When we ask ourselves repeatedly “why”, we often get an answer that is not helpful or beneficial. Yet end up cycling back to asking again, “but why?” Typically when we ask ourselves “why” it is a perpetual question that leaves us in the past. Being stuck in the past may be a happy place for an elderly person who is suffering from loneliness or grief, as those moments of gratitude may sustain them. However, for others, this is a place that feeds depression. Depression can lead to severe despondence, suicide ideation, substance abuse, self-mutilation and other harmful maladaptive behaviors.

Dwelling on the “why” such as “why do I eat so much?” “Why did I not leave him/her sooner?” “Why did I drop out of college?” “Why did I drive drunk/high and now have a DUI?” This line of questioning only leaves us in a perplexed state without progressing to a state of functionality and meaning. In my work as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Certified Addictions Counselor, I often see clients who are perseverating on the past in this “why” state. A type of self-abuse takes place when one continually denies themselves empowerment by finding motivation to move past “why” and into the state of “what”.

Progress begins when one is now past identifying why they are in this state of challenge (i.e., addiction, domestic violence, depression, anxiety, eating disorder, and hoarding). Once one has a clear understanding of the pattern of how they got to a certain place in life, he/she can then process their journey. At this junction, he/she moves into “okay, now what?” With asking “what” one can then begin the plan for change. “What” offers a sense of empowerment, it says “okay, I am here for a reason and this is what I can manifest from it”. Whether that is better relationships, sobriety, healthy living, and/or joy for life, it brings one to a proactive space.

One is present when asking “what do I need to do now?” “What kind of support do I need?” “What would be helpful in moving me towards my life goals?” “What lessons have I learned that will support me in my new role as community leader or parent or employee or employer or spouse?” “What resources are in my community that will encourage me?”

For many this shift in questioning is a significant paradigm shift. With practice one can refocus their questioning and thinking and begin to stretch the neural pathways. If one does not challenge the internal questioning then the risk is perpetual dysfunction and lack of fulfillment. So what are your choices?