Customer Reviews: Loving What Is: Four Questions That Can Change Your Life
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on August 29, 2014
The principle of the book is interesting: to free your mind of thinking about and trying to control others and other situations that are simply beyond your control. It gives you the space to be freed up from the energy expended in wishing things were different to realise the potential that your life could hold without all that wanting and wishing consuming you.

However, the book seems to advocate a philosophy that is cut off from the neck down. It seems to deny both our higher spirit and our primal needs. As someone who has spent most of my life rationalizing and being cerebral about life's hardships, I have come full circle to realise that healing and finding peace and the true path in life only come from being connected in body and spirit as well as mind. Rationalizing away our needs and emotions is not the panacea that this simplistic book advocates. There are multiple levels to the human condition, not just the mind. I agree that we can and do create our own suffering from being attached to an ideal way of being, and this is reinforced by stereotypes we are taught by our family, school and advertising. However, I do not think that the way of progress, or just the way of peace and of finding the true path, is about rationalising our way out of needing everything.

We ARE social animals at the end of the day and - my personal opinion - we ARE spiritual beings as well, and if you don't believe that, then there are emotional needs too. We can take greater control of our wellbeing than many people do, but we are also part of a bigger social community and of a bigger interconnectedness.

I find this book ultimately reductionist in its approach. It could easily be reduced to a pamphlet or an article and after you've read one story you're read them all. I also find the book is patronising and overly simplistic to the many levels at which we experience life.

I believe we need to reconnect with body, heart and spirit to truly evolve as human beings. This book seems to imply by its writing that we are fully evolved and can rationalize everything, which on its own has so many flaws.
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on January 2, 2004
I bought this book mainly because of my respect for Stephen Mitchell, Katie's husband, who provides a compelling forward. The idea of inquiry is valid and helpful, and I am definitely going to examine some relationships in my life by her method.
BUT...she carries the "work" to an extreme and tries to make it apply every time for every person. It crosses well over the border between peaceful acceptance and flat out denial. Like it or not, there are things in life that can't be rationalized away. The idea that "no person ever hurt another person" or did a wrong thing -- that's ludicrous. I agree that I have a choice about how I react when someone hits me in the head with a baseball bat, but that doesn't mean I can choose not to have a lump on my head or that I should convince myself that everything is groovy all the time. And I agree with another reveiwer who said that she pushes people toward answers that validate her methods, especially with the "should/should not" stuff. Saying "Bill hit me in the head with a baseball bat" is not the same as saying "Bill SHOULD hit me in the head with a baseball bat." Katie's assertion that everything is as it should be reminds me of the myopic schoolmaster in "Candide." (Life is happiness indeed!)
The so-called "work" is a potentially powerful tool. It's going to do a lot of people a lot of good -- but in certain situations, it could be very harmful. To hear an example of Katie in action, go to her website [...]
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on May 9, 2010
I do believe that letting go of some of our expectations of others is an important part of bringing peace to our lives. I do believe that people waste a lot of time and energy worrying about things they can't change or might not even happen. I do think that careful introspection is helpful when we've accused others of doing something hurtful or wrong.

Still... Byron Katie would have you believe that nothing is true. You tell her, "My father beat me." "I lost a child." "My mother was a drug addict." "My cousin molested me." "My husband had an affair." And she will ask you if you know for sure that those things are true. And let me tell you, according to her, the answer is always, "no."

But let's say the answer is a big fat, "yes." Okay, then the next question would be: How do you feel when you think that thought? Well, when someone thinks about really upsetting, sad and damaging things that have happened to them - of course they feel anxious, stressed, sad, etc.

Then Katie wants to know who you would be if you dropped that thought. Now, here's where I can't get on board - how do you drop the thought that you were molested as a child, beaten - that you've lost someone you loved fiercely? Can a person just decide not to think about that anymore? Can you chalk the loss or hurt up to "just a thought?"

The kicker would be the final question - the turnaround. If you say, "My father should not have molested me when I was a child" - Katie will ask you to change the statement to one of the following:
"I should not have molested my father when I was a child."
"I should not have molested me when I was a child."
"My father should have molested me when I was a child." (In Katie's world - he should have done it, because he did.)

I understand that wishing the past had been different is fruitless. But asking these questions simply cannot apply to every painful situation. People are supposed to feel pain, fear, anxiety, loss. That's normal! It's not normal to have it consume your life or keep you from making good choices - but humans are hardwired to feel.

I don't understand why Katie believes that everyone should do what they are doing because that is what they are doing. If you tell her, "My husband should not use drugs" "My son should not disrespect me" "My neighbors shouldn't abuse their kids" or "My friend should keep her promises to me," Katie will tell you that you are wrong. People should only do what they want to do, what they are doing - until they stop doing it. In her world, you can't say, "My husband shouldn't hit me." She will ask you to turn that around into, "My husband should hit me" or "I should not hit me" (and then come up with some metaphorical way in which you are actually harming yourself.)

