Book Review – Loving What Is – by Byron Katie.

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Loving What is, by Byron Katie!

I review Byron Katie’s book “Loving What Is” as someone who has personally experienced amazing healing from working with a verified facilitator here in the UK and practicing Byron Katie’s “The Work.”

The Work is learning to question your thoughts using four questions with turnarounds.

The basis of questioning your thoughts is the belief, or the idea, that we can only ever be responsible for our own thoughts and actions and no one else’s.                                                                                                  So for instance when you hear people say “you have upset me.” Possibly most of us have either said or quietly believed that of someone or something, that they are responsible for our negative feelings.

Katie (as she likes to be called) takes you into Inquiry where she gets you to question and challenge these thoughts and beliefs in where ever you have felt you have been wronged and hurt by someone else. This could have happened just the day before, last month or even decades before.

An Introduction

In the Introduction to Katie’s book Stephen’s Mitchell, Katie’s husband (a poet, translator, scholar and anthropologist) and co author of her book, talks how at one of Katies meetings in a crowded community center, he witnessed five men and five women who were learning freedom through their very thoughts that had caused their long term suffering.                                                                              Thoughts such as “My mother never loved me,” “My husband betrayed me,” and simply by asking themselves four questions and listening to the answers inside themselves found healing.

Byron Katie work

He says these people where opening themselves to profound life changing and life transforming insights.

He saw a man who had been suffering for decades with anger and resentment towards his alcoholic father light up within forty minutes. He saw a woman who had been almost too frightened to speak because she had found out that her cancer was spreading, end the session in a glow of understanding and acceptance.

Three out of the five people had never done The Work before, yet the process didn’t seem to be more difficult for them than it was for the other two, nor were the realizations any less profound.

Stephen has seen The Work being done with a whole gamut of people from all around the world with human problems such as, major illnesses, the death of parents and children, sexual and psychological abuse, addictions, financial security, professional problems and social issues.

Cause and Effect!

Katie says that whenever we experience a stressful feeling – anything from mild discomfort to intense sorrow, rage, or despair – we can be certain that there is a specific thought causing our reaction, whether or not we are conscious of it.

The way to end this stress, anger, despair or sorrow is to investigate the thinking that lies behind it, and anyone can do this by himself with a piece of paper and pen.

Katie’s Story.

Byron Katie was a forty three year old woman from a small town in the high desert of Southern California.

The Work was born on a February morning 1986 when Katie woke up on the floor of a halfway house.

In the midst of an ordinary life – two marriages, three children, and a successful career – Katie had entered a ten-year long period in a downward state of paranoia, rage, depression and despair.

There were times in that period she could seldom leave her house, staying in bed weeks at a time, doing business from her bedroom, quite often unable to brush her teeth or bathe.                                           Her children lived in fear of her and would try to avoid her at all costs.

She finally checked into a halfway house for women with eating disorders, due to it being the only facility her insurance company would pay for.                                                                                                Even the other residents were afraid of her so she was placed alone in an attic room.

A week or so later as she lay on the floor because she had not felt worthy of sleeping in a bed, Katie awoke without any concept of who or what she was.

Katie says;

“All my rage, all the thoughts that had been troubling me, my whole world, the whole world, was gone. At the same time, laughter welled up from the depths and just poured out. Everything was unrecognizable.

It was as if something else had woken up. It opened its eyes. It was looking through Katie’s eyes. And it was delighted! It was intoxicated with joy. There was nothing separate, nothing unacceptable to it; everything was its very own self.

The Four Questions and Turnarounds.

The first step in The Work is to write down your judgments about any stressful situation in your life, past present or future – about a person you dislike worry about, a situation with someone who angers frightens or saddens you, or someone you are confused about.

You can write this down on a blank piece of paper or even better go to http://www.the work.com to the section “Do the Work,” where you will find a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet to download and print.

On this worksheet you will find the four questions to ask yourself and the turnarounds.

katie byron work worksheet

Click on image for another download option.

Katie says don’t be surprised if you find this difficult because for thousands of years, we have been taught not to judge – but lets face it – we do it all the time.                                                                        Through The Work we finally have permission to let those judgments speak out, or even scream out, on paper.

Katie encourages you to begin with the most powerful place to begin – writing about someone – parent, lover, enemy- whom you haven’t totally forgiven.                     She says even if you forgiven that person 99%, you aren’t free until your forgiveness is complete.

She also asks you avoid doing this work in your head. If you try and do this in your head and not on paper your mind outsmarts you. She says before you know it you will be off and running into another story to corroborate your first statement.                                                   The mind can be stopped on paper, thoughts remain stable, and inquiry can easily be applied.


Doing "The Work" 4 Questions

  1. Who angers or saddens or disappoints you? What is it about them that you still don’t like?
  2. How do you want them to change?
  3. What is it that they should or shouldn’t do, be, think, or feel?
  4. Do you need anything from them? What do they need to give or do in order for you to be happy?
  5. What do you think of them? Make a list.
  6. What is it that you don’t ever want to experience with that person, thing, or situation again?

