“To become different from what we are, we must have some awareness of what we are.”
How the question “why” can keep us stuck.
My task as counsellor is to help people become more aware of how they are in their life, – to be actively curious about themselves and access their own inner wisdom (sometimes also referred to as insight, intuition or guidance), beyond the rational, logical and conscious mind.
The theory of cause and effect is one of the ways we know. Often the belief is that if we know what caused our emotional pain we can do something about it and stop feeling it. However, knowing the source of our pain does not take it away, the body maintains the tensions of anger, stress, anxiety and sadness. Gestalt theory on the other hand examines patterns of interaction between the individual and the total environment.
The question why shuts down exploration and can feel judgemental, like ‘Why do I do this?’ or ‘Why do I keep saying that?’ – It takes us straight into our head, away from our body, feelings and the present moment. It invites thinking, speculation and rationalisation, rarely provides an answer and often looks back rather than forward. It asks for information, detail, and content. It does not appeal to our inner wisdom. Overthinking can be frustrating and overwhelming, and the avoidance of feelings can make us ill – literally.
In search for an explanation we can become so obsessed with the cause of something – say, why you feel so apologetic all the time or why someone doesn’t talk to you – that we remain stuck in the past rather than explore ways of how to move on in our lives. Unless we are aware of how the past is linked to how we are in the present, it cannot produce change. Jo’s understanding, for instance, that having been brought up by highly critical parents may have diminished her self-confidence and self-worth will not improve her confidence and self-esteem. Becoming aware of how her inner shamer constantly crushes her confidence, however, can enable her to develop more compassion towards herself and to gradually build her confidence.
For change to happen, we need to focus on the how and the what. They are the keys to our inner wisdom, a way forward. Questions such as, ‘What happened and what did I feel?’, ‘What did I need and did not get?’ and ‘How can I support myself when it happens again?’ are just a few questions that can move us from feeling stuck. They generate hope, empower and carry the potential for change.