The WHY Trap

Understanding why. Seems innocent enough really, just wanting to understand why things are the way they are, why I feel how I feel, what is making something so. Just like any good toddler, it’s my first reaction to anything that comes up – BUT WHY?!? 

There are times when understanding the reasons/ the drive/ the why/ the intention really comes in handy. It’s actually something I focus on and get my clients to focus on when developing goals. WHY is that important to you? WHY does it matter? WHY?!?! And in those cases, it’s not just helpful it’s truly what makes it valuable at all. You want to lose ten pounds? OK fair enough, but if you don’t know WHY and the bigger picture behind those little goals, if you can’t see what’s so important and meaningful about the destination, if you don’t connect with that, you’re bound to get lost on the way.

However, the dark side of WHY (The WHY trap, as I’m calling it) is a whole other story. It’s not useful, in fact it’s extremely counter productive.

For example, say as a hypothetical, you are sitting there on your couch and you randomly touch the side of your head and notice it hurts. Instead of carrying on with normal life, you may just end up sitting there (semi watching shows) while continuing to press on that spot and questioning “WHY does that hurt? That shouldn’t hurt! Does that have something to do with my sinuses? I don’t know why that part of my head would hurt though? Maybe I’m worse off than I thought with that health issue that has barely even been bugging me today.. How does this pain fit into that? What does it mean?… “

And on and on you might go for a whole fucking hour of pressing this spot that hurts, because you think “This shouldn’t hurt” “This doesn’t make sense to me”, so instead of just letting it be, you continue to press on it. And then after that hour, now with a throbbing head, you realize “Oh right, I smashed it with my car door the other night. Maybe it’s a bruise from that”. And then you laugh your ass off at yourself from now having an aching head because you’ve been pressing on a bruise for a fucking hour. Hypothetically, of course.

When I’m stressed my WHY defense is super high with physical sensations and symptoms and health worries. The one who, just tonight, spent half an hour googling “how long does it take to get symptoms of salmonella” at the off chance the chicken I ate for supper was under-cooked. The one who feels hunger as sickness, fullness as sickness, and can even make tiredness into a chronic disease (this one being one of my family’s favourite jokes). I hate this part of myself. I hate it. It really does feel like torture. Like I’m a prisoner of my mind. 

The WHY defense spreads deeper than the physical, that part just seems to be a symptom or distraction tool from the deeper issues. The WHY defense that probably gets me into all the trouble mentioned above is how I use it on my emotions. If I don’t get WHY I feel the way I do, if I can’t rationalize it, if it doesn’t make sense to me – then I just don’t let myself feel it. And not only do I not let myself just sit with the emotion or feeling that comes up, I dig my heels deep into the distraction of figuring it out – and abort the feeling part altogether.

Getting stuck in the WHY is even more fruitless and frustrating than getting caught in the relentless WHY battle with a 3 year old.

I am better off than I used to be with this stuff, because clearly I can have moments of observing what I’m doing and not doing. It might seem ridiculous, but the fact that I ONLY spent 30 minutes googling tonight before I snapped myself out of it, is a big improvement over what I used to do. And even being able to identify how the WHY is avoidance, and being able to see when I’m trapped in my mind, is progress. Very uncomfortable and frustrating progress, but progress nevertheless.

I have reflected on what I’ve been lacking lately with how I’m spending my time. I see I need to work on getting back on track on some self-care things that are probably contributing to my un-wellness – compounding the effects of avoiding mixed emotions. Things like sleep.

I drank two coffees at 9pm tonight. Hence the middle of the night blog post. This is how amazing I am at life right now.

It’s really hard to keep doing healthy things when you aren’t giving yourself permission to do what you need to be healthy (like sit with emotions). So, might as well just stop going to yoga and meditating and sleeping too, right?

At least I know I’m caught in the WHY trap. Clearly there are feelings I’m not letting myself feel. But knowing what I know, and having the intention of being connected to my feelings, the only thing I can think to say about this right now is.. WHY?!?!?! 😉



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