IMPORTANT: Katie encourages you to be judgmental, harsh, childish, and petty.                                                                                      Write with the spontaneity of a child who is jealous, sad, angry, confused, or frightened. She says don’t try to be wise, spiritual, or kind. This is the time to be totally honest and uncensored about how you feel.

If you feel you haven’t got anything to be angry about with anyone – wait! Life will give you a topic. Maybe a friend didn’t call you back when they said they would and you are disappointed. Maybe when you were a small child your Mother or Father punished you for something you didn’t do. Maybe you read something in a newspaper that upset you.

You can’t stop the story inside your head however long you try. It’s not possible. But when you put it on paper and write it the way the mind is telling it, with all your suffering and frustration rage and sadness, then you can take a look at what is swirling around inside you.

The book will show you how to write down the problems that depress and bother you in a form that is easy to investigate.

There are exercises that will teach you how to use The Work with increasing depth and precision and show you how it can function in every situation.

You will come to recognize the underlying beliefs that hide reality from your eyes and how to work with self-judgments that upset you.


Throughout the book, there will be many examples of people like you doing The Work – people who believe their problems are unsolvable, who are sure they will have to suffer for the rest of their lives.

You will meet people terrorized by their thoughts about childhood trauma or just getting along with a difficult boss or co-worker to suffering since the death of a beloved child or because they are living with someone they no longer love. You will see how they find a way out of their suffering.

Everyone learns the work in their own way through either through watching how the dialogues unfold or strictly by doing it: inquiring into whatever is troubling them at the time, pen and paper in hand.

katy byron The Work


On the website http://www.the work.com you will also find lists of verified facilitators from most countries around the world that can also help you with The Work.

My advice: To begin, read Chapter 2 and possibly Chapter 5 to absorb the basic instructions.

Pros and Cons


  • This book brings you to many insights not least through Katie’s concepts of ‘Accepting Reality’, Staying in Your Business’, and ‘letting go of Your Story’. And many more.
  • This work is NOT about blame it’s about suffering through your thinking patterns. It’s about your thoughts and how you can only control your thinking and behavior not anyone else’s. Katie’s presents this fact in many ways one being ‘Staying in Your Business’.
  • Outrage has been shown towards Katie when being accused in one of her dialogues of leading a woman to believe that her continual rape as an eight year old was due to the rapist (I believe her Father) as ‘doing the best he can’ and ‘looking to be loved.’
  • For me having worked with abuse victims I could see it would be a defining point for most readers whether at this point they understood the concept of her response or whether they were just totally outraged by her response.
  • Here I personally could see the main message at the core of what Katie is trying to present and understood completely what she was conveying to this woman who had been sexually abused. But also understand why some may see this ‘blaming.’
  • We can spend years going over and over past hurts, events and traumas constantly using our thoughts and beliefs about those events to constantly keep in a state of barely surviving and in a state of suffering and unhappiness.
  • None of that will change what happened or make the people responsible suffer through your thinking. What can change it is a different kind of truth, your truth and forgiveness.
  • It suggests that if we can see how we ourselves hurt others with our thoughts words and actions, then we can learn to forgive others when they want to hurt us.
  • Katie understands that people inflict terrible pain and hurt on others but – crucially what Katie works with is that after violence how we continuously inflict that pain on ourselves for many years to come in the name of others (whoever that maybe, friends, family, abusers, enemies etc.)
  • Katie helps you eliminate this self-inflicted pain that follows.
  • Straightforward and simple even for the most complex of situations.
  • All good self-help self improvement books tell you the importance of healing from past traumas, requires that you develop a completely different mindset and way of thinking.
  • You cannot heal your mind if you constantly use it in the same way as you have always used it. This is what The Work gets you to do.
  • There are a lot of dialogues in the book, but as this is the basis of ‘The Work’ it gives real life examples to give you a better understanding how the process works and can be so effective.
  • Yes! the book can be repetitive but this is needed to get a better idea of how to use the technique.


  • Some will not ‘get’ the concept especially with regards to the four questions and turnarounds. They will interpret the turnarounds as proportioning ‘blame’, especially with Katie’s idea about ‘living amends’ and making right past wrongs.
  • This can seem like another version of Cognitive Behavior Therapy.
  • Criticism of too many dialogues and not enough explanations from Katie?
  • Her approach/manner can be seen by some as uncaring forceful and possibly aggressive and this in turn can distract from the messages she conveys in particular how we project our fears onto others.
  • Katie’s use of terms such as ‘angel’ and ‘sweetheart’ can be seen as patronizing belittling and over familiar.
  • The questions need to be answered in an intuitive way stimulating your intellect. This could be off-putting to some who may find the phrasing of the questioning testing and the concept hard to grasp.
  • Not a book for the faint hearted.
  • A book of tough love. Encouraged and admitting that we are the creator of our own lives.

loving byron katie




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