November 30, 2006

The Work of Byron Katie and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: A Comparison

by Jane Bunker, Ph.D. with Carol L. Skolnick, M.A.

As a growing number of therapists, counselors and coaches incorporate the self-inquiry process called The Work of Byron Katie into their practices, the question often arises, "How does The Work compare to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)?" There are notable similarities in that The Work, like CBT, is a cognitive restructuring technique. However, unlike CBT, The Work does not seek to replace one thought with another, less stressful thought; it is an experiential modality in which stressful thoughts are identified, expressed and questioned, resulting in an awareness of projective identification.

Here are some fundamental differences between the two approaches.

1. CBT: Achieve specific result
The Work: Discover what's true for the client

If there is a goal in The Work, it is to discover what is true for the client. The underlying assumption of The Work is that all suffering comes from arguing with reality. The secondary assumption is that reality is good. With CBT, the goal is to achieve a specific, client and therapist devised end result (i.e., to be happier, to have a better marriage, to like one's job more, etc.). CBT assumes that reality can be manipulated in order to achieve a particular, more desirable outcome....the secondary assumption here being that reality is flawed.

2. CBT: Necessitates a therapist
The Work: Does not need therapist or facilitator

CBT necessitates a therapist; The Work, which is self-directed, does not require a therapist or even a facilitator. Even if facilitated by a therapist or performed in a group setting, the simple structure of The Work's four basic self-inquiry questions and its reversal technique, the "turnaround," entrusts the process to the client. Administered cleanly, there will be no imposition of therapist's opinion or values in the course of a session.

3. CBT: Replace painful thoughts with "better" ones
The Work: Does not attempt to replace thoughts; painful thoughts dissolve

Both CBT and The Work are clear about the powerful role that thoughts play in human suffering. CBT, however, attempts to get the client to drop these thoughts and replace them with new, more productive, positive ones. In The Work, one part of the mind examines the other. There is no room for the normally defensive, proof-seeking part of the mind to hold on to the identity-defining thoughts that have been contributing to the client's suffering. With the resulting clarity that comes of mind meeting mind, the stressful thoughts serve no further purpose and dissolve on their own.

Also, by directing the client's pain outward on paper, The Work provides an initial vehicle for releasing rather than adding stress, the latter being a phenomenon which may occur in CBT when judgments are aimed at the self.

4. Both CBT and The Work address question 1 of The Work: Is it true? -- to expose the lie of the mind. However, The Work goes significantly further with question 2: Can you absolutely know that it's true? -- by attempting to eliminate even a 1% probability for the "I-know mind" to attach to and thus short-circuit the rest of the process. With questions 3 and 4: How do you react when you believe this thought? Who would you be without this thought? -- The Work offers the opportunity to hold thought up to the light, examine it openly, see the damage it has evoked and what life might be like without it. The subsequent turnaround -- a reversal technique in which the client considers ways in which the opposite of the belief might be just as true or truer -- offers a perfectly timed glimpse of one's own innocent, but complete, responsibilty for one's own happiness, while providing an expanded awareness of what "truth" encompasses. As in advaita vedanta, the Indian school of nondual philosophy, there is a gradual recognition that all experience is projected, and when the "projector" is adjusted, the projection changes.

5. Embedded in the turnaround is the concept of nonduality. All that was directed at the other appears to be true of the self as well. All that was apparently not absolutely true of the other might not be absolutely true of the self either. With The Work's loving, incisive probing, thoughts are eventually relieved of their charge. The safety and comfort of truth discovered replaces the client's need for attachment to identity-defining thoughts, and those thoughts are released in their obsolescence.

©2005 by Jane Bunker, Ph.D. and Carol L. Skolnick, M.A.

Jane Bunker is an artist and a retired psychologist from Santa Fe, New Mexico and Boise, Idaho, whose practice incorporated CBT and other modalities. Carol L. Skolnick is a Santa Cruz, California-based writer, educator, and facilitator of The Work of Byron Katie. Both Jane and Carol are graduates of Byron Katie's School for The Work and have served on the staff of the school.

November 21, 2006

Free Hugs

This song, by the (not so) Sick Puppies—and this now-famous "Free Hugs" video—just say it all.

