Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Power of "WHAT"

Sometimes the question "Why" is a good one.

Why can't we live in a more peaceful world?

Why did I eat *all* those cookies?

Why don't we call mustaches "mouthbrows"?

But there are times, especially during a crisis, when "Why" is not the best question to ask oneself.

In my work, I always feel that "What" helps to move you out of a difficult moment.

What has a directionality. Why keeps one stuck in circular thinking.

What offers solutions. Why offers no game plan.

So, the next time you find yourself in a bad place, experiencing a difficult moment or overwhelmed with so much, ask yourself, "What can I do to make things better? not "Why is this happening to me?

Once the crisis is over you can search for the psychological or behavioral "Why".

Hat tip: Queen


'Tart said...

I think this is a very powerful, and true post.

Hi Dr. Deb, this is my first comment on your page.:) I am very impressed with what I have read on here, especially about the service dogs (I love animals and have several pets myself - and they are therepeutic in and of themselves!). The magnetic treatment also sounds very interesting and hopeful for those looking for 'different' treatments.

Thank you for your blog with such different and inspirational posts.

Anonymous said...

I did the "why" thing for a good length of time. It was only when I began cognitive therapy and also became more mindful, that I could switch it to a concrete "what". Now when I look around and see extraordinary amounts of catastrophic suffering, I can try to put my suffering into perspective and keeping working my "get better" plan.
Thanks for your great site. You inspire me.

Psychiatry101 said...

well said!

~Deb said...

One word: solutions.

J.D. said...

Indeed. :)

I learned many years ago, I had to replace the 'why' fill in the blank about why my life was not working, with the 'what' I will do with my life. Then, I didn't get there by myself. I needed a wise person like you!


Ian Lidster said...

When a client would ask him 'why?' a fellow addictions conselor wouild respond with, 'why not? It was your turn.' An interesting post and there is much virtue in 'what?' When my uncle was afficted with throughly crippling rheumatoid arthritis he penned a book called 'No Time for Why.'

Miranda said...

Very true, good post.

Mary said...

HI DrDeb. I am still in the "why" mode, But you have great points here, and I hope I can try and use "what" instead of "why" Right now I'm in such a slump, and have no clue as to how to get out..anyway thanks for the good post...Mary

Tracy said...

Wow what a powerful post! My first thought was Yes! How very right you are.

Thanks for posting this.

Grumpy Old Man said...

As my hearing weakens, I say "What?" a lot.

As my reason weakens, I say "Huh?" a lot.

Palmtreechick said...

I'm going to stop asking myself why now!

Deb said...

Dear Tart,
I hope you visit often.

Dear Tiddly,
Changing thinking patterns is such an important part of therapy! You inspire me!!!

Dear Psychiatry,
Well said as well.

Dear Deb,
Yup, solutions!

Dear J.D.
Why can be very helpful, but the timing of why is often what keeps many of us stuck. I so agree.

Dear Ian,
So your gene pool is writer friendly!

Dear Miranda,
I think it is simple advice.

Dear Mary,
It is hard when you are spinning in the cycle of why's. Try to use a STOP LOOK LISTEN approach. Stop asking why. Look for a way out. And listen to your instincts when planning your escape route.

Dear Tracy,
I think it can be so helpful. It takes a bit of practice, but once learned, can be a great step toward healthy thinking.

Dear GOM,
I have the same experience. The softening of my senses and neuropathways contributes greatly to my grumpy tendencies.

Dear Palmtree,
What first, then why later.

Winrob said...

Dr Deb,
thanks I needed this advise, I have been in a why mode for a while

CrackerLilo said...

This sounds kind of like my own therapist, who smiled knowingly when I began with, "I don't want to cry, and I really don't want to talk about my stupid, sucky childhood right now. I'm here for today." Glad more feel as she does.

Battle Weary said...

Often, there will never be an answer to "why"'s hard to remember when looking at "things" that happened in the past. But what is definitely a far better option to explore.

Anonymous said...

I am the Queen" of why! I am stuck in that circular, never ending rollar coaster. I never realized it till my therapist helped me see it recently. It is going to take a lot of work to teach this dog new tricks, but I am willing and hopefully able to learn. Great post Dr. Deb

Deb said...

Dear Winrob,
I get stuck in the why's too. Then I remind myself of What. Then I get rolling. Hope you do so soon as well, my friend.

Dear Cracker,
Sometimes just being, without working on the why's, is a good thing.

