“It’s easy to get lost in endless speculation. So today, release the need to know why things happen as they do. Instead, ask for the insight to recognize what you’re meant to learn.” – Caroline Myss
Do you ever find yourself racking your brain looking for an answer? I’m not talking about who was the actor on that show or where you left your house keys kind of answer.
I’m referring to the quandaries you don’t often speak aloud, but the kind you ruminate over… puzzling over why you did something, or didn’t do it?
From time to time we all fall into the perfect trap that we set for ourselves by asking why. This 3-letter question can feel especially torturous when it keeps bubbling up in consciousness after something has happened- like a break-up, a death, or a loss of any kind.
Why did I have to get a cold now?
Why didn’t the DVR record my shows?
Why is there always traffic when I’m running late?
Why can’t my parent/spouse/friend be more supportive?
Why did _______ happen?
These are the stealthy trappings of the ego. It sets you up to look for an answer– but the answer doesn’t actually solve the problem.
You may gain understanding on this search- but understanding is not the end point you seek… even though your thinking tells you it is.
Still with me?
I’m suggesting that asking why is not a particularly valuable or productive query. If you are reflecting, looking inward and asking why, then it’s likely you are looking at a behavior or pattern that you want to shift, right?
I’m suggesting that asking why is not the most productive tool for the job.
Most of us are wired for logic seeking, and for identifying cause and effect. When I say wired, I mean that’s the predominant paradigm that has been modeled by generations of humans.
I’m suggesting that our perspective has become convoluted by the concept of blame. Until we are exposed to another way- most of us grow up with the limited paradigm that something/someone must be to blame.
Reason follows then that I meet client after client insisting, “if I just know why…then I can I can change it.” When really, that whole structure doesn’t even make sense.
What it might do is soothe or assuage some of the anxiety that comes with not knowing. It may provide a sense of understanding- that many people equate with feeling in control.
Seeking control, seeking certainty and comfort- wanting to label situations and circumstances in black-and-white terms is the ego’s calling card.
But why does the ego seek those things? (I know, that was sneaky of me)
The ego part of us seeks control because chaos and the unknown are not comfortable. The ego likes comfort. Discomfort is scary for most of us.
From that fear, we seek to gain control because we have bought into the illusion that “having control” is possible and that it will provide the comfort and ease we desire. It is not a common or western idea to “stay with discomfort” (more on that in another article).
Gaining understanding by asking why may seem like a reasonable way to escape discomfort. But – its not the way out.
“The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” -Albert Einstein
It takes bravery to look at ourselves and ask why. But please, don’t stop there.
Why can’t I stop eating junk food?
Why am I so hard on myself?
Why do I sabotage my own success?
Why don’t I ever finish the projects I start?
Why am I so cranky?
Instead you might explore questions like: What is surfacing now? What is here for me to learn? Does this pattern serve me?
Or even more direct: how do I stop this destructive behavior? What might my life be like without (fill in the blank)? What action steps can I take today to be more successful and effective?
I’m not suggesting that you NEVER ask why. I’ll accept that there are times when understanding what might be causing a current situation contributes to a deeper understanding.
I am suggesting that we use our whys sparingly- as the last aspect of inquiry opposed to the first.
Using why as your first or only line of questioning is bound to perpetuate ego patterns like suffering.