How To Debunk A Belief

Last updated on June 19, 2021

Do you remember filling in “connect the dots” puzzles as a kid? It was fun to see what kind of shape would emerge as you penciled your way from the first dot all the way to the last.

Looking at the puzzle above, maybe you already have an idea of what it’s going to be. Maybe you have a belief that it’s going to be a horse.

But you need to substantiate that belief by doing the actual tracing. You’ve got to go through all the particulars, connecting one dot after another, in order to see the actual picture.

And The Same Is True With Any Belief

You’ve got to connect the dots in order to see what’s really there. You need all the little nitty-gritty points of proof, in order for any belief to get substantiated.

But even when you’ve found a ton of evidence for any belief, it doesn’t necessarily make it true.

Even a well-backed theory in science is not called a fact. Because there always remains a possibility that some new proof will emerge to disprove the whole thing.

That’s what debunking a theory is all about.

And That’s Also How We Debunk A Belief

The first clue that a belief is not true, and needs debunking, is the fact that we feel stress when we think it. Our body and our emotions are actually sensitive instruments which can often detect a lie long before our intellect sees it. This is especially true when our ego doesn’t want us to see something.

But if we look a little closer, we come closer to the truth.

The Work of Byron Katie is a way to go in a little closer and look at all the dots, all the evidence. And make sure that all the dots are connected properly.

Sometimes We Miss A Dot

As kids working on a connect-the-dots puzzle, sometimes we’re in a hurry. And we miss a dot or two, or even a whole section of dots. And then the picture turns out to look completely differently.

And as believers of our stressful beliefs, sometimes we do the same. We miss a few dots, or connect them improperly. And we start seeing pictures that are not right. We start believing things that are not true at all. Or are at least not true to our inner nature, which is love.

And that’s when we feel it. And that’s when it’s time to do The Work.

There Are Two Ways To Do The Work

The first is using a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet, which is the main way I like to do The Work, because it is easier to do motive-free inquiry on my beliefs about another person.

The second is using a One-Belief-At-A-Time Worksheet. This is where we take any thought that comes to mind. Any stressful thought, or big, general belief. And we question it all by itself, out of context.

A belief like, “Rich people are snobs,” is a good example of a One-Belief-At-A-Time type concept. It’s general. It spans many years, and many experiences. Which is very different from the pin-point specificity of a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet in a specific situation.

In fact, the specificity built into a Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheet is one of the main reasons why Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheets are so powerful to work.

Specifics Are Like The Dots In A Dot-To-Dot Puzzle

When you’re dealing with your specific thoughts, about a very specific person, in a specific place and time, you can see exactly what’s going on. It’s like taking a magnifying glass out and looking closely at each dot on the connect-the-dots puzzle.

Judge-Your-Neighbor Worksheets have this built-in. But when you’re working general beliefs like, “Rich people are snobs,” you have to make sure you pull out the magnifying glass and look at all the dots on your own. You have to look for the specifics.

The tendency when working general beliefs is for us to wave our hands at them. “Oh, yeah, rich people are not really snobs. I know I was just being dumb.” Or we just find a few general examples of how the turnaround is true, and move on.

But that doesn’t give much satisfaction.

You’ve Got To Nail The Specifics, And Go Out Looking For Them

When I’m working a general belief, I use three, four, five or more situations where I thought “rich people are snobs.” In question 3, I report how I react when I was working as a groundskeeper caring for wealthy homes, or when I was a valet parking attendant parking wealthy people’s cars. Or when I saw scenes from different movies portraying wealthy people. I look for all the specific situations where I hold proof that “rich people are snobs.”

In other words, I look at each different situation as a dot on the puzzle. That’s why general beliefs take longer to work. There are a lot of dots to look at it.

And I don’t stop with three examples of each turnaround, when working general beliefs. I try to find 5, 10, or even 15 different examples of where “rich people are not snobs.” And specifically in the situations where I thought for sure they were snobs.

When I find these counter examples, or when I see my original “proof” examples were not valid, it’s like erasing an erroneous line on the dot-to-dot puzzle. And then I’m one step closer to seeing the correct picture.

I’m One Step Closer To Debunking My Belief

And I can feel it. My emotions relax. Because the picture emerging from the dots reflects more accurately the way I feel inside. The picture reflects to me that the world is a good place, not a bad place to live.

So, with general beliefs, I invite you to take your time. Look for lots of situations where you thought the original belief was true. And look for examples of the turnarounds in each of these situations.

Only by changing the connections between the dots can the picture be changed. If you remain on the birds-eye view level, waving your hand at your belief, without getting down to the level of the dots, you miss out. You just keep thinking the picture above is a horse, instead of a bear (which it is in reality).

Have a great week,

About the author

Todd Smith has been doing The Work of Byron Katie on an almost daily basis since 2007. He is just as excited about this simple process of self-inquiry today as he was when he first came across it. He also enjoys writing about The Work, and training others in the subtleties of this meditative process. Join Todd for The Work 101 online course, private sessions, virtual retreats, and his ongoing Inquiry Circle group.

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