25
Nov

One Person’s Experience with Byron Katie

   Posted by: Britt   in On Byron Katie

This was posted in 2008, from a person who attended one of Byron Katie’s 9-day schools. This is a direct quote from the source.

First, I want to tell you that finding your message here was a real blessing. I’ve been searching the internet off and on for months hoping to find something about Byron Katie and The Work relating to recovery from cults. I think your concerns are perfectly legitimate. From the first time I read the first chapter in her book “Loving What Is”, I knew something was horribly wrong, but my curiosity and the subtle persuasion of personal testimony led me on.

It’s hard to say that she’s a cult leader, considering how she got into this business. And, having met and talked with Katie personally, I want to say upfront that I believe she is very innocent/ignorant about what she is doing to people. I believe that she sincerely believes she is what she says she is, and that’s probably what makes her so convincing. At the same time, there is no doubt that she falls into the category of a guru, regardless of how adamant she is that she is not one… and a mass manipulator. The book “In Sheep’s Clothing” offers a list of tactics that covert aggressors use to manipulate, distract, and deceive. The descriptions match Katie very well… she is the queen of diversion, evasion, and distraction. However, I believe that it is herself she is deceiving the most. I think she is still very mentally ill, and it’s scary, because so many people are following her lead.

With many reservations, I attended her 9 day school. We were sworn to secrecy about the events that go on there so as not to “spoil it for others” who would attend in the future. I’ve written about my experiences there, for my own sanity, and while I will spare you the gory details, I will offer a small list of things that happen there.

  1. A  forced 36 hour fast.
  2. An day long “outing” where we were left to beg for food among homeless people in the streets of Los Angeles. We were instructed not to take any ID, or anything with us but the clothes we had on.
  3. A rich organic diet that sent many people’s bodies into shock. Vomiting was a regular occurrence, and was offered as “evidence” of cleansing, and of how powerful The Work really is.
  4. Long days with brief breaks for meals. (7 am to 11:00 pm most days.)
  5. Long, intense confessional sessions.
  6. Deep, excessive probing into one’s past traumas. (She used violent Korn music to trigger our worst memories.)
  7. No contact with family or the outside world. (We turned our cell phones into the staff.)
  8. Not allowed to wear make-up, to exercise, or to eat outside of the diet given.
  9. Eating meals and taking breaks in complete silence.
  10. Going at least 2 full days as a “silent one”, unallowed to talk with others.
  11. Being invited to criticize Katie and The School, and those who did were silently, subtly shunned by the group and Katie.
  12. Having every doubt and concern about what was going on at The School questioned and “turned around”, until no one could trust their own perceptions anymore.

Although The Work is presented as for anyone of any religion, once I became a part of Katie’s captive audience, it became very clear that was no so. Katie claims to have no beliefs, because she is “clear” and lives in “reality” or “heaven”, her belief system is actually very strong, very distinct, and very anti-Christian. And, anyone whose belief system doesn’t match hers is treated like the “unenlightened” sap who needs to keep questioning his/her thoughts until they can see things Katie’s way.

I was surprised by the number of educated professionals at The School. Teachers, doctors, psychologists, social workers, counselors of all kinds. I was even more surprised how everyone seemed reduced to this “blissed out” state by the end, where they couldn’t even hold an intelligent conversation anymore. It was scary, and sad.

And, most of them would fight to the death to defend Katie’s validity and honor.

I kept in touch with several people after The School, and when I made the decision to throw out all of my materials and abandon the process altogether, I met a lot of resistance. That was about the time her new book came out “A Thousand Names for Joy.” I bought it, again out of dire curiosity. I read through it one evening, and that was all it took for me to toss it out. Hearing her tell about watching a man having a stroke, and feeling no concern for his well being because she was “in love”… was crazy. Since when did apathy become love?

But, I think it was the passage where she said that she likes pretending to be human and called it her “disguise” that really put the whole thing over the top. Apathy I could probably handle… but inhumanness is going too far.

I can’t even express the disturbing way I’ve felt watching all of these people (there were about 300 at The School) throwing away a normal, healthy range of emotions for “bliss.” And, I find it interesting that none of them have ever actually become like Katie. I guess psychosis is pretty hard to self-induce… ?

After those 9 days being constantly bombarded with questions about everything I think, believe, and perceive… I definitely noticed a difference in me. I still struggle to hang onto my thoughts and judgments without automatically turning everything around on myself. I mean, if someone slapped me in the face, my mind would probably automatically flip it around to someone make it either my fault, or to convince me that it was somehow for my benefit.

