If I take care of my mind I have taken care of yours. – Byron Katie
I like the quote, I can make sense of it. But that’s about how far my appreciation for Byron Katie and her method The Work, “…that teaches you to identify and question the thoughts that cause all the suffering in the world”, goes.
A few days ago I was frustrated due to a clash I had with my son. The thought that I had said all the wrong things to him was torturing me. The next day I spoke to a friend who told me about Byron Katie and her method of self-inquiry, The Work, which is intended to help people find relief by questioning their thoughts that cause distress.
I then spent nearly four hours listening to Byron’s videos on YouTube and reading about her on the web. I couldn’t find any information about her formal education – she doesn’t seem to have any training in psychology or another field of mental health. Nor could I find any research-based evidence validating her method.
The Work can actually become quite problematic – in many cases Byron Katie leads her followers (yes, she’s like a guru) to come to absurd and confusing conclusions, and often she seems to struggle to find an answer to questions asked. Just listen to The Work on Terrorism and you’ll understand what I mean.
Here is an excerpt from an in-depth and well founded Critique of Byron Katie’s therapeutic method The Work: “… the problem with The Work is that it has a conclusion in advance, namely that the thought is false, and therewith it is in progress, as with other New Age directions, of eliminating peoples´ ability of critical thinking. Problematic, because the training of critical thinking is the first step in a true spiritual process, and on the whole a primary condition for a healthy mind. In Cognitive Therapy for example, they also have questions to ask to problematic thoughts, that actually have some truth in them (examples in the end of this article).”
“… The Work can get quite nasty with its turnaround technique. After that you, as expected, have “realized”, that your thought is not true, then you have to turn it upside down; you so to speak have to think the opposite thought.
Again it can be a good thing to look at problems from different sides, but that is not what you do with the turnaround technique. The turnaround technique actually sounds a bit like the thought distortion called Conversion to the opposite … The turnaround technique must be a dream for any bully, liar or manipulator. If you are critical, then this is due to your own false thoughts. If someone … bullied you, and you feel hurt, then this pain is based on your own wrong way of thinking. Certainly not the bully´s (the bully is actually a kind of guru; an example of the divine). And in that we find the main problem with The Work, and the reason why I would advise people to keep a long distance from it.”
“Many former Katie devotees have been in counseling for years in order to remove this way of confused thinking.”
Here are more critical articles on Byron Katie’s work: