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How “why” can hurt us

I recently worked on a CE course that discussed stress and the nature of stress. According to this course, one of the types of stress that people experience is called “psychological stress”. This type of stress is largely internal- you know, the chatting of the brain, the mental turmoil and strife that people experience. One of the coping mechanisms that the speaker suggested to people who suffer from psychological stress is to stop asking “why”.

Now, this doesn’t mean to stop asking questions. In fact, the speaker also listed that maintaining a healthy sense of curiosity (and thereby asking questions) is also useful for coping and leading a happy, less stressed life.

But what she means is specifically- to not ask people, or yourself, “why”. Such examples would be:

  • Why are you doing that?
  • Why are you late?
  • Why can’t you do this properly?
  • Why do I constantly fall short?
  • Why did I eat a whole pie in one sitting?

When you start a question with the word “Why” you instantly make the person that you are addressing defensive. This is because the question comes from an angle that the person has to defend their actions and it invalidates their choices all in one blow. This is equally true when you ask your parent or kid “why” as when you ask yourself “why”.

So why am I bringing up asking why? Because I think there are two lessons to be learned from this concept. The first stems within ourselves, the second involves how we interact with other people within our community (because, you know- I’m a boat paddler and everything comes back to community).

Let’s first address ourselves- the practitioners who actually make up the community of Kemetics.

As can be seen by a variety of posts over the years, many of us feel inadequate. And this inadequacy seems to not be a Kemetic-only phenomena- lots of Pagans and polytheists that I’ve met feel like they aren’t doing a good enough job. Because we feel inadequate, we start to ask questions of ourselves, “why can’t I get it right?” “why am I no good at doing this?”. These types of questions instantly invalidates our actions and choices and reinforces that we are being overly critical of our actions and choices which leads to a cycle of self-depreciation and usually lands us into a fallow period or depression and anxiety (or all three).

It’s not a good place to be, and its not helpful for any of us.

So how do we combat the “why”?

According to the speaker, you need to rephrase your questions. Asking “why” shuts down all possibilities and opportunities to really reflect and grow from the situation. “Why” is merely criticizing the actions and nothing further. Instead, make use of other active words such as “who, what, when, where and how”.

For example, instead of asking “Why can’t I get it right”, perhaps ask yourself “What is it about this situation that I might not be doing as well as I could?” and from there “What actions could I take to better the situation that I find myself in?”

Instead of “Why can’t I hear the gods?” try “What methods could I try to hear the gods?” or “What other parts of my practice could I focus on instead?”.

Or perhaps instead of “Why does my practice suck?” try “How could I expand my current practice” or “What about my current practice makes me feel so unhappy? How could I change that? What could cause me to feel that way?”

By removing the “why”, you are being kind to yourself and allowing yourself to be okay with your decisions and choices. You’re not making subconscious judgement calls on how you do things, and it allows you to reflect in a safe manner on where you are currently at with your situation and emotions. I think it’s a very useful tool for all of us with problems with self-depreciation.

I also think that this could translate into how we talk to others within the community. By being aware of how we phrase our questions and how those questions effect us (and others) on a subconscious level can allow us to use language that opens up avenues for discourse as opposed to instantly shutting down a conversation for being “too harsh” in your language.

So when someone pops up with some random fact about Aset being the Mother, Maiden and Crone- instead of saying “why on earth would you think that?” ask them instead “Where did you read about that? Do you remember the book or website you got it from?” That way, the person will hopefully remain more open to discussion and perhaps both sides can learn a little bit of something from one another.

Perhaps if we were to work on how we use ‘why’- both on a singular personal level and on an interfaith community level- we could all be a little bit happier.

 

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Overwhelm

I don’t know if you know this about me, but I am tired. All the time. I wake up tired, I go to bed tired. I spend most of my day tired. It’s pretty much a way of life for me. And due to all of this tiredness, I spend a lot of my time in a daze. I find it hard to follow conversations. It’s hard to read. Hard to think. It’s a wonder I get anything done because I’m always so damned tired.

We discussed this a bit in therapy last week. More precisely, we discussed how I feel overwhelmed. Like I have too much to do, and too little time to do it in. How I feel like I’m always running, and I stop briefly to sleep, only to wake up running again. This isn’t a new problem for me. It’s something that has been going on since high school, or maybe even earlier. This constant motion. This constant feeling of exhaustion.

For many years, I thought that my exhaustion was laziness. In fact, not too long ago I told my SO that deep down I was lazy. Yes, there are things I want to do, but I really am lazy deep down, because I don’t want to do them. I force myself to do things, but I’d rather do nothing at all.

