If someone said to me: Let’s say you are stranded on a deserted island and can only take one tool for your emotional and mental well-being, what would you take?
I would say, You mean in addition to the one food, the one book and the one person I’ve already been asked to pick?
They would say, Yes.
Then I would say, I would take with me the tool of Questioning, sometimes known as Inquiry. Then I would sneak on Observation when no one was looking because Observing doesn’t take up much space.
Questioning comes right after Observing, both of which serve Distancing or Disidentification.
The Questioning I’m talking about comes from a state of curiosity, not judgment.
We aren’t asking ourselves what the hell is wrong with us. We are asking ourselves questions to gain more understanding, insight, distance, and clarity.
Sometimes the Questioning leads to acceptance, new ideas, new perspectives, or compassion for ourselves or other people. Sometimes the answers lead to more questions. Sometimes the Questions don’t seem to have answers.
Here are some I use a lot: (BTW, these kinds of questions are often easier to answer by writing or talking to someone else.)
- What would it be like if I knew the truth in this situation?
- If I gather up all the fear/shame/judgment and put it all aside, just for the briefest of moments, what’s left? How do I feel about the situation if there’s no fear/shame/judgment? (You are welcome to allow the fear/shame/judgment back in any time, just move it out of your way for a sec so you can answer the question.)
- What if it were true that something bad might happen/I don’t matter/no one supports me? What then?
- What do I really want out of this situation? Not what I’ve been telling myself I want, but what do I really want underneath it all?
- What’s the difference between what my ego believes about this situation and what my higher self/true self knows?
One last thought. This isn’t meant to be an exercise of constant and neurotic self-examination. It’s meant as a tool to use when you think about it. You can ask yourself these questions and ones like them in positive, negative or neutral moments. They don’t take long if you ask them on the run, but you can spend more time with them if you want a friend to help you with something bothersome. It can be quite illuminating if you can train a friend to just ask you questions without trying to fix the situation. Takes the pressure off our friends too.
One last question for you—what is it like to try questioning yourself like this?