For awhile, I really struggled with what I observed about Katie… but no matter how many times I turn it around, I can honestly that I’ve never done what Katie is doing. It’s bad.

The one thing good that came out of it, was that I learned about cults and cult mind control. I’ve read every book I can get my hands on. And, I’ve learned what it was that made me vulnerable to The Work. Also, I’ve gained a lot of knowledge that hopefully will protect me from the next snake-oil peddler that comes along.

Anyway, thank you for posting. I really needed to hear another person’s perspective to help validate my own… I can trust my thoughts about Katie and The Work, after all. Imagine that! Thank you, thank you, thank you.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 25th, 2009 at 4:13 pm and is filed under On Byron Katie. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

22 comments so far

poppy
 1 

Hi Britt, sorry to say but you haven’t understood Byron Katie or The Work at all.

February 15th, 2010 at 4:51 am
 2 

Yep, that’s possible. The quote is not mine from somebody else’s. I have an aversion to the external application of intense personal suffering for growth. I think each of us has enough access to it in our own lives. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! This site is a depository for criticisms, views, insights and responses on the those who teach “Law of Attraction” philosophies and principles.

February 15th, 2010 at 9:31 am
Peter Tysdal
 3 

Hi, well, that’s certainly something I wouldn’t expect.

For me, “the work” transformed my life. The process of inquiry let me reach into some very traumatizing experiences, and I pulled them out onto paper, did the process, and actually on one occasion became to enraged at my deep suppression (I had not even remembered certain events all together from my childhood), that I ran out onto my lawn and cried, it was a great experience.

I truly do not see how you would find it to be a guilt inducing experience, or that you would come to the conclusion that suffering is normal, which for now, it is not, in my life. I came to the realization that I had thought the worst of my sweet mother, my loyal brothers, my friends who did what they thought they needed, and for the people who only wanted what they truly believed they needed!, I began to realize that I want what they want, for them, if they think they need to stay in their life as a sufferer, or as a victim, (if only in their own belief system), then that’s what I want for them, because I have come to the realization that everything that happens is for our own benefit.

I have heard the story about someone hitting you, or shooting you and not being able to believe that you would see that as a good thing, yet, once you come to the mind openly and realize that thought carries us from one moment to next, you fall in love with your mind, and though it might go to “how dare they-“, it doesn’t go any further than that, it stops, for the awareness that everything is as it should be. It might as well be, here we are. This is what this process is about.

I can understand that someone new to this, or someone who hasn’t felt it to the depth that someone like Katie or me or many others in this world, and truly I mean this, would see it as something to fear, the diet, the begging, though this is only to reveal that even in our story of ‘what’s the worst that can happen’, most people would say becoming homeless, we find that we have the choice to either believe our stressful thoughts, or to notice them and inquire with them. In so many cases, my dear friend, which you are, I have come to the complete opposite, or something like it, I say opposite though it does not oppose the thought I had, it simply comes from a different angle and reveals what’s underneath the surface, of what I was believing.

Like I had mentioned I used to believe that my mother was the worst thing that ever happened to me, yet, when I went into inquiry I revealed the truth that could not be understood no matter who had told me, it was that truly she was a sweet mother, that cared and nourished her children, and I mean this in a very literal way. It’s not pretend, it’s simply that my awareness was no where near that until I did inquiry. So, thank you for writing something so wonderfully in depth and revealing, the turnarounds are not meant to confuse, and not meant to impose ‘new reality’, they are simply the effect of inquiry, when we come to the awareness of them. BK tends to cut to the chase, and may simply find this to work the best for everyone.

There are so many thoughts coming from fear in even just one worksheet, it would take quite a long time to go through each one of them. Again thanks for your honesty, it’s a gift. And you might come to understand that you’re world is as you believe it to be.

April 19th, 2010 at 4:23 pm
 4 

JB: Thanks for that nugget! I’m sure other readers will benefit too.

April 19th, 2010 at 9:05 pm
 5 

Peter, thanks for the very thoughtful and gracious posting. I’m sure my readers will enjoy your counter-point, speaking to the value of what BK has done for you.

It reminds me of Leonard Cohen’s Anthem:

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.

Thank you for contributing.

