top of page

Challenge Your Distressing Beliefs

Adapted from "The Work" of Byron Katie.
See her website and her book Loving What Is.

1.  Write out your distressing belief as clearly and succinctly as possible:

  • A distressing belief is a thought that causes you to feel shame, fear, panic, depression, or other dark and painful feelings. It’s probably a version of a belief you’ve carried around with you much of your life.

  • Examples: I am not as masculine as other men are. I’m not worthy. I’ll never succeed. She shouldn’t have said those things to me. He doesn’t value my friendship. I'll never make enough money. I'll never fall in love again.

2. Ask yourself simply, Is it true? 

  • Meaning: Is it a fact (observable data)? Or is it “story” (judgment, belief, interpretation of other facts)?

  • Get outside yourself to ask the question “Is it true?” from the perspective of a dispassionate third-party observer.

  • Yes, of course it feels true at times. But would reasonable people almost universally agree that this is indisputable fact?


  • If the belief is, “I’m not as masculine as other men,” which other men are you comparing yourself to? According to whose definition of masculinity?


  • Follow-up question: Can you know with absolute certainty that this belief is true?


3.  Ask yourself: How do I react when I think that thought or believe that idea? 


  • Consider both what you feel and what you do as a result.


  • Examples: I feel ashamed. I feel envy. I start to lust. I get angry.

  • Or: I go to the gym to work out more. I cut off contact with her (or him).


  • Be honest and thorough. Write down your thoughts.




4.  Ask yourself: What are the benefits (payoffs) of holding on to this belief? 


  • What do you get out of believing this thought?


  • This should be a stress-free reason to hold onto the belief—something that truly benefits you.


  • If you can’t see a benefit in holding on to the belief, can you see a reason to drop it?

  • Write down your thoughts.


5.  Turn the thought around. Look for ways to state the opposite of the original belief.


  • If the belief is, “I’m not as masculine as other men,” turn it around to:


  • “I am as masculine as other men” (turn it around to the opposite)

  • “Other men are not as masculine as I am” (turn it around to the other person or people).


  • If the belief is, “He doesn’t value my friendship,” three turn-arounds could be:


  • “He does value my friendship” (turn it around to the opposite)

  • “I don’t value his friendship” (turn it around to the other person or people).

  • “I don’t value my friendship” (turn it around to self).


  • Write down your turnarounds:


6.  Ask yourself: Are there any ways in which the turnarounds are just as true or even truer than the original belief?


  • How, specifically?

  • Look for 2-3 genuine, specific examples of how each turnaround may be true at times.

  • Example: If the turnaround is, “I am as masculine as other men,” consider all the ways that you are in fact similar to other men.



7.  Imagine (visualize) yourself without that old thought or belief. Ask yourself: Who would I be without this old story?

  • Imagine you couldn’t even think that old negative thought again. Everything else is the same but you can’t think the thought. What would be different?

  • Feel your answer, don’t just think it.

  • Write down your thoughts.

8.  Ask yourself: If I could choose my beliefs, what would I prefer to believe if I could?


  • Examples: “I am masculine enough.” “I am who I am supposed to be.” “I am like other men in most ways, and different in some ways—and I like that about me.”

  • Write down your preferred belief


9.  Try on the preferred belief and see how it feels.

  • Don’t try to talk yourself into believing it. Rather, imagine or visualize who you would be if you went about your life with your preferred belief rather than the original one. What would it feel like to be you then?


  • Try it on like a suit or shoes. How does it feel?


  • Write about how it feels and how you react to “wearing” this preferred belief.

10.  Ask yourself, Am I willing to release my attachment to the old belief, and to open myself to the new belief instead?


  • Oftentimes, the problem isn’t the belief so much as our attachment to it. We can get so attached to (or invested in) the old, distressing belief that it becomes our identity, our dogma, or our burden to carry.

  • Are you willing to let go of that old, harmful attachment, and instead open yourself to believing something that feels lighter, more hopeful and more affirming?

  • Write down your final thoughts.

bottom of page