Most parents will hear that word a dozen times a day from their small children.
Therapists hear that word almost as much, but it is usually within the context of an intake. The client entering into therapy will often say, in essence, “I want to figure out why I do what I do.”
“Why do I care so much about what other people think?”
“Why do I keep making bad relationship choices?”
“Why am I so afraid to do that?”
“Why do I keep making the same mistakes?”
I understand asking that question–I really do. In my experience, though, that is the wrong question to ask. Ask not, “Why?” but “What?” as in, “What am I going to do to make it better for myself?”
“What can I do differently to stop caring so much about what other people think?”
“What can I do in the future to make better relationship choices?”
“What can I do to overcome my fear?”
“What can I learn from my mistakes and do differently next time?”
You see, we could spend time on figuring out “why,” but what will that change in the here-and-now? Okay, so your mother was overly critical of you as a teen and that is why you are a perfectionist today. There–we figured it out! Now, what does that change for you today? Your father withheld affection from you when you were a child so you’ve made poor relationship choices as an adult. Okay–puzzle solved! Now, how does that enable you to make better choices?
Sometimes, the best we can do is speculate about why you do what you do. If we can’t effectively answer the “why” with certainty, does that diminish your hope of ever making better choices today? “Oh well, I don’t know why I do what I do, so I’m doomed to keep doing it.”
Lucky for us, while our past certainly affects us, it does not determine us. Stop wasting emotional energy on trying to figure out why you feel a certain way or do a certain thing.
I don’t need to know why I love Cool Ranch Doritos in order to stop eating them by the bagful. I need to realize that what I am doing–annihilating Cool Ranch Doritos like it’s my job–isn’t helpful to me and I need to formulate and implement a plan to change my behavior.
Your counselor can help you with “what.” What can I do to make life better for myself? Let’s talk about that! What can I do to change my thinking, feel better, or act differently? We’ve got some ideas for you. What can we do to make our relationship stronger? This, this, and that.
Why haven’t you made an appointment with a counselor? No!
What the hell is stopping you from making an appointment with a counselor?