November 13, 2006

Mothers, Lovers and Sunsets

"Mommy, did you love sunsets?" I asked aloud. As I asked her that question, I wept as I saw that I had never really known my mother.

I have chased after sunsets wherever I am in the world; from the Thansa Valley in Maharastra, India to Cali, Colombia...from Santa Fe to Santa Cruz...from Cancun, Mexico to the bridge connecting Maine to New Hampshire. Some of my favorite sunsets have been those rosy, striated beauties I'd been privileged to witness as often as I liked at a riverside park near my former home in New York City's Greenwich Village, where the light descended on New Jersey across the Hudson every evening. In the year before I left the east coast and moved to California, I'd been depriving myself of our waterfront. My "ex" and I regularly did the "sunset thing" together and I thought that meant it would be painful to do it alone. What did I get for holding this belief that sunsets are romantic and best viewed with a partner? No sunsets. So a year after he and I parted, I headed down to the water to catch a late summer view. It was spectacular.

Midway through the viewing, my late mother came up for me. Maybe it's because I was contemplating leaving New York, where I was raised and where I've lived for most of my life; maybe, in midlife, I was feeling closer to my own mortality. Whatever the reason, I'd been talking to her lately, although she had been dead for seven years. When she was alive, I spoke to her only when necessary; we'd had a difficult relationship from the time I was five years old and our conversations usually culminated in arguments.

Why the sudden need for communication? I was very confused when she was alive. I had a picture of my mother as cruel, undercutting, a bad parent, unloving, withholding and insane. I didn't have the tools of self-inquiry then. In recent years, I have made amends to her, in my mind and on paper, many times. I have no idea if she hears me. It doesn't matter; I do.

"Mommy, did you love sunsets?" I asked aloud. It was not a premeditated act; it did not arise out of loneliness. She was just there. As I asked her that question, I wept as I saw that I had never really known my mother. I don't even know if she loved one of the things I love most; she never shared that with me and it never came to me to ask. The "I know" mind was convinced of who she was and I rarely acknowledged the other side of her, the part that was brilliant, creative, humorous, the part that sounded like criticism but that may have been her way of expressing concern...the part that housed and fed and clothed me and did the very best she could to raise me while she lived in an apparent mental hell.

The mind's job is to be right. It will spend a lifetime proving itself to be the authority on things like nagging mothers, deadbeat dads, lying partners, intractable kids, officious shop clerks, murderous dictators. It misses out on sunsets, on intimacy, on real life.

Do I love sunsets enough to view them without a story of how I should have done it all summer, how I should be watching it with a partner, how my mother and I should have shared sunsets instead of shouting matches? Yes. I wouldn't want to miss the beauty of life as it is showing up, right now.

Deepening Transformational Inquiry: Mothers and Others

©2006 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

Order your copy of my new eBook, Transformational Inquiry: Working on Mothers and Others. First in a series, it is filled with information and exercises to help you work with your stickiest stressful beliefs about "the first love affair." For more information, visit the Clear Life Store.

Metanoia, Unlimited

Metanoia is a metaphysical term coined from two Latin words that translate roughly to "above the mind." A metanoia is a fundamental shift in thinking, like the one my mentor Byron Katie had when she realized no stressful thought that she believed was true. At one time Katie made a lot of money buying and selling real estate. Today she is swiftly becoming a household name because she gives her main product away for free (yours for the taking at, and yet I understand she does quite well. For those of us with the traditional "buy low, sell high" mindset, it doesn't make sense. And yet, look what that mindset did for us in the early part of this new millennium.

In business as in life—even when our old paradigms are no longer working—we often have a fear of radical shifts, because it would mean...well, whatever horror stories our minds can concoct: we'd go down the drain, lose everything...our money, our credibility, our position, our best people, our structure.

We don't usually stop and question these beliefs. We don't normally ask ourselves if the opposite could be consider that if we changed, everything could get better.

Every entrepreneur and business leader wants to be a visionary, an innovator, and a person of integrity...and every business has its share of nay-sayers, including the would-be change-manager. It's natural to doubt. We cling to what is familiar, even if it does not make us happy.