Because I’m so lazy.

And for a couple of weeks, it became a joke. I’m so lazy, ha ha ha. I don’t want to do this, I really don’t have the motivation to do that, either. I’m so lazy. But then one day, I heard a response from who knows where. Whoever or whatever it was told me “You are not lazy. You are exhausted.” I then got the distinct feeling that I was not to refer to myself as lazy again, for fear that some lightning bolt would come down from the sky and kill me on the spot.

After my discussion with my therapist this past weekend, I am believing more and more that I am not lazy. I am exhausted. And now I need to fix that.

The conversation started with me talking about how I’m overwhelmed. I spend my mornings rushing to get ready so I can rush to get into traffic. I then rush from my car to my office so that I can hurry up and get on with my daily tasks. Once the day is over, I hurry up and rush over to pick people up and rush home to try and get everything else I want to do in. Dinner. Chores. Hobbies. Other crap I need to do. And then I have to hurry up and go to bed so that I can do it all over again the next day.

She looked at me and more or less said that I have bad time management. I want to fit all of my 10 hobbies into an evening, every evening, and that doesn’t work. That I want to do 5 things at once, and I can’t (or shouldn’t). But the real crux of everything is that I feel like I have to do these things. Really, on any given day, I have a few tasks I need to get done at night. They involve eating (she wouldn’t let me skip this), cleaning up, showering, and sleeping. Surely I can get that done in my 4-5 hour window after work, right?

Well of course I could. But then I’d rag and nag on myself about how I didn’t get this done. I didn’t do that. Oh I forgot I need to get this thing done, too. I have such a long laundry list of things do to, I’m mentally killing myself because I’m not doing it all all the time. It’s like I can’t stand myself if I’m not being productive 24/7. My expectations of myself are too high.

The more I thought about that, the more I see it in some of my family members. My grandmother never let me laze around in the middle of summer. Oh sure, I’d try. But she’d nag on me until I got up and did something. She’d make watching tv miserable. And god forbid you watch something ‘stupid’ like cartoons. Perhaps that’s where the trend started. Perhaps it’s engrained into our very society to always be moving forward. It’s like a badge of honor to work 80 hours a week in the US. It’s almost a crime if we’re not constantly trying to move up the ladder – or cutting ourselves off at the knees.

My homework this time around was to get another journal (heh) and monitor my thoughts – specifically starting after I get off work. Notice how many times my brain says “you need to do this, you need to do that”. To notice my laundry list and how it grows. When I get home, I should make a list of what I HAVE to do (sleep, eat, etc) and what I WANT to do (read, sew, blog, surf, save the world). Then, I am to monitor my energy levels (from 1 – 5) and see if I have the energy to do anything, or if I should do the bare bones and go to bed. From there, I need to write down what I have actually done. In the end, this is supposed to help me do less, to monitor my time better, and to really keep track of where I am at.

So far, it seems to be helping. I’m not sure if it’s the journal that’s helping, or the fact that my therapist is more or less holding me accountable. In the past two days since therapy, I have done significantly less in the evenings, and I’ve managed to go to bed before 9 both nights. She told me that if she had to make me do nothing in order to help me balance out my evenings and my energy, then so be it. So far, I feel like I’ve not accomplished much, and I’m noticing how quickly time disappears with just one task. It’s no wonder I felt like I was rushing. However, I know that this issue with take a while to right itself. This isn’t something that will change in a week.

This week’s hypnosis wasn’t much. You were to start at the top of a 10 story building. This building was the “building of relaxation”. You then hopped in an elevator and rode down into the basement. When the doors opened, you were to walk down this hall as things were read off to you. The hall was pretty dimly lit. There was a row of lights in the center of the ceiling, but nothing more. Part way through, it became a challenge to focus on the hallway anymore.

We did another blessing. The vision wasn’t as potent this time. My therapist believes that it’s a vision of a past life where one parent was mentally absent (aka paid no attn to me) and the other was attentive while home, but spent a lot of time away from home at work. That the place is full of sadness and I spent most of my time on the porch watching for my father to come home. She feels that the emotions that are present in that vision (and were present in that lifetime) are tied to my want to constantly be moving. That on a subconscious level, I feel those emotions, and when I do nothing, they start to poke through. Therefore, to drown that out, I do stuff.

On some levels that makes sense. I guess I’ll have to see how things change with that vision as I continue to progress.

Stepping back has been challenging for me already. However, I look forward to the ability to have more energy and to feel like I’m actually awake in my daily life, instead of always being in a haze.

 
 

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