The Quality of your Life depends directly on the Quality of the Questions you ask

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Those of us that ever bother to ask any questions, generally ask only one at a time, and usually they’re WHAT or HOW questions.

How can I stop feeling so lousy about myself? What should I do next? How do I get a better job? etc, etc

But, WHY do I feel lousy? WHY should I do something next? WHY do I want a better job?

Ah. That’s harder.

That calls for some thinking, some reflection. You’re digging a bit deeper now. (And maybe that why so few do it.)

And the answer to WHY? carries risks. To my worldview. My identity, my ego.

I might find out my worldview is flawed. I might find out I don’t have all my ducks in a row after all. And I HATE it when that happens. It upsets my whole apply cart. I’m GOD, doncha know? How dare you!

I have a haunting memory of a BBC broadcast during the 2016 Brexit referendum campaign.

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An elderly woman was asked on-camera how she would vote. “Leave”, came the reply.

“Why?” she was asked. “Because I stand to get a better pension if we’re outside the EU.” (Can’t follow the logic there myself, it was logical to her.)

“But how do you think leaving the EU will impact the younger generation?”

There was a long pause.

A VERY long pause.

Finally came her terse reply:

“Not sure.”

In short, she didn’t know, she didn’t care, and she didn’t appreciate this journalist holding up a mirror and showing her her own selfishness.

I tend to expect selfish thinking in younger generations. They aren’t old enough yet to have much concern about anyone but themselves. (If you’re young and take exception to that remark, all I can say is, Bravo! You’re better than I was at your age.)

But older?

That interview caught me off guard. Older people should be wise enough to recognize selfishness, especially in themselves. And penitent when they are hauled onto the carpet for it.

Not that lady, it seems. Not that day, anyway.

I couldn’t help but suspect she was not unique, and it left me really fearing for the future of the western world.

Asking questions repeatedly, digging deeper and deeper to find root causes, tends to hold a mirror up to you. You are brought face to face with attitudes and beliefs long buried.

Questions are the shovel you use to dig them up and examine them. Questions are philosophy and archaeology crashing into each other.

My old dad was a fanatical gardener. When I was around 7 years old, the dairy that was on the other side of the back fence closed down, and the property sold off for housing development. A sliver of land immediately adjacent the back fence didn’t fit the developer’s plans, and it was offered to Mom and Dad to buy.

Dad jumped at the chance. In my mind, I can see him now, rubbing his hands with glee. More land to garden! Heaven on earth!

The land was wild, but that didn’t faze him. Over the next decade, I’d be out with him chopping down any tree that was dead, or interfering with his next garden. It was also useful fuel for the fireplace.

Seemed like every October, Dad would tap me on the shoulder, to go help him evict another tree that was squatting on his prime real estate.

We’d cut the tree down at about shoulder height, saw up the wood to season, then take shovel and axe to the stump.

The stump was always an interesting process. Several roots would always be visible, and the axe would make short work of those.

Tug on the top of the stump. Nada. Not budging.

O-Kay. There’s another root we can’t see. Hand me that shovel, willya?

And there would be, another root hidden under the dirt. It would be shovel, axe, tug. Shovel, axe, tug. Rinse, repeat. (Well, maybe not rinse. We’d be pretty filthy by the time we were done.)

With every cycle, the stump would move a little more. We’d eventually get it to the point where it would actually bend right over to the ground in several directions, yet still, frustratingly, annoyingly, be tied to the ground.

There was always one root, not even necessarily the biggest one, that went straight down to China. Almost impossible to get at with the shovel, and with only maybe a foot of swing space for the axe.

That root was the proverbial Root of the Problem.

You’ve got to ask enough questions to get to that root.

I’m going through a form of psychotherapy at the moment. A good friend is developing his own psychotherapy framework, and using me as a guinea pig of sorts. He asked me partly because he needs to test his own material. But he could also see patterns in my behaviour, that he strongly suspected were deeply-held beliefs that were holding me back from progress on my goals.

Most of our time together involves him asking me questions. Repeatedly, lots of ’em. Lots of WHY’s.

And he’s been proved right about his suspicions. I have been forced to go way back to childhood experiences, confront what happened, and re-examine the conclusions I’ve reached.

The process isn’t over. It’s not easy. It’s not fun. I usually feel quite tired after every session, but I’m feeling the positive benefits already.

It’s only reaffirmed my conviction in the Power of Questions.

Remember:

The quality of your life depends directly on the quality of the questions you ask.

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