“Why do I keep attracting unavailable men?”
“Why can’t I maintain healthy boundaries with my mother?”
“Why do I still hurt so much, when we broke up so long ago?”
“Why am I so afraid to ask for what I want?”
“Why do I always feel taken advantage of in my friendships?”
These are some of the questions some of my clients have asked themselves, and me, in our sessions lately.
When it comes to self-inquiry, they’re certainly provocative questions and questions like these do have their place, for understanding patterns, or identifying blind spots.
However, they can also hurt us. Questions like these (especially when we think them repetitively) beat us down with the underlying belief that there is something wrong with us. There is quite often blame in a question that starts with “why.”
There is a presumption of defect, convinced that things should be different.
Oftentimes, wishing it was we who were different. Here’s what we’re probably really thinking…
“Why do I keep attracting unavailable men?” Because there’s something wrong with me.
“Why can’t I maintain healthy boundaries with my mother?” Because there’s something wrong with me.
“Why do I still hurt so much, when we broke up so long ago?” Because there’s something wrong with me.
“Why” questions want to point fingers and place blame, and frankly, aren’t very productive, and can only take us so far. I’ve got an alternative.
The next time you find yourself pondering your life with “why” questions, stop and convert your inquiry into a “how” question.
Where “why” places blame, “how” opens doors.
Where “why” contains resistance (things/I/he/she/they shouldn’t be this way.), “how” creates possibility.
Where “why” focuses on the problem, “how” focuses on discovery and solutions.
Here are some examples…
Instead of asking “Why do I keep attracting unavailable men?” try asking “How can I become the type of woman that attracts emotionally available men? How can I release my attachment to this old pattern?”
Instead of “Why can’t I maintain healthy boundaries with my mother?” ask “How can I create a healthy boundary with my mother this week when I see her for dinner?”
Instead of asking “Why do I still hurt so much, when we broke up so long ago?” ask “How can I be more gentle and accepting of what I’m feeling, and allow myself all the space I need to grieve?
Can you feel the difference between “how” and “why” questions? Words have energy, and energetically, the difference is palpable, even without definitive answers to the questions, in even just the asking.
The secret is catching yourself in the act and consciously converting your inquiry.
Practice with a supportive friend the next time you are griping about why things are the way they are. Take turns brainstorming “how” questions until you run out, even without answering them.
Feel the spaciousness and possibilities in this new line of questioning. Feels like throwing open the windows of a dusty, cramped room, and letting the fresh air and sunlight rush in.
I love this practice in my own life, and I’ve seen it work wonders in the lives of my clients.
Our minds are busy little bees, so why not direct the flow of the buzzing, in the direction of potential, healing, compassion, acceptance and freedom?
Try it, and let me know how it goes! In fact, why not post a “why” question you’ve been stuck on and see if you can’t convert it, right here, right now. What have you got to lose, except maybe blame, finger pointing and stuckness.