Release Social Anxiety By Doing “The Work”

Utilizing “The Work” In Reference to Social Anxiety

By:Kristen Jezek

If you are like most people, there has been a time in your life where you have felt somewhat anxious or nervous at the thought of going on an important date or attending a party with a lot of people. This type of nervousness to meet with others can be natural, even exciting for some. However, for others it is a nightmare of anxiety which develops into full-blown social anxiety disorder (Schneider, 2012), crippling their social life and self-concept. To combat the thoughts that lead to social anxiety disorder, and a host of other undesirable consequences, The Work of Byron Katie offers a way out (Do The Work, 2015).
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA, 2017) defines social anxiety disorder as “the extreme fear of being scrutinized and judged by others in social or performance situations”. While the person who experiences this may have a fulfilling and productive life in the comfort of their own company, the social phobia kicks in with the thought of socializing with other people, meeting someone new, or going on a job interview. As social creatures, this phobia can have devastating effects for a person’s quality of life. When faced with a social situation, the fear can be so great that it stops the person from attending the social activity, leading to isolation and loneliness.
The Work of Byron Katie is a method to question your stressful thoughts. The thoughts you utilize to question in the work consist of anything that is causing you stress or disrupting your quality of life. This has incredible implications for someone who is suffering from irrational anxiety due to their beliefs about what may happen in a social situation. When faced by a social situation that causes anxiety, a person would first identify and write down the stressful thought (or thoughts) they are believing. For example, the stressful thought may be “others will judge me negatively”, “this person will think I’m stupid” or “I will never get this job”. These are the types of thoughts that, when played over and over in a person’s mind, brainwash them into an anxiety which cripples and debilitates their social confidence, and can lead to intense social anxiety. Rather than believe these stressful thoughts, The Work invites you to question them.
So, what is “The Work”? The work is a series of four questions and what is called a “turnaround”, in which you turn the thought around. The four questions are as follows:

1) Is it true?
2) Can I absolutely know that it’s true?
3) How do I react when I think that thought?
4) Who would I be without that thought?

The turnaround is simply finding an opposite of the stressful thought. Examples of
the turnarounds for the thoughts presented above are “They will judge me positively”, “this person will think I’m smart”, or “I will get this job”. The next step is to find three concrete examples of how that thought could be as true, or truer than the negative thought before. I might find three examples of why I should get that job, and armed with the knowledge of those three examples, I could feel more confident that it was true. Furthermore, this increased confidence in social situations often leads to a better performance in the social situation overall.
The implications for The Work in treating and managing social anxiety are huge. Whether you are a person with slight social anxiety or suffering from full-blown social anxiety disorder, the act of slowing down your thoughts long enough to question them can offer tremendous relief. If a person could question their stressful thoughts as they thought them (and turn them around), they would be able to free themselves from the crippling fear that comes with dreading a stressful outcome. This confidence compounds over time and with regular practice of asking these four questions and turning them around, the person can facilitate themselves to greater health, social abundance, and mental freedom.


1) Social Anxiety Disorder. (n.d.). Retrieved February 12, 2017, from (ADAA)
2) Schneider, F. W., Gruman, J. A., & Coutts, L. M. (2012). Applied social psychology: understanding and addressing social and practical problems. Los Angeles: Sage.
3) International, B. K. (2015, September 06). Do The Work. Retrieved February 12, 2017, from

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  1. This is an interesting way to combat social anxiety. It reminds me of cognitive restructuring. It is a technique that I learned during therapy for my own debilitating social anxiety. First, you write down some of the thoughts that are going through your mind. For me, it would be something like, “I can’t go outside today because I am fat and someone might see me and think that I look disgusting and judge me. They will think that I should not be seen outside of my house.” Via cognitive restructuring, I would use logic to decide what was true and what I was just assuming. For instance, I am overweight. That is true. However, I cannot know what another person is thinking and, however I may feel about myself, it is unlikely that they will feel so strongly about my appearance that they will think I should stay cooped up inside. Thus, I would take my original thought and come up with an alternative phrase: “I can go outside today, even though I am overweight. People probably won’t care and, if they do, it won’t impact my life anyway.” Viola! Problem (kind of) solved. It takes a lot of work and repeated efforts to squash those thoughts, and I am still struggling with it today, but cognitive restructuring can help.

    Godfried, Linehan and Smith (1978) actually did a study on the effects of cognitive restructuring. They had participants restructure someone’s thoughts in an imagined scenario to give them practice with cognitive restructuring. Though it was an imagined scenario, participants were instructed to imagine it was their own thoughts. After 6 one-hour sessions of this, participants who completed these activities showed greater improvements in terms of social anxiety then their counterparts from other assigned groups. Clearly there is some evidence that supports this method of alleviating social anxiety.

    Goldfried, M. R., Linehan, M. M., & Smith, J. L. (1978). Reduction of test anxiety through cognitive restructuring. Journal of consulting and Clinical Psychology, 46(1), 32.

  2. Leana Regina Mason

    Thank you for your post, especially on this topic. I think so many people struggle with social anxiety and different methods of coping should be broadcasted more often. I too have felt that uneasy nervous feeling when going to brief a commander or teach a course to junior Marines. I’ve never thought of or heard about ‘The Work’ method you presented us, I usually resort to the self-fulfilling prophecy, thinking to myself I’ll do well. The method you presented however, seems more practical and something I can share with people around me that I notice struggle badly with social anxiety.
    Leana Mason

  3. Thanks for the post, Kristen! I think we can all relate to these feelings of anxiety, in one way or another. Although many of us suffer from social anxiety, for some it may be more severe. I can relate to the social anxiety associated with job interviews and meeting groups of new people. I like the idea of The Work. I can imagine that being helpful during times of anxiety to reroute your thoughts to alleviate nervousness while building back up the confidence to face an intense socially anxious situation head-on. A couple things that I read on go together with the questions of The Work. It suggests slowly counting to 10, taking deep breaths, trying to maintain a positive attitude, keeping healthy with exercise and well-balanced meals, as well as getting enough sleep.
    Thankfully for those with anxiety, there are many tools to utilize to overcome these feelings.

    I enjoyed your post and look forwarded to hearing more from you.

    Tips to Manage Anxiety and Stress (n.d.). Retrieved February 12, 2017 from:

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