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When ‘why?’ is a dangerous question

When you experience a health issue, a challenging relationship, or a traumatic event, it is natural to ask “Why is this happening?” This can be a dangerous question.

There are two ways to ask the ‘why’ question. One is to ask: “why is this happening to me?” The other is: “why is this happening for me?”

The first one is, I believe, a potentially dangerous way of asking the question. It is coming from a place of being a victim, and looks to the external world for solutions to an internal problem. I hear people trying to make sense of their experiences by blaming their unhappy childhood, bad relationships, past lives, planetary alignments, genetics, poor nutrition, stress at work, lack of money and so on.  The act of blaming disempowers you by making your experience seem like it was visited upon you, and absolves you of any responsibility in it. It also suggests that all the solutions to your problem lie in doing something to change your external circumstances. Some changes are relatively easy to make if you believe the source of your distress is caused by your diet, exercise habits, or life style choices. These things you can change, and I think it’s wise to do so. But what if you blame your genes, your past, your gender, or the will of some Higher Being? How do you change these things? Blaming leaves you stuck.

It’s wiser to ask the question: “why is this happening for me?” This immediately posits your ‘challenge’ as a gift and sends your mind in the direction of uncovering all the ways in which your experience is serving you.

For example, when I first discovered a tumor in my breast a few years ago, my immediate reaction was panic! Why is this happening to me? It’s bad! It’s scary! I need to get rid of it! I spent the first few days doing all the positive thinking type exercises I had been taught to make the tumor go away. I did not see it as any sort of gift. It was, in my mind, a horrid aberration that needed to be exorcised from my body as quickly as possible.

None of that worked.

So I completely fell apart. At the height of my drama I had an inspiration to change how I viewed what was happening. I began to think in terms of “why was this happening for me?” What could its gifts possibly be? Armed with the knowledge that for every negative there is a simultaneous positive, I sank into my experience, excavating it for its nuggets of wisdom. In a matter of hours I had illuminated so much information about myself, my hidden priorities, my secret fears, the choices I was making and not making, the lop-sided beliefs that were running me and the subtle ways in which I was denying my deepest desires, that I had tears of gratitude streaming down my face for the tumor. In the moment of breaking through to seeing the hidden order in my so-called ‘disorder’ I no longer felt any desire to change it and, paradoxically, I knew everything would change.

Three months later the doctors were wondering what happened to make the tumor disappear.

Healing anything (your body, a relationships, a traumatic experience) requires (1) being willing to take responsibility for your experience and (2) having the courage to walk the counter-intuitive path of loving what is, just as it is, with no desire to change it. Studying its function holds the key to uncovering why it’s happening for you.

Try it.

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