The following dialog appears in Loving What Is.
NOTE: Byron Katie’s response to reader comments on this post may be read here>>
Mary, reading the statements from her Worksheet: I hate my husband because he drives me crazy — everything about him, including the way he breathes. What disappoints me is that I don’t love him anymore and our relationship is a charade. I want him to be more successful, to not want to have sex with me, to get in shape, to get a life outside of me and the children, to not touch me anymore, and to be powerful. My husband shouldn’t fool himself that he’s good at our business. He should create more success. My husband is a wimp. He’s needy, and lazy. He’s fooling himself. I refuse to keep living a lie. I refuse to keep living my relationship as an imposter.
Katie: Does that pretty well sum it up? [The audience bursts into laughter, and Mary laughs along with them.] By the sound of the laughter, it seems as though you speak for a lot of people in this room. So, let’s start at the top and see if we can begin to understand what going on.
Mary: I hate my husband because he drives me crazy — everything about him, including the way he breathes.
Katie: “Your husband drives you crazy” — is it true? [This is the first of the four questions: Is it true?]
Katie: Okay. What’s an example of that, sweetheart?… He breathes?
Mary: He breathes. When we’re doing conference calls for our business, I can hear his breath on the other end of the telephone, and I want to scream.
Katie: So his breath drives you crazy — is that true?
Katie: Can you absolutely know that that’s true? [The second question: Can you absolutely know that it’s true?]
Katie: We can all relate to that. I hear that it really is true for you. In my experience, it can’t be your husband’s breath that’s driving you crazy; it has to be your thoughts about his breath that’s driving you crazy. So let’s take a closer look and see if that’s true. What are your thoughts about his breath on the phone?
Mary: That he should be more aware that he’s breathing loudly during a conference call.
Katie: How do you react when you think that thought? [The third question: How do you react when you think that thought?]
Mary: I feel like I want to kill him.
Katie: So what’s more painful — the thought you attach to about his breathing or his breathing?
Mary: The breathing is more painful. I’m comfortable with the thought that I want to kill him. [Mary laughs, and so does the audience.]
Katie: You can keep that thought. That’s the beautiful thing about The Work. You can keep all your thoughts.
Mary: I’ve never done The Work before, so I don’t know any of the “right” answers.
Katie: Your answers are perfect, sweetheart. Don’t rehearse. So he’s breathing on the phone and you have the thought that he should be more aware, and he’s not. What’s the next thought?
Mary: It brings up every terrible thought I have about him.
Katie: Okay, and he’s still breathing. “He should stop breathing into the phone on the conference call” — what’s the reality of it? Does he?
Mary: No. I’ve told him to stop.
Katie: And he still does it. That’s reality. What’s true is always what’s happening, not the story about what should be happening. “He should stop breathing on the phone” — is it true?
Mary, after a pause: No. It’s not true. He’s doing it. That’s what’s true. That’s reality.
Katie: So how do you react when you think the thought that he should stop breathing on the phone, and he doesn’t?
Mary: How do I react? I want out. It feels uncomfortable because I know I want out and I know I’m not going anywhere.
Katie: Let’s move back to inquiry, honey, rather than moving further into your story, your interpretation of what’s happening. Do you really want to know the truth?
Katie: Okay. It helps if we stick to one written statement at a time. Can you see a reason to drop the thought that he should stop breathing on the phone? [This is an additional question that Katie sometimes asks.] For those of you new to The Work, if you hear that I’m asking Mary to drop her story, let me make it very clear: I’m not. This is not about getting rid of thoughts or about overcoming, improving, or surrendering them. None of that. This is about realizing for yourself internal cause and effect. The question is simply “Can you see a reason to drop this thought?”
Mary: Yes, I can. It would be a lot more enjoyable to do conference calls without this thought.
Katie: That’s a good reason. Can you find a stress-free reason to keep this thought, this lie, that he should stop breathing on the phone? [A second additional question]
Katie: Who would you be without that thought? [The fourth question: Who would you be without the thought?] Who would you be, while you’re on a conference call with your husband, if you didn’t have the ability to think that thought?
Mary: I’d be much happier. I’d be more powerful. I wouldn’t be distracted.
Katie: Yes, sweetheart. That’s it. It’s not his breathing that is causing your problem. It’s your thoughts about his breathing, because you haven’t investigated them to see that they oppose reality in the moment. Let’s look at your next statement.