April 19th, 2010 at 9:10 pm
 6 

Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I’m starting to view cults in the same vein as alcoholism, where it’s really an individual definition, and the person most affected by it is the least capable of seeing it. Having said that, very few people have the right to define it for another person. Thanks so much for sharing. I think your experience reflects what many others experience in LGATs — momentary lapses of epiphanies and (falsely constructed) awakenings, followed by a return to lethargy, depression, whatever life was like before the LGAT.

June 1st, 2010 at 1:14 pm
 7 

Hi M:
Could you tell us more about the tunaround house? What were some of the routines, or exercises?

June 4th, 2010 at 7:42 pm
janice
 8 

This is How to Become a Guru”

1) make up a transformational history for yourself
2) claim to have had a revelation of a cosmology that explains everything–i.e. God is Female and the world is a womb, etc., etc.–it has to hang together around a central metaphor
3) tell people their problems are due to ONE thing–demons, body thetans, believing their thoughts, whatever.
4) offer a “way” to get rid of the demons, or whatever the problem is as defined by YOU
5) make sure the “way” can only be achieved by the buyer and is subjective–can’t be empirically proven
6) if people benefit from your “way,” great; if they don’t, it is a flaw in them

There you go–you are guru with your own cult!

June 5th, 2010 at 1:46 pm
Vivien
 9 

I’ve been following Byron Katie for about five years now and subjecting all sorts of things to the four questions and turnaround, but BK doesn’t ever seem to mention everyday things that can keep us locked in misery and frustration, such as the baby bouncing in its bouncer directly above my bedroom ceiling at seven o’clock in the morning.

Anyway, thanks M for your contribution, I too would be interested to hear more about Turnaround House. BK’s work, like many spiritual processes, can leave us not knowing who the hell we are or what we think or even which way up we are any more (A Course in Miracles did that for me, leaving me floundering in abject confusion), but isn’t that a necessary step on the journey to self-realisation (or realisation that there’s no individual ego?) Anyway, I’m surprised at the lack of noticeable success among the participants M was with. Both BK and Eckhart Tolle discovered “enlightenment” by accident, as it were, rather than by listening to teachers such as themselves, and they are two of the biggest teachers in the world. So what does that say for teachings of this sort?

June 6th, 2010 at 8:39 am
 10 

Hi Peter Tysdal
Was going to “the school” traumatizing in an orchestrated way?
Does this match BKs belief system that “everything happens for our own benefit”?
At “the school” was there times when you thought “how dare they” and then your mind had this new found “come to the mind openly” and the thought “stops, for the awareness that everything is as it should be. It might as well be, here we are”?
Do you now tend to substitute BK for your mothers role as a parent despite or because “Bk tends to cut to the chase’?
“There are so many thoughts coming from fear in even just one worksheet”. How many worksheets have you done?

June 24th, 2010 at 10:10 am
Katelyn
 11 

Hi! I once met a man, in 1996 who has since died. He was in a 12 step program I was in. I said, “Why are you so happy Stu?” after knowing him awhile. It turns out, he had been present for 14 months straight and his whole life had turned around. He was pretty blissed out. When I read I AM THAT and the Power of Now, they reminded me of Stu. Stu was a computer programmer and in no way a guru. He had incorporated Byron Katie’s thing and Eckarte Tolle’s thing without knowing it. He simply trusted the present moment. He did not have a charisma about him. I doubt anyone would have followed him. But he went from being broke at the beginning of the 14 months to making over 100,000 dollars per year at the point I met him – as a computer programmer.

My point is that these philosophies can be helpful. But if you start to lose your intellect or it’s not working, maybe don’t try harder. Stu was not an exciting person but he was a happy person and I enjoyed being around him. I moved away and found out he died about 4 years ago in Thailand. I think the Byron Katies who throw out the idea that maybe everything is O.K. are onto something, but no one is perfect and trying to teach this stuff to most people probably won’t work. We’re all too hung up on our stuff. I know I am. A philosophy which at the heart of it all is “There’s nothing wrong” or “get into the present” There is nothing bad with that. But most people’s brain’s can’t grasp that nor can we – and I include myself in the mix – move beyond the irritations and trauma of being a human! I know I have not, even after meeting and hanging out for 9 months with a person who had! Good luck trying, though!

