7 Ways to Question a Factual Statement
Questioning Facts Is More Challenging
It’s easier to question anything that is open to interpretation. For example, “She is being mean to me.” I can never know for sure what her intentions are. And the word, “mean” is very subjective. So when you’re questioning the statement, “She is being mean to me,” there are many possibilities of how the opposite could be just as true, or truer.
That’s what we do in The Work of Byron Katie, we question any thought and find new ways of looking at a situation. In doing this process of self-inquiry, we question the stressful thoughts that bind us and, in finding the opposites to what we believe, we often free our hearts again.
But what happens when the thought that stresses you is a fact? It’s not helpful to pretend that facts are not true. This is called denial, and it is not freeing at all. Quite the opposite, denial is stressful. Only the truth can set you free.
The Work Is Not a Form of Denial
The Work is just a way to look at the bigger picture. Just because I do The Work on something doesn’t mean it has to magically not be true. I may find that the thought I question sometimes really is true. Does that mean that The Work has failed? No.
It just means that I may have to dig a little deeper to find my peace with it.
So, how do you do The Work when what you are dealing with is not your own distortions, but just true, difficult facts? For example, if I feel sorry for myself, like a victim, because of REAL, unfortunate things that have happened. For example, an actual loss, or unfairness of some kind.
Seven Ways to Question Factual Statements
Here are a few ways you can look for peace when dealing with difficult facts. Most of these options below are also described in Byron Katie’s book, Loving What Is, Chapter 5.
1. Look for Your Emotional Interpretation
Facts are neutral. What makes any fact stressful is not the fact itself, but what it means to you. Your interpretation of the fact is what makes you suffer. That’s why one person may experience the loss of a relative to be devastating, while another person in the same family is not devastated by the same loss. The interpretation makes all the difference.
So before you start doing The Work on a factual statement, you may want to list all of your emotional interpretations of that fact. These emotional interpretations are personal to you, and may even be irrational. But they are real for the part inside that believes them. Write them down and question them. It can make all the difference.
For example, let’s say someone has more money than you. It’s a fact. But what are your emotional interpretations of this fact? (Another way to do this is to answer the prompt, “and it means that…”) Then, make a list. For example:
She has an easier life.
She thinks she is above me.
She is selfish.
She has an advantage over me.
She has more opportunities than I do.
I’m being treated unfairly.
These are all statements that can be questioned, even if it is true that she has more money than I do. If I question my interpretations about it, I may find a lot more peace around it.
2. What Do You Think You Would Have?
This is a great tip from Byron Katie. Make a list of all the things you think you would have if your fact was not true. For example, if she hadn’t died, what you would have?
If she hadn’t died, the children would still have a grandmother.
If she hadn’t died, I would have someone to talk to.
If she hadn’t died, I would finally learn how to garden.
If she hadn’t died, I would be loved unconditionally.
Each of these statements can be questioned. You may find that your fantasy of what you think you would have may not actually be so true. Also, you may be able to have these things without changing what happened. Just going through The Work on statements like this can have a real balancing effect.
3. What’s the Worst that Could Happen?
Similar to number 2 above, you can project into the future on the negative side. Since she died, what’s the worst that could happen? For example:
The children will lack a happy family experience.
They will grow up deprived.
They will end up on drugs.
They will die young.
I’ll have no one to talk with.
I’ll have no one to do things with.
I will become depressed.
I’ll lose my job.
I’ll end up on the street.
Now, each of these interpretations can be questioned too. The mind believes the images of the future that it creates. But these projections can easily be questioned.
4. What’s the Should?
When dealing with a fact, another way to find your interpretation is to look for a “should” statement.
Fact: She died.
She shouldn’t have died.
She shouldn’t have died so young.
She should be here.
She should have taken care of her health better.
Each of these should statements can be questioned.
5. List of Proof
When dealing with any fact, you can also list your proof and question each one. For example, if the fact is that she has more money than me. I can make a list of proof:
She drives an expensive car.
She lives in a big house.
She wears nice clothes.
She has a professional job.
She doesn’t socialize with me.
It can be fascinating to question the list of proof. After all, she could have all these things and still be up to her eyes in debt. You never know.
6. It’s a Bad Thing…
The basic interpretation that makes any fact stressful is the idea somewhere in the mind that it’s a bad thing. For example, if you’re dealing with the fact that she died, the interpretation is “It’s a bad thing that she died.” This can easily be questioned.
7. Question the Actual Fact
I have done this many times. It is always an option. It can be amazing to question the actual fact itself. For example, “She died, is it true.” It takes an open mind to play with the nuances of this fact and to look for even a little wiggle room. When I question a hard, cold fact, I often am quite surprised to find some valid turnarounds.
So just because it seems impossible, don’t rule out the possibility that what is true may not be 100% true. This is a really important point for me. There are always two sides to everything, even facts. Even if I can find that a fact is 0.0001% not true, it loosens my heart to see it that way.
That’s all I’m ever doing with The Work anyway. I’m only looking for ways to see the reality of things in a peaceful way.
All of the above options, except for the last one, are variations on the same theme: looking for the interpretation. It’s always my interpretation that makes any factual statement stressful. Once I identify my interpretation, then I can easily question it using The Work.
If you want dive deeply into The Work of Byron Katie, consider taking my online course, The Work 101 this year.
Have a great week,
“A powerful way of prompting yourself is to add “and it means that _____” to your original statement. Your suffering may be caused by a thought that interprets what happened, rather than the thought you wrote down. This additional phrase prompts you to reveal your interpretation of the fact. The answer to the prompt, for the purposes of inquiry, is always what you think your statement means.” Byron Katie, Loving What Is
Further reading: “Do You Hesitate to Question Solid Facts?”