process that helps us question our own stressful thoughts.  The school/ conference was chock full of good information and experiential learning, and I thought I would try to organize my experience into a few nuggets today.



We have tens of thousands of thoughts a day, and 95% of those are the same we had yesterday.  There are many thoughts we don’t even notice, such as “I’m thirsty” or “I need to use the bathroom” – we tend to just believe those thoughts, and follow the simple directions.  When we have a thought that’s more upsetting, we may just believe that too.  This tendency can cause a lot of stress and suffering. 


  • Visualize a question mark at the end of almost every thought, or just notice our thoughts as if they are leaves on a stream floating by us, we may build our cognitive flexibility.
  • Think of “me, myself, and I” as being separate entities – all are you, but different aspects, and shows a healthy separation within ourselves. Author Eckart Tolle has shared that a turning point in his depression was noticing the thought, “I can no longer live with myself”… and seeing the separation between the “I” and the “myself”… the “I” being so sick of the depressive thoughts. 
  • Ask yourself: “Am I okay right now, other than what I’m thinking and believing?”  (the answer is often, “Yes”)
  • We either believe our thoughts or we question them.



If you want anxiety, get a future; if you want depression and shame, get a past.  We tell ourself stories of what may or may not happen in the future, and stories of our interpretation of what happened in the past and how that proves that we are [insert your negative belief about yourself here]


  • Notice when you’re arguing with reality. It creates stress when we’re arguing with reality and/or believing something to be true that causes us stress.  If I get a parking ticket, I might argue with reality by thinking of what I coulda/ woulda/ shoulda done or be doing that would have avoided the ticket… but the reality is: I have a parking ticket. 
  • Most Generous Interpretation – if we’re making an assumption anyway, why not assume the most positive interpretation of what may be happening. If your friend is late to meet you, why not assume there’s traffic, rather than assuming something like they don’t value your time and are trying to avoid meeting.
  • Our mind is like a sponge soaking up negative thoughts, and like Teflon for positive thoughts, letting those slide right off. We are generally biased toward the negative, and our minds will give us plenty of automatic thoughts and stories of the ways we’ve messed up in the past and the way we’ll mess up in the future.
  • Stay in the present moment as much as possible. Bring yourself back to the present moment as much as possible.  There is a side benefit of feeling less exhausted by our thoughts when we can just stay with what is as much of the time as possible.  (You may want to research mindfulness and mindfulness exercises to get at more of this concept)   



Byron Katie says there are three kinds of business:  your own business, other people’s business, and God’s or the Universe’s business.  What other people may be thinking, believing, or doing is their business.  A wish for karma to drop onto your difficult person is the Universe’s business.  Your own business is to manage your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors as much as possible.  Another way to say that is the 12 step slogan, “keep your own side of the street clean”.


  • What someone else thinks about me is their business. So long as I’m living in integrity as much as possible and making amends when appropriate/ where needed, whether someone likes me or not is their business
  • The desire to seek love, approval, and appreciation is another way we get into other people’s business
  • If I’m in someone else’s business re what they’re thinking or doing, then I have left my own business and no one is tending to that. I would do well to get back into my own business.
  • How someone else is acting is their business; my judgement of them is my business to notice, question, or drop.



Byron Katie has designed a process she calls inquiry or “the work”, and it consists of four questions and a set of turnarounds.  You work with a thought or belief you’re having about a situation, which can be guided/ accessed especially well by filling in one of two free worksheets from https://thework.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/jyn_en_mod_6feb2019_r4_form1.pdf and/or https://thework.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/obaat_en_mod_6feb2019-r.pdf  then you do inquiry on your worksheet items by following these questions:


Question 1: Is it true? (Is the stressful thought true?)


Question 2: Can I be absolutely sure that it’s true? (a double check of whether the belief is true or not; a “yes” or “no” answer; there is no wrong answer)


Question 3: What happens/ How do I react when I believe the thought? (list the ways the thought is then contributing to your stress and distress)


Question 4:  What would happen/ Who would I be without the thought? (if the situation were the same but I was not even thinking the stressful thought)


Turnarounds:  Then you turn the thought around to it’s opposite, the other, and/or the self and think on how the turnaround may be as true or truer than your original stressful thought.  Sometimes when we’re believing something to be true, sometimes the opposites or other can be just as true or more true (eg, the original thought of my friend is mad at me, can turn around to: I’m mad at my friend, My friend is not mad at me, or I’m mad at myself)


I love seeing teens and adults in my psychotherapy practice!  If you are a California resident and would like to talk about working with me or to having me counsel your teen, please contact me, I'd love to hear from you. I have an office midtown Sacramento adjacent, an office in El Dorado Hills, and I also provide tele-health (video or phone appointments) through a secured platform.  Find out more and contact me through my website at www.hopeintherapy.com or call or text my business cell at (916) 764-8360


If you want to learn more about Byron Katie, she has a myriad of videos available on YouTube that will continue to illustrate her inquiry work https://www.youtube.com/@ByronKatieLovingWhatIs .  She also has a podcast called At Home with Byron Katie https://thework.com/at-home-with-byron-katie-podcast/ , and she has free livestream sessions several times per week, which you can find on https://thework.com/ Also on that same site can you find the numerous books she’s written.