Please. People have feelings. And I can't live in a world where there aren't any absolutes or behavioral expectations. People should not abuse drugs. People should not steal. People should not be rude an inconsiderate. Husbands should not beat their wives or their kids. These are things I believe are true. No, Katie, I can't drop those thoughts.
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on March 9, 2008
While the book offers some insights into how cognitive therapy can relieve psychological pain, the obsessive way in which Byron Katie tries to solve everyone's problems by thinking them away strikes me as a form of dissociation.

First of all the cognitive therapy ideas that she offers up as astoundingly original ideas have been around long before the author "invented" them. She probably had years of this type of therapy before "realizing" that she was the founder of such insights.

However, the author's egotism isn't the problem. If she had just stuck to explaining a cognitive therapy approach, her work might have been useful. The problem is how she distorts cognitive therapy. Basically, Katie preaches a form of detachment therapy. No matter what has happened to a person, Katie figures out a way so that the person doesn't have to feel bad. Since Katie figured out her approach to problem-solving while in the middle of a severe depression, I can understand that she felt desperate to turn off her terrible feelings. And it seems to me that she figured out a mind game to do it. No matter what the circumstances, Katie can rationalize away all bad feelings. But, in doing so, she must deny all dependency needs on other people. She acts as if disappointment in others or rage at others is just a story that can be rewritten. It's as if she ended her depression by ending all sense of emotional dependence on others. Now maybe for her own personal reasons, she is incapable of enduring the "bad" feelings that come with emotional intimacy. But, spending all one's time and effort into stopping such feelings seems like a defense mechanism rather then a grand, final truth.

I read her interview with a teen who was in a large family and was struggling with disappointments and resentments towards his family. Rather than validating his feelings and empathizing with his struggles and then maybe offering some coping strategies, she focuses exclusively on getting him to think away his difficult feelings.

The worst part of her approach is how she takes it to such an extreme. It doesn't matter if someone was raped, she will "turnaround" the situation, so that the victim shouldn't feel bad about what happened. Often people in extremely destructive relationships discount their feelings of despair, and her ideas could certainly encourage such discounting.

I think her approach stems more from fear of strong feelings than anything else. She doesn't offer wisdom about how to manage difficult relationships, rather she offers a highly intellectual method for dissociating from them.
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on April 3, 2008
I had to read and re-read certain portions and I still could not grasp this. It seems the author is trying her best to make us think that nothing really matters, just don't think about it. Nobody hurts you, you allow them to. And it's okay to allow them to, until you don't allow them to. Your wife leaves you for another man, don't be hurt or angry. That's her truth and she can have it. You can stay or you can leave, but don't have any feelings about what she did. You never have to make any decisions, a voice will come in your head and tell you what to do, and you will do it, automatically, and not even feel yourself doing it.

So we should all end up beings who are above feeling or blaming, and never have any worries. This is just nonsense. If somebody is helped by this book, good, but I think a practical approach to dealing with your feelings and finding a solution to your problem would be better than turning what someone else did to you around on yourself, and then going nowhere.
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on May 12, 2002
You know how as you get older you start talking and acting like your parents in certain ways? You don't get up one day and decide you're going to be like your mother or father. It's a process that seems to happen on its own. Reading Byron Katie's Loving What Is, is like that.You easily pick-up on it and find yourself naturally, imperceptibly, using her methods.

This book takes the stuff of life -- family, marriage, children, money, addictions, friends, lovers, judgments of self and life, fear, pain, anger, worry, and the thoughts the mind is constantly generating -- and it shows you how to free yourself from the stresses they impose. It shows you how to take things that bother you and make them not bother you. It frees you from that.

The Work, as Katie's method is called, is easy to do. Nothing beyond the book is required.

In The Work, you start with the worksheet. The purpose of the worksheet is to bring your mind to paper. You start by judging people. Later you judge thoughts, issues, self-judgments. You start with a person. You write down what angers, saddens, disappoints you about that person. How do you want them to change? What do they need to give you? What do you think of this person? What don't you want to experience with this person again? These are only a few of the questions on the worksheet.

Next you investigate each statement in the worksheet by exposing it to four questions. For each statement you ask, (1) Is it true? (2) Can you absolutely know that it's true? (3) How do you react when you think that thought? (4) Who would you be without that thought?

The four questions allow one to look at the source of pain and stress.

Finally you turn around each statement so that instead of judging another person, you are judging yourself. "Bill angers me," can be turned around to, "I anger me," or "I anger Bill," or "Bill doesn't anger me." With the turnaround comes the key to healing because it is a look into reality.

The worksheet presents the situation of stress and pain. The four questions reveal the source of stress and pain. The turnaround shows what the reality is, and with this comes healing.

The book features in-depth examples of The Work in action. The most stressful and difficult human situations are handled. Loving What Is is also available in audio edition, which is an effective way of absorbing The Work.

The most important quality of The Work is that it feels natural. Katie says over and over again that she is a "lover of reality." The Work comes out of reality and takes the user to reality.

