Okay admittedly the title is funnier out loud with an Australian accent, but I actually mean “why?“ in this case. Why can be an excellent shovel with which to dig for gold/truth.
An enormous amount of what we do is driven by motivations that are themselves being driven by still deeper motivations that we are rarely aware of in our consciousness. When asked “why would you want to do something,“ there is a perfectly logical reason at the ready. On one level there is some truth in this, but when we dig a little deeper, we can discover yet another reason hiding beneath. What is really interesting, is that like the layers of an onion, we can peel back motivation after motivation, and discover amazing truths about ourselves.
Don’t get me wrong, this may not be the easiest or most comfortable thing for you to do. As a matter of fact, more likely than not, we’ll start to uncover some very disturbing aspects of our personalities. That’s why our subconscious started making up those more palatable motivations in the first place. It’s all about survival strategies, and many of these layers assist us in keeping our tender cores well protected; even from ourselves.
Most psychotherapies are focused on digging into our psyches to discover these truths, and yet the strategies have defenses upon defenses that can fool the most brilliant therapists. The problem is that as we go deeper, each layer of strategy is so reasonable and feasible, that we don’t necessarily question them.
So why in the world would we want to dig into this mess? If it ain’t broke, right? Well unfortunately the outcome of our multi-layered survival strategies is that we find ourselves facing the same issues, problems, and even relationships over and over again in different forms and in different situations. It’s the same old wine in a brand new bottle. And this my friends, is frustrating and counter-productive to our growth and productivity.
These strategies are just like the symptoms of deeper problems in organizations. What we see on the surface is usually “red herrings “ or the flowering part of the dandelion. We can waste years chasing mirage-like motivations.
Asking “why? “ Nine Times:
This is the process of a “limited” deconstruction. Our defenses within the survival strategies need to be peeled back one by one. We let ourselves off the hook too easily with the first few times we ask ourselves ”why?” As I said, these strategies are reasonable and feasible, so why wouldn’t we go with them? Because they’re misdirecting symptoms.
How would this look? I’ll put a hypothetical me on the spot.
Let’s say I get angry supposedly because somebody didn’t use their turn signal. Why does that make me angry? Because they should have. Why does that make me angry? Because they didn’t follow the rules of the road. Why does that make me angry? Because they put me in danger. Why does that make me angry? Because I don’t want to be put in danger. Why does that make me angry? Because it scared me. Why does that make me angry? Because I don’t want to be scared. Why? Because being scared makes me feel vulnerable. Why is that bad? Because being vulnerable is bad. Why? Because I could die.
Aha! This is some real truth now. This is a belief that I have created. Now I can look at this cause and effect equivalency of vulnerability and death. Now I can ask some more questions to dig beneath that belief. Have I ever been vulnerable before? Yes. Did I die? No. So does being vulnerable mean I’ll die? Um, I guess not.
What we just discovered together was that what made me angry was not the other person not using their turn signal. What made me angry was feeling vulnerable. That allowed us to look at my relationship to vulnerability.
Looking at that relationship, we can see that I created a cause and effect equivalency. Taking that deeper, we found that the cause and effect equivalency was flawed. Then we could untie that knot, and undo the reactive response to my being frightened.
Anger was a cover. It was not my true feeling. As long as my true feeling was covered up by the anger, I couldn’t undo the problem. Furthermore, I externalized the cause of my problem to the other person and their not using their turn signal. As long as I was pointing my finger at someone else and getting angry, I couldn’t solve the issue. Every time somebody did something that frightened me, I would always get angry and point my finger at them.
Again, this behavior happening over and over every time somebody does something to flip our triggers is an unproductive, frustrating loop. Reacting to survival strategies is certainly not the same thing as dealing with the issue.
By digging deeper and deeper, I could find the truth beneath the survival strategy. I was hiding being afraid from myself. Anger was a safer emotion to have, because it didn’t feel as vulnerable as fear, and I had to avoid vulnerability because of the equivalency to death that I had created. Yes, that I had created. Why am I stressing that aspect? Because anything you create, is within your power to alter, edit, and re-create differently.
As long as we cover our true motivations with a more comfortable first choice, we obscure the way of solving the problem once and for all. Back to that uncomfortable aspect of digging in to what’s really driving us. As uncomfortable as owning the fear may have been, it allowed me to address and solve the issue. That won’t happen again, and isn’t that worth facing whatever you need to face and own?
If feeling imperfect is at the core of criticizing others, if feeling unworthy is at the core of people pleasing, if feeling not good enough is at the core of workaholism, if feeling broken is at the core of being sad and special, if feeling assaulted is at the core of detachment, if fear is at the core of proving you’re not, if feeling that everything will be taken from you is at the core of wanting everything, if anxiety over vulnerability is at the core of toughness, if feeling that nobody cares anyway is at the core of ignoring your own feelings and thoughts, you will most surely develop survival strategies that mask these (as they are just too awful to live with) and run you in circles.
The only way to un-mask the deep driving forces in your life is a ruthless questioning. Deeper and deeper, you must ask why until the core is exposed. Then you can actually deal with the real problem and stop messing around with symptoms. This may sound difficult and maybe painful, but it is rather like pulling off an adhesive tape. Once it’s done it’s done.
Doing this by yourself is possible. Working with someone who will have your best interests at heart can make this process much easier and more successful. Can you imagine your life without running over the same stuff over and over again? Can you picture yourself free of the treadmill once and for all? There’s a saying that says it all: ”the juice is worth the squeeze.”