Mary: I don’t love him anymore.
Katie: Is that true?
Katie: Okay. Good. I hear that, and do you really want to know the truth?
Katie: Okay. Be still. There’s no right or wrong answer. “You don’t love him” — is that true? [Mary is silent.] If you had to answer honestly either “yes” or “no,” right now, and you had to live forever with your answer — your truth or your lie — what would your answer be? “You don’t love him” — is that true? [There is a long pause. Then Mary begins to cry.]
Mary: No. It’s not true.
Katie: That’s a very courageous answer. If we answer it that way, with what’s really true for ourselves, we think that there may be no way out. “Is it true?” is just a question! We’re terrified to answer the simplest question honestly, because we project what that may mean in the imagined future. We think we have to do something about it. How do you react when you believe the thought that you don’t love him?
Mary: It makes my whole life a stupid charade.
Katie: Can you see a reason to drop this thought that you don’t love him? And I’m not asking you to drop the thought.
Mary: Yes, I can see a reason to drop it.
Katie: Can you think of one stress-free reason to keep the thought?
Mary, after a long pause: I think if I keep my story, then I can keep him from wanting to have sex all the time.
Katie: Is that a stress-free reason? It seems stressful to me.
Mary: I guess it is.
Katie: Can you find one stress-free reason to keep that thought?
Mary: Oh, I see. No. There aren’t any stress-free reasons to keep the story.
Katie: Fascinating. Who would you be, standing with your husband, without the thought that you don’t love him?
Mary: It would be great. It would be fabulous. That’s what I want.
Katie: I’m hearing that with the thought, it’s stressful. And without the thought, it’s fabulous. So what does your husband have to do with your unhappiness? We’re just noticing here. So, “I don’t love my husband” — turn it around. [After the four questions comes the turnaround.]
Mary: I do love my husband.
Katie: Feel it. It has nothing to do with him, does it?
Mary: No. It really doesn’t. I do love my husband, and you’re right, it doesn’t have anything to do with him.
Katie: And sometimes you think you hate him, and that doesn’t have anything to do with him, either. The man’s just breathing. You tell the story that you love him, or you tell the story that you hate him. It doesn’t take two people to have a happy marriage. It only takes one — you! There’s another turnaround.
Mary: I don’t love myself. I can relate to that one.
Katie: And you may think that if you divorce him, then you’ll feel good. But if you haven’t investigated your thinking, you’ll attach these same concepts onto whoever comes into your life next. We don’t attach to people or to things; we attach to uninvestigated concepts that we believe to be true in the moment. Let’s look at the next statement on your Worksheet.
Mary: I want my husband not to be needy, not to be dependent on me, to be more successful, to not want to have sex with me, to get in shape, to get a life outside of me and the children, and to be more powerful. Those are just a few.
Katie: Let’s turn that whole statement around.
Mary: I want me not to be needy. I want me not to be dependent on him. I want me to be more successful. I want me to want to have sex with him. I want me to get in shape. I want me to get a life outside of him and the children. I want me to be more powerful.
Katie: So, “He shouldn’t be needy” — is it true? What’s the reality of it? Is he?
Mary: He’s needy.
Katie: “He shouldn’t be needy” is a lie, because the guy, is needy, according to you. So, how do you react when you think the thought “he shouldn’t be needy,” and in your reality he is needy?
Mary: I just want to run away all the time.
Katie: Who would you be in his presence without the thought “He shouldn’t be needy”?
Mary: What I just understood is that I could be with him in a space of love, instead of just having Guide my defenses up. It’s like if I notice any bit of neediness, I’m out of there. I’ve got to run. That’s what I do with my life.
Katie: When he’s acting needy, in your opinion, you don’t say “No” honestly. You run away or want to run away instead of being honest with yourself and him.
Mary: That’s true.
Katie: Well, it would have to be. You have to call him needy until you can get some clarity and honest communication going with yourself. So let’s be clear. You be him and be very needy. I’ll take the role of clarity.
Mary: Mr. Needy comes in and says, “I just had the best phone call. You’ve got to hear about it. It was this guy and he’s going to be fabulous in the business. And I had another call….” You know, he just goes on and on. Meanwhile, I’m busy. I’ve got a deadline.