July 31st, 2010 at 5:21 am
Evelyn
 12 

Hi. It’s interesting to read about all these experiences. I think it’s possible to make use of useful techniques without buying into the philosophy behind it which is very often false. “Nothing is wrong with the world” or “There’s nothing wrong”? Really folks? So where does that leave freedom of choice or free will? Why is BK and others even attempting to teach/guide others if the world is perfectly fine as it is? Why not just turn the thoughts around? That is, thoughts like “I need to share my realization with others” or “Belief in thoughts causes suffering”. If everything is fine as it is then the ignorance of people about reality or people believing in their thoughts is also fine. Why shouldn’t she be as indifferent to this reality as she is to the others?

August 10th, 2010 at 2:59 am
Evelyn
 13 

I’d also like to add that false philosophies are often not entirely false but simply exaggerations of some truth. In this case, for example, we know that a lot of the thinking that runs around in the human mind is usually grossly distorted. This is obvious from what we know of psychosis from disciplines like psychology and neurobiology etc.

Being able to question assumptions that lead to negative effects in the real world is wonderful. There are some unconscious beliefs that are responsible for a lot of problems e.g I am worthless or these people are all evil etc. It’s not too hard to tell when thinking is wrong or distorted because it inevitably causes suffering like despair, hopelessness, rage, depression, dysfunction or even general unhappiness.

But there is legitimate suffering that comes from actual pain and empathy with others who are suffering which is a form of love. I’d also ask, say BK was living in the days of slavery. Would she be alright with the situation as it was then? After all, it would be as it should be… or would she be among the ones who were working towards its abolition, something that would necessarily be grounded on the conviction that “this is NOT ok, subjugation of human beings is wrong, therefore its my responsibility to do my part in ending it”?

Another example, if Mother Teresa believed that everything was just fine as it was, why would she attempt to help the poor of Culcuta? Why would Ghandi insist on the liberation of India through peaceful means? Why would Mandela live in jail for 27 years? These people all saw something that was very WRONG with the worlds in which they lived and they exercised choice in intervening and doing something about it.

Perhaps what people are usually trying to articulate through such beliefs is the truth that we are ultimately not in control of all reality. Our part is very small or very large, depending on how you judge small and large…? What I’m saying is simple. We can affect reality only to a certain limit, the rest is beyond us, and knowing the difference is beneficial to us.

August 10th, 2010 at 3:35 am
Blake
 14 

I think You’ve missed the point dear writer – that everything is to be questioned, including the work itself. You also seem to lack the ability to grasp the larger concepts of “perfection” in regards to time, (Past, present, future). I reccomend reading about Stoic thought (the ancient Greek philosophy that shows up as a building block to all of eastern thought. Is all of the east a cult? Was Socrates a cult leader?) Perhaps is is Jesus who was the Cult believer… insisiting (in traditional cult form) that you must believe HIS belief system, that HE is God (i believe he said so on several occasions)…. Which is more like a cult, a woman who asks you to question your every belief and search for inner truth or a man who insists that he is GOD and the only way to heaven is by eating a metaphorical (or literal depending on your church) piece of his flesh and drinking his blood.

I say, question every belief and then question the answer you get, and then question those answers… and come out at the end of it understanding that TRUTH can not be known as it only exists within our selves, and not even there.

See the Handbook by Epictetus.

August 20th, 2010 at 7:17 am
junebug
 15 

It was interesting to read all these comments. I have never been to an intensive, but have read her book and done the work on worksheets.

I had incredible experiences of freedom during some days of Work on certain issues. I respect and love the work Katie presents and I think it has the potential to wake up the individual and release needless suffering.

Let me also say I had moments when I felt furious with Katie and her Work and a great resistance to some videos I watched her do…feeling she was trying to get people to “blissfully” accept some unacceptable stuff, imo. I even wrote to Katie and expressed my love/hate with her Work at times. she responded kindly.

Truly, though, I think, when I find resistance to her work, it is because I am not fully understanding at that moment…and that my resistance is okay… I do not have to accept anything that does not feel true to me.

Feelings that something is a cult usually come when we think someone is trying to take our freedom away or encouraging us to believe what we don’t believe…but at heart, I don’t feel the Work is about taking your freedom away. It is about you discovering your freedom. a larger Reality that the one we box our own selves into. The unquestioned ego mind is the really Cult leader!

I worked with a student of Katie’s in another capacity. he had no agenda to do anything but help us explore thoughts and see how we could work with them to release the hold they may have on us. I found his approach very gentle and inclusive.

I had a huge A-HA moment when I began to work with the thought: My mother doesn’t love me. LOng story short, that thought was one I was not going to turn-around. To me it was and is an objective fact….but to have a mother like I did,and still do, caused me immeasurable pain.

