Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday #12: “I Need Your Love—Is That True?” by Byron Katie and Michael Katz

Dear kids,

I will never be the same. That’s how I feel about my experience of reading Byron Katie. Her videos are also great, but the books–oh, the books. Read everything you can get your hands on of hers, okay?


Book highlights:

I hope Byron Katie doesn’t sue me for sharing all these quotes. Then again, it would be pretty cool to meet her in person at the trial.

  • “My life was like this fable: I walked into the Mohave Desert on a gorgeous day, minding my own business. Suddenly, Oh my God!—there’s a big fat Mojave Green rattlesnake directly in front of me. And I had almost stepped on him! No one around for miles and this could be a painful, slow death. My heart was beating to pop out of my chest, my brow had broken into a sweat, I was paralyzed by fear. But then, and I don’t know how it happened, my eyes began to focus: I dared another glance at the snake—and miraculously, I saw: It’s a rope! That snake is a rope! Well, I fell to the ground and began to laugh, cry, and to just take it in. I even had to poke it. What had happened? I knew one thing: I was safe. I knew that I could stand over that rope for a thousand years and never be frightened of it again. I felt such gratitude and ease. The entire world could come upon this snake, scream, run away, have heart attacks, scare themselves to death—and I could just remain here fearlessly, and pass on the good news. I would understand people’s fears, see their pain, hear their stories about why it really is a snake, and yet there would be no way that I could believe them or be frightened of that rope. I had fallen into the simple truth: That snake is a rope.”
  • “You can lose the awareness of love, but never love itself. Love is what we are.”
  • “There’s no reason to believe that thoughts match reality. As you move through life, thoughts appear like shots in the dark. They are no more than vague attempts to figure out what’s going on around and inside you.”
  • “In a sense, every thought poses a question, something like ‘Is this what’s going on?’ A thought about something we perceived, if it were expressed accurately, might say, ‘I think he insulted me—is that what happened?’ But, like children, we tend to focus on the alarming part: ‘He insulted me.’ We grab hold of it, then react as if the thought were a fact. We go into pain, or we attack, instead of answering the question implied by the thought ‘He insulted me—is that what really happened?'”
  • “Any feeling of discomfort or stress is an alarm that lets you know you’re believing an untrue thought.”
  • “Like a mirror, the mind has a way of getting things right but backward. So you take your thought and turn it around.”
  • “You may resist this exercise because you believe that it would somehow bring about what you fear. In the example above, you may think that opening your mind to your boyfriend’s move, even for a moment, would make you a weaker opponent of it. But if you really look at that thought, the opposite is more likely: When people take a fearful and rigid stance, they often bring about what they’re trying to prevent. Turnarounds open more space. They allow you to see how things can work out in a peaceful way, beyond what you had considered when you were defending a position.”
  • “A friend of mine who went back to retrieve a magazine he’d left in a doctor’s crowded waiting room made a speech excusing himself to everyone. He wanted them all to understand that he wasn’t a used-magazine thief.”
  • “But once you question your thoughts, you discover that you don’t have to do anything for love. It was all an innocent misunderstanding.”
  • “Your understanding of another person is limited by what you think you already know. So when you just listen, the person you meet won’t match your preconception. The exciting thing is that you usually meet someone much wiser and kinder than you expected.”
  • “We all do emotional gymnastics to be seen as wonderful or funny—just to get what we already have. And because we’re doing the gymnastics, we don’t see that we already have it.”
  • “There are those who say that a crush is a delusion, that it wasn’t real because it all came from you. Another way to look at it is that the crush was as real as any experience you’ll ever have: you just made a mistake about where the joy was coming from. The source wasn’t the brown-eyed girl or Leonardo DiCaprio; it was your own long-lost capacity to experience pure joy.”
