Dr Bev Smallwood

Articles Library: Coping

Endless Why's Are Not Wise

It wasn’t supposed to happen…but it did. It’s not the way you planned it or dreamed it…but it is what it is. You want to know … WHY?

Why the Endless Questions

After you go through the unexpected unthinkable, it’s natural to want to understand what happened. It feels as though having the answers you crave will bring some kind of relief, give you that ever-elusive “closure.” Here are a few of the dozens of questions that cry out for answers:

  • Why did this have to happen?
  • Why did it happen to me?
  • Why did he/she do this?
  • Why didn’t I see it coming?
  • What did I do to deserve this?
  • What if…?

The inability to comprehend what really happened does raise your level of anxiety. So you ask the questions over and over again…to yourself, to God, to friends, to the coffee table, to whomever will listen.

So “why” does this questioning happen? I believe there are three primary reasons.

1. You believe that by knowing the answers you will regain some kind of control

When adversity hits you broadside, it sends you reeling. After all, this isn’t what you had planned at all. In fact, it violates almost anything you could have imagined in your worst nightmares. You feel powerless.

You’ve heard the saying, “Information is power.” You feel instinctually that if you can just have all the information, you’ll get back some kind of control over the situation. You will be disappointed if you feel that finding all the answers will totally relieve your sense of powerlessness when your whole world has been shaken. Because you don’t find relief from the initial information you uncover, your quest for answers can become obsessive. Unfortunately, some questions are unanswerable in this life. That’s tough to swallow.

2. You unconsciously believe that knowing all the reasons will allow you to rewrite the ending

It had been some eight months since the fatal morning that would redefine Shari’s world. It had been a perfect, clear morning for their daily 6:00 A.M. walk. As usual, Shari and her walking partner of six years donned reflective safety gear. They’d chatted and laughed as they always did. When they turned onto the final street, Shari walked on the inside while her buddy walked closest to the road. Without warning, there was a screeching, horrific sound. In an instant, the unspeakable happened before her eyes. Her friend was hit, thrown into the air and onto the top of the car that had careened around the corner. He died almost instantly.

Shari wrestled with the questions. Why didn’t the woman see them? Was she on a cell phone or putting on makeup? What if she herself hadn’t gone back in the house to get something just before she left? Would that three minutes have made the difference? Would her friend have been hit if they had not been in that exact spot at that time? Why him? He was such a good man, a kind man. Why didn’t we hear the car coming? Maybe we could have gotten out of the way.

Can you see what Shari is searching for in her questions? She’s trying somehow to make the situation turn out differently. But it can’t. What happened, happened. No amount of imaginary revision of the scene will change it.

You search for answers to protect yourself in the future

This is actually a good reason to search for answers, provided you keep your response in balance. You want to know how you can make the world safer for yourself and those you love. That’s a normal response. However, if you’re not careful, you can get stuck in the unanswerable, or you can become so overprotective that you severely limit your life.

Do you have to have those answers to move on?

Let’s dig just a little deeper and examine three reasons to let go of your obsessive questioning.

1. You get into "analysis paralysis"

You will be especially prone to this danger if your personality tends toward perfectionism, details and control. Each new bit of information you uncover convinces you that there is so much more to discover. So the quest continues. This takes you away from the focus on what you can do today to inch forward.

Relationships Deteriorate When You Incessantly Question

I’ve seen this one played out hundreds of times as I have worked with clients struggling to get over a hurt or betrayal perpetrated by someone they trusted. Discovered affairs, for instance, are prime emotional territory for questions like this, asked broken record.

  • How could you do this to me?
  • Why did you do it?
  • Who are you, anyway? I thought I knew you.

Watch for these signs that questioning is heaping unnecessary harm on a relationship you’re trying to salvage.

  • When you’ve asked the same question over and over, and you’re not getting any new or helpful information;
  • When the question/answer process is only making both of you more frustrated and angry;
  • When you become aware that the motive behind your repetitive questioning is more punitive than redemptive.

3. You become more frustrated as you continue to search for answers that are permanently unavailable

“But I should be able to find that out.” That just may not be possible. And if your search is wasting valuable recovery time, it’s not worth it. Frustration easily turns into anger, and anger easily hardens into bitterness. Does this sound like it’s going in a good direction?

Is it time to let go of why’s, instead dealing with WHAT you will do today with what you have and HOW you will do it?

Dr. Bev Smallwood is a psychologist and professional speaker who is the author of “This Wasn’t Supposed to Happen to Me.” Visit her website, www.DrBevSmallwood.com; or contact Bev at 601.264.0890 or by email, Bev@DrBevSmallwood.com. Also connect with Bev on Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and her blogs, Shrink Rap and New Morning Devotionals.

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