Many businesses prosper doing business as usual, and that's fine; what we might want to question is this: is it true that we'd be less profitable, less successful, if we made the changes we'd like to? Some of our greatest business leaders today are metanoiacs. Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop, created a huge international company that prospers despite (or because of) her dedication to human rights, animal rights and environmental issues. Paul Hawken, founder of Smith & Hawken and Datafusion, is known around the world as one of the leading proponents of ecological corporate reform. The world-class Gillette Company has spent tens of millions of dollars to develop alternatives to animal testing and it sells razors and shaving cream like crazy. Southwest Airlines proved that "leadership at every level" is a workable paradigm.

The next time you find yourself hesitant to shake things up a bit, before you change your mind, I invite you to sit with your discomfort. Whether it's something seemingly small, like instituting a company-wide policy to use only recycled paper products...or something huge, like a re-org...put the "yeahbuts" and "whatifs" on paper and question them. "It's too expensive." "It will upset the shareholders." "It's too much work." "We will fail." Can you absolutely know that it's true?

Deepening Transformational Inquiry: Business Above the Mind

1. Consider this: "To risk nothing, in the long run, could be more dangerous than to risk everything."

2. Transformational Inquiry with The Work of Byron Katie can bring about metanoia, both in the way we look at our business (and life) issues and in the ways we work at and run our enterprises. With the deepening of our understanding of our greatest fears and toughest challenges in the world of work, we equip ourselves for whatever comes our way, from management shake-ups to exponential growth.

3. Learn the basics of self-inquiry. Visit to find out about Transformational Inquiry with The Work...four simple questions followed by a "turnaround," or reversal. Subscribe to our newsletter and receive your free report on inquiry in the workplace. Try it with one of the "shoulds" in your work life and notice how clarity happens when we're not married to being right.

©2006 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

November 7, 2006

The Power of Willingness, Part II: "Yeahbuts" and "Whatifs"

"There is a crack, a crack in everything. That's how the light gets
in." --Leonard Cohen

Resistance is a funny thing. Ultimately it exists to defend what does
not exist. It knows its days are numbered, and the reason it knows this
is because behind every resistance is the possibility of willingness.

People who are committed to knowing their own truth share in common a
willingness to be consider other angles...and
most especially to question their "yeahbuts" and "whatifs," the two
bodyguards of the mind whose job it is to keep the identified self from

When we are invested in wanting to be right, there is nothing to be
done. Thankfully, most of us have a breaking point, where we are willing
to seek relief at any cost. Some of my clients come to inquiry with a
huge arsenal of "yeahbuts" and "whatifs," and yet they come away from
sessions and workshops at least partially disarmed. Why? Because
willingness--even a tiny bit of it--is more powerful than any defense. Where
there is willingness there is potential for transformation

Lacey was a client of mine, a young woman who was in love with an
unavailable man. He claimed to love her, but he was married and had a family
and would not leave them. She, too, was married and was scared to
forfeit her financial security. For several sessions, I listened to Lacey's
litany of "yeahbuts" and "whatifs." "Yeah, but with my limited skills
set, I can't enough to support myself." "Yeah, but no one will ever
love me like he [Mr. Unavailable] does." "What if I make a mistake and my
husband won't take me back?" Lacey continually veered away from
answering the inquiry questions, yet she kept coming to sessions for months.
That told me that she had a tiny bit of willingness. People who know
they are right don't even attempt to question their reality. They don't
hire facilitators.

When Lacey and I worked together, I would ask her to notice each time
she used a "yeahbut" and a "whatif" to avoid seeing the truth. "You can
be right later," I assured her. "For now, let's see if what you are
saying and believing is really true."

Eventually, Lacey began to question her beliefs while putting the
"whatifs" and "yeahbuts" on hold. We didn't banish them; that never works.
We just asked them to hang back for a bit while we did our work. Lacey
came to see that she could not absolutely know that she needed the
unavailable man in her life, or that she needed her husband's financial
support, or that she'd never find another great love. She was willing to
consider being wrong, or at least to stop needing to know everything in
all certainty. Ultimately she gave up on the lover and separated from
her husband for awhile. She got a good job and gave herself a chance to
get to know the true love of her life: herself.

