I want to know whys
As humans, we are very curious beings. We want answers! And we often want them now.
Wondering why we have a problem can be awesomely helpful. Knowing how a problem was recruited into our life can help us see how to get rid of it, or it can assist us in being gentle with ourselves.
Or it might be incredibly distracting. Instead of thinking ahead to what actions or thoughts can change we can get stuck in judgment, lamenting, and maybe even self pity: Why is this happening to me? What did I do to deserve this? Why am I being punished?
A Culture Stuck in Whys
One time a friend who was in therapy (with someone else) told me she was ready to be done with therapy. She told her therapist who told her if they met every week for the next three months they might be done. I thought this was ludicrous. Of course I wanted to know why?
Her therapist said if they worked very hard they would find out why she wanted attempted suicide when she was 15. I was stunned. We knew why she attempted suicide, it is not brain surgery. She was being verbally abused and wanted to escape. There is nothing mysterious about where her depression came from. I had a different why: I wanted to know why she hadn’t kept trying to kill herself. Why had she survived and never attempted again in the last 20 years. I asked her this and she said that she met someone with an interesting life philosophy. She started to think about life and how it worked. She started caring for the earth and all of its creatures and most importantly she started wanting to make a difference in the world. She had a purpose, she decided to live to carry it out. She ended therapy the next session and felt freer than she had felt in 20 years the burden of that action no longer distracting her.
Whys, not wise
The whys inquiry into our problems comes from an old psychology metaphor. (Psychology metaphors in the last century have come from the economic info structure of the times.) The “why” comes from the metaphor of our body being a machine. The theory being, if something is “broken down,” one goes back (in development) to find out where and why things went wrong, fixes it, and development resumes “normally” from there.
This would be great if it was just a metaphor. But when it becomes a truth people need to figure it out where and why they broke down. But these things can be esoteric. Take anxiety for example. (I am including many things in this, eating disorders, irritability, anger, OCD, OCPD, panic). Everyone wonders: Why do I have anxiety? It feels so big and huge. Often these issues are triggered by a trauma or a difficult time in someone’s life. If the connection to this event is made, it makes it feel more normal to someone, they may judge themselves less and get through it. This is very helpful.
But sometimes the connection is not cut and dry. Even something little can be a trigger, a flu, a scary movie, bad news, can make us feel vulnerable in a moment and this can feed anxiety. It can snowball, in the end being quite big and huge for such a small trigger, making us wonder if that was it. Not believing, we think there is something hidden that we are not seeing and this can become very worrisome. Judgment and fear can grow our problems in an instant, make them much bigger than they need to be (See Globs of Self Judgment, and Worry Globs, Too). If we keep looking for our inherent flaw, or where the screw came lose, we increase the fear and doubt rather than know this is what we have to let go of.
What do you like to ask? Finish this sentence: Why……..?