Using Sub-questions for Question 3 of The Work

Compound leaves of an ash tree
Some leaves have “sub-leaves,” and some questions have sub-questions.

The Work Is Meditation

And meditation means slowing down. The Work is about slowing down and really taking a look. And when it comes to question 3 of The Work, sub-questions can be used to do just that. To slow me down.

I commonly use sub-questions in question 3, which is “How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?”

These Sub-questions Can Be Found On The One-Belief-at-a-Time Worksheet

  • What emotions arise when you believe that thought?
  • What images of past and future do you see when you believe the thought?
  • How do you treat yourself and others when you believe the thought?

(©2020 Byron Katie International, Inc. See the One-Belief-at-a-Time Worksheet here.)

All Of These Sub-questions Are Already Contained In Question 3

You may not need to ask these questions. You will probably find that you’re answering them naturally when you answer question 3, “How do you react, what happens, when you believe that thought?”

How do I react? I feel angry (emotions sub-question answered). My stomach clenches (physical sensations sub-question answered). I raise my voice (how I treat the person sub-question answered). I feel guilty and blame myself for not being wiser (how I treat myself sub-question answered).

These sub-questions naturally get answered when you answer question 3. But it often helps me to keep these sub-questions in mind.

They Remind Me Of Possible Ways I Tend To React

Not all the sub-questions will apply in each situation. And I never feel that I have to use any sub-questions.

But when I want to slow down and really look at what happens when I believe a thought, these questions really help me to see clearly how I am reacting.

Then once I see how I react, I start to understand the power of believing that one thought. Just believing that one thought affects my emotions, my behavior in so many ways, even the images I see in my mind.

Then I’m Ready For Question 4

Question 4 is a comparison/contrast with question 3.

Question 4 is, “Who would you be without that thought?”

The comparison between my experience in that moment with the thought (question 3) and without the thought (question 4) makes it really clear what is causing my stress (not my situation, but rather my thought about it).

When I see this, my mind is more open to trying some turnarounds.

There’s Only One Point In Doing Sub-Questions in Question 3

The purpose of subquestions is to make sure that I really see on an experiential level the effect of believing my thought. When I see that a thought causes me suffering, I become less attached to it.

But sometimes that doesn’t happen right away. When I’m really feeling attached to my thought (believing that it really is true), I may need to fully explore all the ways I react, using several of the sub-questions, before I’m ready to answer question 4 and go on to turnarounds.

Have a great week,

“If you feel that you are a victim of a similar past event, I invite you to take some extra time with two parts of your inquiry. First, after you ask yourself question 3 and realize the pain that results from your thought, ask the additional questions I ask Diane: How many times did it happen? How many times have you relived it in your mind? Second, when you discover your own part in the event, however small—your innocent compliance with the act, for the sake of love or in order to escape worse harm—let yourself feel the power of owning that part, and feel how painful it is to deny it. Then take the time to forgive yourself for any pain you’ve inflicted on yourself. The identity that’s left after that may not feel like the identity of a victim at all.” Byron Katie, Loving What Is

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.