I spend a lot of time asking why.
Why does my cat act the way she does?
Why do my kids do what they do?
Why can't I stop doing the things I shouldn't?
People tell me to stop asking. It doesn't matter why, they say. What matters is what comes next. Focus on the future, they say.
I get that. No sense dwelling in the past, for sure. But there are some very good reasons to ask why.
One is sheer curiousity about the world. If you stop wondering, then either you've ascended to a divine omnisicient state of being, or you've shriveled into vegetative dormancy. What's wrong with wondering what goes on in the mind of a feline behind those dilated pupils?
Another reason is more of a scientific, theory of causality, sort of thing. A get-your-head-out-of-the-sand sort of thing. If you understand what caused a problem in the past you might be able to avoid the recurrence. In other words, what parenting mistakes did I make with Number One that I can avoid or rectify with Numbers Two and Three?
And third, asking why is part of the process of retelling your story and ultimately having a deeper self-understanding. Reinekke Lengelle and Frans Meijers' article in the June 2009 edition of Journal of Poetry Therapy suggests four cognitive stages in retelling your story: sensing, sifting, focusing, and understanding. I like this.
I sense there are several reasons for choices I make or reactions I have. By asking why, I begin to sift through the layers of reasons until I find one that strikes a chord. I focus on that, spend some time with it, and eventually understand better why I made the choice I did. Why I lashed out at a loved one. Why I ate all that popcorn. Why I keep avoiding the novel I am supposedly writing.
Does understanding then lead to changed behavior? Maybe, maybe not. Does it lead to a heightened state of inner peace? I believe that sometimes it does.
Or does it drive you deeper into the pit of insanity? In other words, does asking why heal the wound or does it actually intensify the pain? I guess it could go either way.
And why, I wonder, might that be?
PS (One more why: why I can't get this blogpost to show breaks between my paragraphs?)