The question “Why?” may be helpful when dealing with mechanical, scientific, medical, and math problems, but it can create a huge distraction and delay when you are dealing with an interpersonal conflict in your marriage, family, friendships, or work situation, or any personal issue that has an emotional component to it. In other words, if you are confronted with a situation in which you are feeling annoyed, anxious, or otherwise irritated, asking “Why is this happening?” or “Why did you do that?” will be of little or no help to you in coming to a happy and peaceful resolution to the issue at hand.
To understand why “why” actually leads you away from the happiness and peace you desire in your life, you may want to look at the purpose of personal and interpersonal problems. Without thinking about the following statement, ask your heart if it has the ring of Truth to it:
The purpose of all personal problems is to help you grow toward emotional adulthood AND/OR to support you to grow in awareness of who you truly are.
I intentionally wrote the word “purpose” and not “reason” in that sentence, because, for me, purpose captures the spirit of the event, whereas reason tends to engage intellectual rationalizations and philosophy. Why is this important? Because personal issues deal primarily with feelings, and the intellectual mind cannot feel!
The above is a diagram that outlines where different experiences take place in your body. When you’re confronted with a personal problem, your vulnerability becomes more noticeable because the problem seems to trigger an old fear, hurt, or guilt. Like most human beings, you will likely react to the emotional discomfort with anger, and reject the feelings, treating them as threats or enemies. You will then attempt to stay in your anger, or turn to your intellect in order to dissociate from the discomfort and even deny its existence if possible. “I’m not hurt; I just don’t understand why you did that!”
We think that we can resolve or conquer a problem if we understand why it exists, following where the question “why” leads us, but in my experience it just leads us to more whys. Looking for the reason takes us into a maze of speculation. Exploring the purpose guides us to direct experience.
Why does a mango exist? Well, if you have a few hours we can discuss evolution or religion.
What is the purpose of a mango? Taste it! Experience it! That is its purpose.
Why do I have this relationship problem? There are entire fields of study that were created to answer that question, such as psychology, psychiatry, and religion.
What is the purpose of this relationship problem? Well, if you don’t give in to the compulsion to reject it and if you accept the problem exactly as it is, you will experience discomfort. If you bring your awareness to that discomfort, you can quietly observe it and enter the now. A number of possible experiences await you, all peaceful and pleasant:
- You might penetrate the “appearance” of the feeling and see the mysteriously perfect power that allows it to exist.
- You might simply relax and watch the feeling pass through your awareness, like watching a cloud traverse the sky.
- You might relax into the feeling and touch the joyful presence of your essential being, where all your creativity, talent, and genius originates.
You might choose one of those experiences, or simply relax in acceptance, and let the process take you where it will. Wherever it takes you, you can experience true, unconditional happiness, every step of the way.
When the purpose of the problem is fulfilled, it will pass away.
And you will probably never really know why it was there.