In working with that thought, my breakthough came when I asked my self “who I would be without that thought- my mother doesnt love me-“? for the first time, I was stumped. The only answer I could truthfully come up with was “I would be no-one without that thought” It was an A-ha moment because I suddenly saw that THAT one single thought had so totally defined me in my life…there wasnt a single aspect of my life that hadn’t been shadowed or affected by that one devastating thought! By believing it, I had allowed it to define me.

Then I wrote a list of every thought that had sprung from that thought…thoughts I have all the time, or that are my frequent thoughts, thoughts that brought suffering, such as :
Women don’t like at work.
Female friend always get mad at me for no reason I can fathom.
I don’t like or trust women.
I am secretly ugly.
I must smell bad.
women are unpredictable.
My boss targets me as a scapegoat.
and so on….

all those above thoughts were not necessarily untrue, but I saw that because of my one deep destructive thought- my mom doesnt love me – I had taken on the construct for all the others.

Sure, people always popped up in my life to prove me right; girlfriends who betrayed me, female bosses who yelled at me, women who didnt include me, etc, etc. But I saw that these situations all reflected back to me the thoughts I was believing–and esp the primary belief, which was really: My mother doesnt love me, therefore I must be bad, wrong, unlovable, worthless.

Yikes! the effects one strongly held thought/belief can have on a life is immeasurable!! and what suffering comes from it!

In the Work, I didn’t feel it necessary to somehow believe my mother DID love me. I turned around the other parts! My mother did not love me but I am NOT worthless, unlovable. I could let go of my story attached to that thought! and all the other stories that went with it, about women and failing and worthlessness. There was no reality to those stories unless I bought into them with my beliefs.

another turn-around: “I don’t like my mother”
HOw true. I don’t like being abused. I don’t like how she behaved towards me. BUt my mother can be whoever she is! I don’t have to carry the story anymore about what it means to me!

That to me was truly freeing. Who would I be without that original thought? I could just be me, with all the goodness I have, all the innocence and joy. What was stopping me before? That one thought. and it was a thought about another human being who was living the way she knew to live. And I could even just love her anyway! I was freed from the suffering of my own story about it, that was all.

It is important to do the work on your own level, and never to try to swallow whatever does not seem true to you. work with it on your own level and as you explore, you find your own truths. then , as in my case, a whole house of cards can topple.

I dont have to live out the story “Other woman are untrustworthy” or “other women don’t like me” if I don’t believe the thought that says I deserve it.
I can walk away, I can observe it as their story….and best of all, when I stop believing the thought, LIfe does have a way of reflecting back to me my new beliefs.

Katie only invites you to explore the thoughts you have, and the stories we have attached to them. Beyond the story is another reality, and as Katie says, that reality is YOU in your purest, untouched form. welcome home. Once freed from a tormenting thought, you can choose another thought if you want to that comes from the kindest reality.

September 19th, 2010 at 6:16 pm
Vera Keil
 16 

Oh, God, here come (came) the Katie trolls to tell how transformative their experience was.
Great, more anecdotal evidence that needy women get “something” out of new age softcore metaphysical porn.

Read A Course in Miracles and you’ll see where her schtick came from–only the idea that “everything is okay” is a ridiculous dumbing down of the metaphysics in ACIM. Most people can’t read it–it is psychologically and philosophically dense, and the Christian imagery is confusing for many. BK should admit that her ideas come from ACIM and are a distortion of it.

October 13th, 2010 at 8:09 pm
Rebecca
 17 

Vera, I find it interesting to hear so many mature responses and then you call those who commented “trolls”. Interesting choice of words. I had little opinion either way about Katie, but I choose to say that after your comment, it takes away from all the BK cult supporters. That is just a reactive immature response, frankly at the end of an otherwise informative discussion.

October 18th, 2010 at 9:03 pm
gemini87
 18 

That was interesting. I do also believe you are mistaken. You may have entered into a part of your mind that you couldn’t handle. Byron Katie has changed lives for the better and that is proven. Cults are run by leaders who make it impossible for you to leave their organization. YOU are the one working with your thoughts, she never tells you anything to believe. She actually says to keep your stressful thoughts if it serves you. A cult leader TELLS you to do something. She simply invites you to try it. Another thing about a cult leader, they make themselves seem majestic and superior so you want to serve them. Katie never does that. I am sorry you had such an awful experience but once again it is only your perception and if it upset you so much there is an invitation to turn it around…..The School of The Work is a cult….Is it true? Wherever you find peace is whats best for you but what you wrote doesn’t sound like peace.