  • “Love seems to have disappeared. Where did it go? You can find out by questioning the thought ‘If you love me, you’ll do what I want.’ This is a thought most people have believed for as long as they can remember. The child expects his playmate to want to play the games he wants to play. If not, there’s a big fight, and they both stomp off to find an adult to complain to: ‘He’s not my friend anymore!’ The belief that a friend is someone who will do what you want is already fully active in this child. He learned it from his parents, who told him they loved him and rewarded him with praise when he obeyed them, and punished him when he didn’t. His parents never questioned the thought that obedience is an expression of love, so why would he?”
  • “This book could have been called The Two Major Universal Whoppers About Love. We looked at one of the whoppers in the chapter about approval seeking: ‘I need to win people over to make them like me’ (also known as ‘I can manipulate your love and approval’). Now we’ve come to the other one: ‘If you love me, you’ll do what I want.’ It seems reasonable—so reasonable that we’ve built an entire civilization on it. How can it be wrong? Let’s stop and question it.”
  • “One way to tell love from bartering is that when you give anyone a gift out of love you give the pleasure to yourself.”
  • “And sweetheart, it’s only in the moment, it’s not forever. We don’t love conditionally or unconditionally forever. It keeps changing: ‘I love you,’ ‘I don’t,’ ‘I do,’ ‘I do,’ ‘I don’t.’ And when you don’t, it’s always going to be you in the way, not your wife, you can count on that.”
  • “If I really believe that telling my truth would hurt someone’s feelings, I don’t tell it. I stop. I don’t go past my own idea of what could hurt you because that would hurt me. These are my own boundaries.”
  • “Nothing can cost you someone you love. The only thing that can cost you your husband is if you believe a thought. That’s how you move away from him. That’s how the marriage ends. You are one with your husband until you believe the thought that he should look a certain way, he should give you something, he should be something other than what he is. That’s how you divorce him. Right then and there you have lost your marriage.”
  • “When you do The Work on your partner, you realize that all your problems are coming from you, because it’s your thoughts that are telling you who he is. If you see him as flawed in any way, you can be sure that you’ve found a place where you’re arguing with reality in that moment and are blind to yourself.”
  • “Changing him will no longer be your life’s work. You can be your life’s work. You’re the one who believes in change.”
  • “Look at what you imagine is a flaw in your partner, and notice the ways that it gives you an opportunity to appreciate him or her.”
  • So ‘counting the genuine ways that this unexpected event happened for me, rather than to me’ isn’t a game. It’s an exercise in observing the nature of life.” It’s a way of putting yourself back into reality, into the kindness of the nature of things.”
  • “How do you know when you don’t need people? When they’re not in your life. How do you know when you do need them? When they are in your life.”
  • “How do you know you don’t need to stand up? You’re sitting. Life becomes much simpler this way. How do you know when you need to do something? When you do it. To think that you need to do something when you’re not doing it is a lie. It puts you in an uncomfortable position, full of shame, guilt, and frustration. Lying in bed, you chide yourself with the thought, ‘I need to get up,’ and you don’t. But the truth is that you don’t need to get up. Not until you do.”
  • “Do you really want to enter the inner room in which someone’s feelings are formed? Do you want to control his mind, to barge in and insert the thoughts and feelings you want him to have? Is it even possible? When you’re afraid of what your lover thinks about you, that is the time to go to your own inner room and check on your own thinking.”
  • “Forgiveness is discovering that what you thought happened didn’t—that there was never anything to forgive. What seemed terrible changes once you’ve questioned it.
  • “If you haven’t undone your painful thoughts, you can get into a bubble bath, light candles, recite positive affirmations, pamper yourself in every way—and once you’re out of the tub, the same thoughts will come back to haunt you. It’s like staging a seduction, only the one you’re trying to seduce is you. This chapter is not about seducing or fooling yourself. Just the opposite: It’s about un-fooling yourself. The only obstacle to loving other people is believing what you think, and you’ll come to see that that’s also the only obstacle to loving yourself.”
  • “The truth is no respecter of spiritual concepts. ‘I should love myself’—ugh, on what planet? Love is not a doing. There is nothing you have to do. And when you question your mind, you can see that the only thing that keeps you from being love is a stressful thought.”
  • “Defense is the first act of war.”

To jump down the Byron Katie rabbit hole, see:


Get the entire recommended reading list at Books I Want My Kids to Read Someday.


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