The mind really wants to know the truth, even as it fights for the
survival of its sacred beliefs. When we're out of integrity, we feel it,
and the pain is excruciating. So try this: the next time you encounter
great resistance, don't try to banish the "yeahbuts" and "whatifs," but
instead invite them to wait in the wings; you can pick them up again
later if you like. Treat your yeahbuts and whatifs with gentle
understanding; they're lovingly doing their job, trying to protect you from
dissolution. Then, allow Willingness have its life...and see what happens.
You may discover that what you thought needed defending is the very thing
that has held you back from what you really want: true strength,
authenticity and happiness.

Deepening Transformational Inquiry: "I know I should, but...."

Is there something you believe you "should" be doing? For example:

"I should clean out the garage."
"I should get started early on my taxes."
"I should work out at least three times a week."

One way to work with "shoulds' is to question them directly: e.g. "You
should work out three times a week; is that true? What is the reality
of it, do you? Can you absolutely know you'd be better off if you worked
out three times a week?"

Another way is to look at your reasons (or excuses) for not doing what
you "should" be doing. These are the "yeahbuts" and "whatifs."

"Every time I clean out the garage, my husband yells at me for throwing
out something he needed."
"With the holidays coming I don't have time to start on my taxes. I
should have started them earlier."
"If I go to the gym that often, I look better but I get so tired; then
how am I going to clean out the garage and do my taxes?"

We dislike our "shoulds" because they make us feel like we're doing it
wrong. We love our "yeahbuts" because they lead us to believe we are
right in not addressing the "shoulds."

The trouble is, whether we are "shoulding" ourselves to death or
"yeahbutting" ourselves into complacency, it generally doesn't feel very
good. That's because when we attach to shoulds and yeahbuts, we are not
living in the present moment. "Shoulds" are stories of a nonexistent
future. "Yeahbuts" are horror stories based on past assumptions. "Whatifs"
are horror stories, period.

The yeahbuts and whatifs underlying our "shoulds" are like the legs of
a table. The tabletop cannot remain stable unless it has four good
legs. While inquiring into the validity of a "should" belief, notice any
wobbly legs holding up the table and make a mental note or written
sidebar about them to question later.

©2006 Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.

November 4, 2006

Celebrating the "Hellidays"

How do you celebrate the winter holidays? For many of us it's a time to get together with loved, drink, and make merry...give and receive presents with joy...take a vacation to a special getaway...meditate on the spiritual significance of the season...entertain loved ones in our homes.

And, typically, it's a time to entertain other not-so-well-loved ones...thoughts like:

"I can't afford Christmas (Chanukah, Kwanzaa, a winter vacation) this year."

"The holidays are so depressing."

"My brother gives chintzy gifts to my kids."

"If s/he really loved me s/he'd know that what I wanted was a (insert ideal gift that you didn't receive here)."

"Thanksgiving is cultural propaganda."

"I should have more 'Christmas spirit.'"

"There's too much rich food (too much alcohol), I'm going to gain weight (fall off the wagon)."

"I have no one to kiss on New Year's Eve and it means that...."

"Oh, God, not another business luncheon."

"I'll never get all my shopping (cooking, housecleaning, holiday cards) done."

"I have to make and stick to my New Year's resolutions."

Sound familiar?

When we attach to thoughts like these, the holidays become the "hellidays." The end of the year is a great time for self-inquiry, as holiday thoughts rise to the surface like whipped cream in the eggnog.

Lost your job and your huge family expects to exchange gifts with you? Inquire: what's the worst that can happen if you cut back this year? Think your yearly bonus wasn't enough? Is it not enough in reality? You should not be depressed, is that true? How do you treat yourself when you attach to that belief...and how does this help to alleviate your depression? Don't want to take your mother to church this year? Judge your mother, write it down, ask four questions, turn it around. The holidays are too commercial? Try this turnaround: "My thinking is too commercial." Can you find three ways that this is equally true, or even truer?

The gift of self-inquiry costs nothing, knows no season, and you can give it to yourself, whenever you like and wherever you are. The result? Peace on earth.

©2006 by Carol L. Skolnick. All rights reserved.