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Resistance to Doing The Work of Byron Katie

Field full of round hay bales
Every job requires overcoming a certain amount of resistance to get it done.

Resistance Can Stop You In Your Tracks

No matter how much enthusiasm you may have felt when you first discovered The Work of Byron Katie, it can easily be lost when resistance comes up. In theory, you may want to do The Work. You know the value of it but you don’t sit down and do it. 

What’s going on? And how can this resistance be handled?

Resistance comes from several sources: 

1. Doubts about The Work itself
2. Not enough experience to really value it yet
3. Living with chaos – always putting out fires instead of living proactively
4. Trying to do it perfectly or completely
5. Resistance to making an effort
6. Discomfort in dealing with the real issues

Let’s look at each of these one by one.

1. Doubts About The Work Itself

This is the first layer of resistance that all of us have to pass through before even considering doing The Work. The Work is a foreign concept at first and we have to be sure it is safe before considering using it.

This is probably the most important thing to consider, “Will I end up worse off by doing The Work?”

Of course, there is no general answer for this. The Work makes no claims or promises. It is simply four questions and turnarounds. It is up to each of us to test it out. 

But before we do, it can be very helpful to watch others using this process. For example, if you come to my free Open Sessions each week, you will see one person after another doing The Work: people with lots of experience and people with none, people with big issues and people with minor ones, people with complex stories and people with simple ones, people of all ages and backgrounds doing The Work. 

When you see this over time, you start to gain trust in this simple process. In addition, questions about the process get addressed. Little by little, you start to see that it is safe to try. 

2. Not Enough Experience to Really Value It Yet

The next question that arises is, “Is The Work useful?” What’s the point of doing an “interesting” process if it is not practical and useful. Does The Work really make a difference? 

Again, there is no substitute for direct experience, but it can be helpful to attend some Open Sessions or listen to the recordings. When you hear and see other people’s experiences, it can give you more confidence. 

Also, when you listen to the actual content of the work each person does, you see that it is not trivial, and is often revolutionary. This is exciting. When I see what’s going on with this little process of inquiry, I think, “I want that too!”

It also helps to work with someone who’s already experienced when you’re just starting to gain experience yourself. You can accelerate the learning that way. That’s why I offer private sessions and The Work 101 course.

My virtual retreats are also a perfect setup for gaining experience with the support of others. When you spend many hours doing The Work with others in a supportive environment, it can accelerate the process.

3. Living with Chaos – Always Putting Out Fires Instead of Living Proactively

It doesn’t matter how much confidence you have in The Work. You may love it and be enthusiastic about it, but if your life is ruled by chaos, it can get away from you. You may have the best intentions about doing The Work regularly because you know the value of it, but you don’t do it.

This subtle form of resistance doesn’t even feel like resistance, it’s just that life gets in the way. It takes some courage and strength to carve out a specific time dedicated to doing The Work in your life.

Here are a few things that can help.

  • Work with a spoken work partner – we tend to keep appointments with other people better than the appointments we have with ourselves.
  • Put a regular time slot in your calendar – I do The Work from 9:30-10 AM Monday through Friday at the start of my workday. I do it before the chaos starts.
  • Join Inquiry Circle, my ongoing practice group for doing The Work – We work together using an online forum in written form, we do spoken-work partnering with each other, do popcorn work together, we have monthly seminars, and we hold special virtual retreats for our group four times a year. The support of a community can help.
  • Question the reasons you can’t be more proactive – if you want to do The Work, then question any thought that would stop you from doing it regularly. 

4. Trying to Do It Perfectly or Completely

You may have the time to do The Work, you may love doing it, value it, etc., but you can also run into resistance if you are putting pressure on yourself. The mind rebels against pressure.

For example, if you have the idea that you want to really get to the bottom of a big issue and solve it once and for all, that’s a lot of pressure. Now, whenever you go to do The Work, you are up against this huge goal that seems insurmountable. It can be depressing to try to fix a big problem.

If this is you, I suggest questioning your motives. “I need to solve this issue, is it true? Just loosening the attachment to finishing The Work on something can be very freeing. Then, you can do The Work just because you enjoy doing it, and let the results come on their own timing. 

A related stress that many people have is to get to the “end” of The Work. The idea is that “I’ll do The Work for a few years and then my work will be done and I’ll never have to do it again.” This common stressful thought sets up an automatic resistance. It’s saying, “I don’t really like doing The Work but I’ll grind through it and I’ll be better off on the other side.” 

Who would you be without this story of an endpoint to The Work? In my experience, it is the most freeing thing in the world. Now, I do The Work because I love doing it. I don’t want to “get through it.” I want to keep doing The Work my whole life because it brings me joy and insights which I love.

And finally, if you try to do The Work perfectly, following all the “rules” and getting into all the details, you can burn out in no time. How you do The Work makes a difference. If you are trying to do it right, it becomes stressful. But if you more or less follow the steps, but allow the inner world to emerge in the process, you can go off the rails a bit too. This is freedom. I’m exploring my truth, and The Work is just a means for me to do so. When I relax my grip on The Work, resistance goes way down for doing it.

5. Resistance to Making an Effort

The Work is work. It requires more effort and focus than sitting listening to music. If the mind has resistance to doing anything challenging, then it may want to give up the moment things become harder. 

I like to question the thought, “This is work,” and remind myself that “This is play” too. If you like exploring, then The Work may end up being an adventure even if it does involve some effort. The balance between work and delight can be found in this process. It all depends on how you look at it.

6. Discomfort in Dealing with the Real Issues

The Work does not pussyfoot around. It points you right into what is bothering you as a way of bringing light and clarity to what was confusing and dark. As you trust this process and become experienced in it, you can take it into any dark hole and know that it will hold you safely.

But at first, this can be daunting. The mind wants to run away from its confusion. It has always buried its issues, and that’s a good thing. When it was unable to deal with them, bringing them up would just perpetuate the suffering.

Doing The Work is very different than just bringing up stressful stuff and wallowing in the suffering. It provides a way to look at any suffering and see it from new perspectives. We are literally looking for less painful ways to view a stressful situation in The Work. This often ends up giving a lot of relief as the old story falls away and a new non-stressful perspective emerges. 

Again, it can help to do The Work with someone who has experience diving into the dark, stressful inner world and holding The Work to light the way. If you need support from someone with experience, then give yourself that. It can go a long way to overcoming this resistance.

Join Us a Weekend Zoom Retreat June 26-27

If you’d like to spend a weekend doing The Work, join us for a virtual retreat. Over two days, we’ll meet for 20 hours covering almost all time zones. Join us for as many of the two-hour sessions as you like.

We will do group work, partner work, and there will always be the option for individual written work as well. I am happy to support you with any doubts or questions about The Work at any time. I look forward to diving into The Work with you during this virtual retreat.

Have a great week,

“I have helped people do The Work on rape, war in Vietnam and Bosnia, torture, internment in Nazi concentration camps, the death of a child, and the prolonged pain of illnesses like cancer. Many of us think that it’s not humanly possible to accept extreme experiences like these, much less meet them with unconditional love. But not only is that possible, it’s our true nature.”  Byron Katie, Loving What Is

Further reading: How to Avoid Gaslighting Yourself when Doing The Work

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.