Katie: “Sweetheart, I hear that you had a wonderful phone call. I love that, and I would also like you to leave the room now. I have a deadline to meet.”
Mary: “We have to talk about our plans. When are we going to Hawaii? We have to figure out what airlines…”
Katie: “I hear that you want to talk about our plans for Hawaii, so let’s discuss this at dinner tonight. I really want you to leave the room now. I have a deadline to meet.”
Mary: “If one of your girlfriends called, you would talk to her for an hour. Now you can’t listen to me for two minutes?”
Katie: “You could be right, and I want you to leave the room now. It may sound cold, but it’s not. I just have a deadline to meet.”
Mary: I don’t do it like that. Usually I’m mean to him. I just seethe.
Katie: You have to be mean, because you’re afraid to tell the truth and say no. You don’t say, “Sweetheart, I would like you to leave. I have a deadline,” because you want something from him. What scam are you running on yourself and on him? What do you want from him?
Mary: I am never straightforward with anybody.
Katie: Because you want something from us. What is it?
Mary: I can’t stand when somebody doesn’t like me. I don’t want disharmony.
Katie: So you want our approval.
Mary: Yes, and I want to maintain harmony.
Katie: Sweetheart, if your husband approves of what you say and what you do, then there is harmony in your home — is that true? Does it work? Is there harmony in your home?
Katie: You trade your integrity for harmony in the home. It doesn’t work. Spare yourself from seeking love, approval, or appreciation — from anyone. And watch what happens in reality, just for fun. Read your statement again.
Mary: I want my husband not to be needy.
Katie: All right. Turn it around.
Mary: I want me not to be needy.
Katie: Yes, you need all this harmony. You need his approval. You need his breathing to change. You need his sexuality to change for you. Who’s the needy one? Who is dependent on whom? So let’s turn the whole list around.
Mary: I need myself not to be needy, not to be dependent…
Katie: On your husband, perhaps?
Mary: I want myself to be more successful. I want myself to not want to have sex with me.
Katie: That one could be really legitimate if you sit with it. How many times do you tell the 101 story of how he has sex with you and you hate it?
Katie: Yes. You’re having sex with him in your mind and thinking how terrible that is. You tell the story, over and over, of what it’s like having sex with your husband. That story is what’s repelling you, not your husband. Sex without a story has never repelled anyone. It just is what it is. You’re having sex or you’re not. It’s our thoughts about sex that repel us. Write that one out too, honey. You could write a whole Worksheet on your husband and sexuality.
Mary: I get it.
Katie: Okay, turn the next statement around.
Mary: I want me to get in shape. But I am in shape.
Katie: Oh, really? How about mentally?
Mary: Oh. I could work on that.
Katie: Are you doing the best you can?
Katie: Well, maybe he is, too. “He’s supposed to be in shape” — is that true?
Mary: No. He’s not in shape.
Katie: How do you react when you believe the thought that he should be in shape, and he’s not? How do you treat him? What do you say? What do you do?
Mary: Everything is subtle. I show him my muscles. I don’t ever look at him with approval. I don’t ever admire him. I don’t ever do anything kind in that direction.
Katie: Okay, close your eyes. Look at yourself looking at him that way. Now look at his face. [There is a pause. Mary sighs.] Keep your eyes closed. Look at him again. Who would you be, standing there with him, without the thought that he should be in shape?
Mary: I would look at him and see how handsome he is.
Katie: Yes, angel. And you’d see how much you love him. Isn’t that fascinating? This is very exciting. So let’s just be there a moment. Look at how you treat him, and he still wants to go to Hawaii with you. That’s amazing!
Mary: What’s amazing about this guy is that I am so horrible and mean, and he loves me without conditions. It drives me nuts.
Katie: “He drives you nuts” — is that true?
Mary: No. So far, it’s been my thinking that drives me nuts.
Katie: So let’s go back. “He should get in shape” — turn it around.
Mary: I should get in shape. I should get my thinking in shape.
Katie: Yes. Every time you look at him and are repulsed, get your thinking in shape. Judge your husband, write it down, ask four questions, and turn it around. But only if you are tired of the pain. Okay, honey, I think you’ve got it. Just continue through the rest of the statements on your Worksheet in the same manner. I love sitting with you. And welcome to inquiry. Welcome to The Work.