November 29th, 2010 at 8:33 am
envelopes_hat
 19 

Thanks for the post.

One thing that always sets of a red flag is when people who have NO training in psychology/psychiatry/medicine/social work/etc claim to be authorities on “self-help.”

I will buy that Byron Katie and many others like her really do have the best of intentions and really do want to help.

But to practice psychology without a license is a crime. The reason you need a license is because psychological treatment can be extremely psychologically damaging. There needs to be oversight.

Whether this is a “cult” is a pointless debate because there is no agreed-upon definition of a cult. But could it cause lasting psychological damage for participants? YES.

Here are UC-Berkley’s cult characteristics:

1. Deception – Group identity and/or true motives are not revealed. The group leaders tell members to withhold truth from outsiders.

>>participants are asked to keep activities confidential and are not warned of these activities in advance. I’d say this partly applies not fully, there are no lies, just mild secretiveness.

2. Emotional Leverage/Love Bombing – Instant friendship, extreme helpfulness, generosity and acceptance

>>unquestionable in the literature at least

3. Exploit Personal Crisis – They use an existing crisis as a means of getting you to participate.

>>”self-help” does this by definition. you don’t seek help if you’re not suffering a crisis or at least some emotional hardship.

4. Crisis Creation – They employ tactics designed to create or deepen confusion, fear, guilt or doubt. i.e. “you aren’t serving God the way He intended.” Questions areas of faith never before examined or explored and attack other faiths specifically.

>>I don’t think so….?

5. All The Answers – Provide simple answers to the confusion they, themselves, create. Support these answers with material produced or “approved” by the group.

>>YES.

Programming

1. Intense Study – Focus is on group doctrine and writings.

>>Sort of

2. Opposer Warnings – Recruiters are told that “Satan” will cause relatives and friend to say bad things about the group to try to “steal them away from God.”

>>Not at all so far as I know

3. Guilt and Fear – Group dwells on members’ “sinful nature” (many use public confession). Guilt and fear arising from “failing God” are magnified to manipulate new member.

>>YES. Clearly, public confession is encouraged. This can be extremely damaging psychologically. There was a self-help workshop in Australia that used this and three suicides were directly linked.

4. Schedule Control & Fatigue – New member becomes too busy to question.

>>Without a doubt. Yes, it’s “voluntary” but it’s been pointed out that participation in all activities is required for a “diploma”

5. Attack Independent Thought – Critical thinking is discouraged as prideful and sinful, blind acceptance encouraged.

>>I don’t think so. However, as I understand The Work is used to question The Work. That’s self-regulation right there. And wouldn’t that have you turn your criticisms of The Work back on yourself? Of course, supposedly critically so, but The Work is still controlling your criticism of The Work. That smells very fishy.

6. Divine Commission – Leader(s) claim new revelation from God, within past 200 years, in which all but their group are rejected by God. They, alone, speak for God.

>>No, I believe Byron Katie says quite the opposite. However, she does present herself as having discovered a “secret.”

7. Absolutism – They insist on total, unquestioning obedience and submission to the group, both actions AND thoughts.

>>Not really as far as I know

8. Totalism – “Us against them” thinking. Strengthens group identity. Everyone outside of group lumped under one label.

>>Not really, as far as I know.

Retention

1. Motive Questioning- When sound evidence against the group is presented, members are taught to question the motivation of the presenter.

>>To a degree, that’s inherent in using The Work to critique The Work.

2. Information Control – Group controls what convert may read or hear.

>>ehhhh not so much

3. Isolation, Separation & Alienation – Group becomes substitute family. Members encouraged to drop worldly (non-members) friends. May be told to change jobs, quit school, give up sports, hobbies, etc.

>>In the short term, yes. The course does keep one isolated from friends and family throughout.

4. Coercion – Disobedience, including even minor disagreement with group doctrine, may result in expulsion and shunning.

>>Not in a major way, although I guess it could happen, the right to kick someone else out for any reason is clearly reserved by BK and staff.

5. Phobias – The idea is planted that anyone who leaves goes into a life of depravity and sin, loses their sanity, dies, or will have children die, etc. Constant rumors of bad things happening to people who leave.

>>No, I don’t think so.