Jerry Katz
One: Essential Writings on Nonduality
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on December 11, 2008
I really wanted to like this book. I knew that it was popular and I liked some of the ideas in the opening pages. But then I had to force myself to read to the end. The ideas became repetitious and unrealistic.
The author claims there are four important questions we must ask ourselves about a distressing situation in our lives, but two of the questions are the same: Is it true? and, Do you absolutely know that it's true? Why not just skip the first question and ask the second one?
The author must have preferred the idea of 4 questions rather than 3.

This book is a re-packaging of the idea that our feelings come from our thoughts and that if we can think more positively and accept our circumstances rather than making a judgement, we will be happier. Anyone who has read any self help books or gone through brief therapy will have discovered the truth of this.

But the author departs from this to suggest that we don't have to suffer if we accept everything and get rid of all our "shoulds." That if we accept the "truth" of the situation we can be calm, and avoid feelings of distress. Without any credentials at all, this author is denying what experts on grief have understood for decades: that humans must experience all the emotions to be fully human, and that there are ways of healing from most negative experiences if we are willing to do the work of healing, whether that work involves tears, anger, group therapy, etc.

In the endless examples of dialog given in the book between the author and her clients, the author was clearly leading the clients to reach the conclusions that were in the author's mind. She didn't allow them to reach any insights of their own because she was taking them to an outcome that would fit with her "theory." Her constant endearments in addressing these clients as she worked with them were cloying. Were I a client of hers, I would find that to be an inappropriate and annoying mannerism.

The author explains that she use to be in the depths of depression and despair. She never explains how she suddenly became well, but I think it must have coincided with her inspiration for this book and how she would market it. But teaching denial and avoidance is not okay, in my book, and could be very harmful. As humans, don't we need to admit that we are enraged when a drunk driver kills a loved one, or overwhelmed with sorrow when our baby dies? I'm guessing that the author cannot tolerate the pain that life can bring, and so has found a way to avoid it altogether. Sad for her, and a waste of time for the reader.
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on March 28, 2002
"When you argue with reality, you lose-but only 100% of the time," Byron Katie says. To help us stop our painful and hopeless arguments with reality, Byron Katie gives us much more, or much less, than another psychological Band-Aid or superficial pep-talk. She gives us The Work, four penetrating questions that, when asked sincerely, can help anyone tear through years of painful beliefs -"I'm too fat." "My partner should love me more." etc.-leaving the peace and freedom that come naturally from "loving what is."
I found The Work a little slippery to understand the first time I heard of it (it's been spreading through word of mouth for years). How can asking myself some questions make any difference? But after I did it, I was blown away! Loving What Is makes learning this process fairly simple, through detailed instructional material, humorous anecdotes (Katie is famous for her sense of humor), and dozens of powerful examples of The Work in action. Co-author Stephen Mitchell's intelligence and precision are evident in the book's seamless structure, and in how naturally Katie's clarity and warmth make it to the page. This book still requires "active" reading-and you have to do The Work yourself in order to really get it-but for those who are willing to try something new, Loving What Is really could change your life. It changed mine. (I highly recommend the audiobook as well.)
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on March 22, 2002
A friend of mind literally put this book in my hands. I had been obsessing about someone for months. I have a meditation practice, a therapist, friends who had been listening to me patiently. But this book seems to be helping in a way nothing else has. This cool thing called "The Work"--where you have to write down what's bothering you and then ask four questions and turn your problem around--made me see that he had hurt me once, but I was hurting me every single day, with my thoughts, repeating the whole thing over and over, letting it take me over. I feel so much lighter about the whole thing now, even kind of amused at times by my own craziness. I really recommend this book to anyone who thinks too much. And I really want to meet Byron Katie someday--the way she talks about Reality being God--if only we were willing to truly see it, the way she talks in general is kind of startling, wakes you up. In person, she must be amazing.
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on May 18, 2003
If no stars were available, I'd choose that. This self-help book is aimed primarily at helping the author. I found it preposterous, and downright dangerous. I don't think this woman has any credentials; rather, she seems to tout her qualifying experience as the fact that she had a nervous breakdown when she was 43 years old. Katie's "help" is presented as a series of questions that branch from her initial query of "Is it [the situation, feeling, etc.] true?" Nothing intended to help people break out of lifelong conditioning works as fast as Katie would have one believe. Especially annoying parts of the book are the intro by her husband (who has no more credentials than his wife) where he belabors Katie's lecturing on the ideas in her book for free (the book certainly is not free; thank goodness I borrowed it from a library), the many times Katie showcases her approach in a cult-like way as "The Work," Katie pretending to be an objective participant when she is clearly steering people toward her sometimes-dangerous ideas, and Katie using endearments that just seem patronizing with her interview subjects in the dialogue transcripts (e.g., "Nice Work, honey"). I was muddling through the book and wondering when I'd get to something helpful when I read her exchange with a woman who was repeatedly raped as a child (around age 8 or 9) by her stepfather. Then the author, through a series of questions, ended up turning the blame for the rapes around on the victim, culminating in the idea that rape was the woman's way of receiving love. All this was done in front of an audience. Brainwashing and abuse in the guise of therapy. Ghastly.
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