Dear Battleweary,
I don't think it is always necessary to have the answers to the why questions as well. Sometimes moving forward with what and where etc prove more healing.

Dear Queen,
You are so going to be the Queen of What soon!! You gotta believe it to be it.

therapydoc said...

As we used to say in the 60's, Right on, sister. (Oh, and do you play scrabble? we could do facebook)

Awake In Rochester said...

Hi Doctor Deb,

I hate to be the barrier of bad news but... When you left a message on my blog, a copy of it went to my e-mail SPAM box. Sorry, but it appears that may have been labeled as SPAM some how.(?)

Health Psych said...

Excellent post, Deb. What seems like such simple advice yet such powerful possibilities.

I'm not much of a "why" person but I can be a "what if.." person if I'm not careful and that too can trap you in that ruminative, circular process.

Kahless said...

Interesting; I ask a lot of why's. Next time I will think what.


The Lone Beader said...

Why ask why? Instead, ask what the reason is... ;)

Denise said...

There has been no real answers when I asked Why. Sometimes I still do ask why but its more something I ask out of frustration than actually seeking the answer with that question. Im finding it hard to ask the What? questions lately but I will keep putting one foot in front of the other. I know your right the What questions are more productive to ask than the whys. Im struggling with my depression right now and your blog reminded me that the what will get me somewhere sooner than the whys will. Thanks Deb, Denise

Wanda's Wings said...

How very true.

Angel Chasse said...

Hey Dr Deb!

Wow, I re-read this post several times, and I really think that it is so simple yet so MONUMENTAL to try to ease ourselves into saying "what" (can I do) instead of "why" (does this happen) at least for me, this was an eye opener, and one that I plan to write down and try to put into practice! Thanks for sharing this!


Anonymous said...

This is a good reminder for me. I once had a therapist who called me his "why" client. I always want to know the "why" of things. Why does that work? Why do I need to do this? Why do you ask me that question in just that way? I'm working on being more of a "what" person however I'm kind of a "why" person naturally I think?

jumpinginpuddles said...

we used to ask why until we like you realised there was no answer, what or how are changable words they make you continue because they get youi to find a way, why only depresses us

Ms.L said...

oooh my gosh,that's perfect.
What a great thing to ask oneself.
Thank you,for this awesome tool!
it never would have occured to me,lol to ask What.

Awake In Rochester said...

I have asked "what I can do to make things better". But it seems that the answer has so much time, and work involved. I'm not good in breaking things up into more manageable pieces, but I think that is needed.

cardiogirl said...

Such a simple statement and yet something I have not come up with myself in 40-years of living. Profound and profoundly helpful. Thank you.

Deb said...

Dear Therapydoc,
I do play scrabble, but I need to play the old fashioned way. I have to see and touch the tiles to play well.

Dear Awake,
Hmmm....blogger has not been treating me well these days. Sorry it got spammed.

Dear HP,
What if is just like a why for me too. I try to leave the ifs the shoulds and coulda's off my list ;)

Dear Kahless,
See if it works and let us know.

Dear Lone,

Dear Denise,
Why is a common question and even I get lost in it sometimes. The idea here is to put the brakes on the why and shift to what can I do. Hopefully it will work and get you out of a bad emotional or situational place.

dear Wanda,
A good strategy, right?

Dear Angel,
So glad you foudn the post meaningful.

Dear Traci,
Why is a very important question so long as it doesn't bog us down and keep us stuck.

Dear JIP,
So true. Same for me.

Dear Ms. L,
So glad you found the post useful and helpful.

Dear Awake,
Yes, sometimes seeing the big picture can make us feel that change is impossible. It is always best to break things down into tiny bits. Like little steps with big celebrations along the way. It is hard, but keep at it.

Dear Cardiogirl,
A little elbow grease and mindful concentration can help us get out of the why cycle and into the what mode. So glad you found the technique helpful.

Stephen said...

I liked that, very much

Stephen said...

I liked that, very much.

phd in yogurtry said...

Excellent post! Very important and helpful point. I think you are taking a page out of my workbook : )

I'd also add that "why" tends to imply blame. As if there is a culprit, a wrongdoing. What and how questions leave the accusations out of the equation. What and how paves the way toward a solution, as you say.

Deb said...

Dear Stephen,
So glad you liked it.

Dear Ph.D.,
YEs, why implies blame. An excellent point!

Guilty Secret said...

What an excellent post. Simple, easy-to-remember advice that we can all use. Thank you.