6. Striving for the Unreachable – Group membership and service are essential for salvation…”Work your way into God’s favor.” NO matter what you do, it is never enough.

>>Not really, although in some ways yes because you’re told to eliminate conflict in your mind and I would argue that is unattainable.

Even if BK has the best of intentions, practicing what is essentially psychotherapy without any professional training or independent oversight is reckless and irresponsible.

At best, she’s peddling common sense that you could get for free if you’d just take a minute to think for yourself.

December 8th, 2010 at 4:39 pm
 20 

Thanks for that detailed posting envelopes_hat! Good reading. Great points.

December 8th, 2010 at 5:35 pm
warrioroftruth
 21 

If you are someone reading this who is contemplating going to a school- I would say the following- this is one person’s experience out of hundreds of thousands of others who have had the direct opposite of it. I have always heard Katie say to believe nothing she says and to test it yourself- and I have. What she provides is a tool to not suffering. A repeatable tool to deal with negative thoughts and suffering- a tool to show how reality is always kinder than your uninquired thoughts. It is clear to me that the person who wrote it did not have an open mind before entering the school and still left with the closed mind they entered with. The whole idea of the school is to stretch- see where you are holding on too closely to your identity in order to suffer less. Check mate for the suffering mind as many call it. And she always references that you are your own teacher and not to look to her but to test it yourself- which is empowering. I have been around all kinds of puported gurus in my life and can tell you that Katie is the clearest mind I have ever come upon. Now to directly comment on the original post:
First, I want to tell you that finding your message here was a real blessing. I’ve been searching the internet off and on for months hoping to find something about Byron Katie and The Work relating to recovery from cults. I think your concerns are perfectly legitimate. From the first time I read the first chapter in her book “Loving What Is”, I knew something was horribly wrong (sounds a bit like an early judgment prior to actually reading the whole book), but my curiosity and the subtle persuasion of personal testimony led me on.
It’s hard to say that she’s a cult leader, considering how she got into this business. And, having met and talked with Katie personally, I want to say upfront that I believe she is very innocent/ignorant about what she is doing to people (I believe she is well aware of the benefits of a clear mind that she shares). I believe that she sincerely believes she is what she says she is, and that’s probably what makes her so convincing. At the same time, there is no doubt that she falls into the category of a guru, regardless of how adamant she is that she is not one… and a mass manipulator. The book “In Sheep’s Clothing” offers a list of tactics that covert aggressors use to manipulate, distract, and deceive. The descriptions match Katie very well… she is the queen of diversion, evasion, and distraction. However, I believe that it is herself she is deceiving the most. I think she is still very mentally ill (and your proof would be?), and it’s scary, because so many people are following her lead.
With many reservations, I attended her 9 day school (why?). We were sworn to secrecy about the events that go on there so as not to “spoil it for others” who would attend in the future. I’ve written about my experiences there, for my own sanity, and while I will spare you the gory details, I will offer a small list of things that happen there.
A forced 36 hour fast.(nothing is forced- you can opt out of any exercise I don’t want to do- so this is simply untrue)
An day long “outing” where we were left to beg for food among homeless people in the streets of Los Angeles. We were instructed not to take any ID, or anything with us but the clothes we had on.(no- you were asked to test some of your storys about what you need)
A rich organic diet that sent many people’s bodies into shock. Vomiting was a regular occurrence, and was offered as “evidence” of cleansing, and of how powerful The Work really is.(I’ve never seen anybody vomit and if people felt sick it was mostly due to confronting their believed thoughts that they have held for so long- and yes that is shocking to the egoic identity)
Long days (don’t you want to get as much out of it as possible?)with brief breaks for meals. (7 am to 11:00 pm most days.)
Long, intense confessional sessions (thank god).
Deep, excessive (you deal with whatever topics come up for you- it is personal- excessive would be a personal choice) probing into one’s past traumas (where you feel a charge, haven’t forgiven). (She used violent Korn music to trigger our worst memories.)- never saw this
No contact with family or the outside world. (the school is the school of you- the focus is on you- not you as a mom, son, daughter, wife- all about questioning your identities)(We turned our cell phones into the staff.- by choice)
Not allowed to wear make-up, to exercise, or to eat outside of the diet given.(again- suggestions that enhanced my experience but not forced to)
Eating meals and taking breaks in complete silence. (what a joy to connect to your food!)
Going at least 2 full days as a “silent one”, unallowed to talk with others.(again- a recommendation that has proven beneficial- clearly this participant had a hard time with silence)
Being invited to criticize Katie and The School, and those who did were silently, subtly shunned by the group and Katie (Hardly- Katie is so open to criticism- she knows the world shows us our blind spots).
Having every doubt and concern about what was going on at The School questioned and “turned around”, until no one could trust their own perceptions anymore. (it asks for an open mind to see if the opposite of what you think that causes suffering can be equally as true- that is true equality and an open mind)
Although The Work is presented as for anyone of any religion, once I became a part of Katie’s captive audience, it became very clear that was no so. Katie claims to have no beliefs, because she is “clear” and lives in “reality” or “heaven”, her belief system is actually very strong, very distinct, and very anti-Christian (untrue). And, anyone whose belief system doesn’t match hers is treated like the “unenlightened” sap who needs to keep questioning his/her thoughts until they can see things Katie’s way.(I am sorry this person has this belief- I would do a worksheet on “I’m not good enough”)
I was surprised by the number of educated professionals at The School (thats funny- smart people are usually smart!). Teachers, doctors, psychologists, social workers, counselors of all kinds. I was even more surprised how everyone seemed reduced to this “blissed out” state by the end (reduced to bliss- that sounds wonderful!), where they couldn’t even hold an intelligent conversation anymore. It was scary, and sad.
And, most of them would fight to the death to defend Katie’s validity and honor.(doubtful)
I kept in touch with several people after The School, and when I made the decision to throw out all of my materials and abandon the process altogether, I met a lot of resistance (did it make you happy or not to throw it out?). That was about the time her new book came out “A Thousand Names for Joy.” I bought it, again out of dire curiosity. I read through it one evening, and that was all it took for me to toss it out. Hearing her tell about watching a man having a stroke, and feeling no concern for his well being (read the book if you have not and see if you can see this anywhere in the book- simply not true) because she was “in love”… was crazy. Since when did apathy become love?
But, I think it was the passage where she said that she likes pretending to be human and called it her “disguise” that really put the whole thing over the top.(We are all spiritual human beings and when your mind is as clear as hers you enter realms of different dimensions where your body is simply clothing for your spirit-) Apathy I could probably handle… but inhumanness is going too far (I’ve never seen that- she seems to not allow someone to get into their suffering story so much as to miss who they really are).
I can’t even express the disturbing way I’ve felt watching all of these people (there were about 300 at The School) throwing away a normal, healthy range of emotions for “bliss.”(actually- the work promotes the opposite- it asks for your most petty thoughts and judgment- its called the judge your neighbor worksheets and is at the core of the program- the result of doing the work is that your mind can no longer see the truth in those thoughts as they have been worked through) And, I find it interesting that none of them have ever actually become like Katie (I don’t believe that is the goal. Are all Christians to be Christ? I know that I have become more clear in my thoughts and life and more in touch with the Universal Mind- so that would make me closer to Katie I suppose). I guess psychosis is pretty hard to self-induce… ?
After those 9 days being constantly bombarded with questions about everything I think, believe, and perceive… I definitely noticed a difference in me. I still struggle to hang onto my thoughts and judgments without automatically turning everything around on myself (only that ones that cause suffering- thats the idea!). I mean, if someone slapped me in the face, my mind would probably automatically flip it around to someone make it either my fault, or to convince me that it was somehow for my benefit (how great- to see joy in reality).
For awhile, I really struggled with what I observed about Katie… but no matter how many times I turn it around, I can honestly that I’ve never done what Katie is doing. It’s bad.
The one thing good that came out of it, was that I learned about cults and cult mind control (sounds very close minded). I’ve read every book I can get my hands on. And, I’ve learned what it was that made me vulnerable to The Work. Also, I’ve gained a lot of knowledge that hopefully will protect (sounds like a theme) me from the next snake-oil peddler that comes along.
Anyway, thank you for posting. I really needed to hear another person’s perspective to help validate my own… I can trust my thoughts about Katie and The Work, after all. Imagine that! Thank you, thank you, thank you.(I can appreciate this persons post and can also have compassion for her mind- I hope they find whatever path they find that will give them peace- I know Katie’s work has helped me with that. Namaste

January 3rd, 2011 at 7:27 pm
southdakotaboy
 22 

Hi Warrioroftruth, it sounds like you have been to the school, can you compare it with the criteria used to define LGAT?

January 24th, 2011 at 12:00 pm