Questions are the Search Engine for the Brain!
Have you ever felt, angry, stressed, overwhelmed, anxious, resentful, or annoyed, and noticed the sort of questions that tend to emanate from these states of mind? Were they something like, “How stupid can people be?” or “What is wrong with me?” or “Why does this always happen to me?” If so, have you also noticed that while understandable, these questions do little to solve the problem? In fact, most people say that they make the original negative situation seem worse!
These, my friends, are what I call “BS,” or brainstem questions, and the reason they make the situation seem worse is that they engage the lower, reactive brain (the brainstem) that is responsible for fight-or-flight. Given that simply complaining or feeling worse isn’t what we want, I suggest that we ask different questions, and I have four new ones I that believe can help.
The first one is simply, “What am I feeling?” The important thing here is to be able to name the emotion as a feeling, versus have it define who we are. In other words, when we say, “I am angry, frustrated, overwhelmed, depressed, etc.,” we are making a statement about who we are. On the other hand, when we describe an emotion as what we are feeling (I am feeling angry, frustrated, overwhelmed, depressed, etc.), this allows us to make it less about who we are, and more about just how we feel.
I love question two! “And, how long would I like to feel this way?” I’m guessing that this is a question few of us have asked, and yet, I love it because it puts us back in charge of at least some part of the process. In other words, we have the right to feel as badly as we want for a long as we want. Let’s just make sure that we have chosen how long we want this to be! A week? A day? An hour? Five minutes…how long?
Question three continues along the path of a solution by asking, “And how would I rather be feeling?” Or, “If I could choose how I was thinking and feeling while dealing with this situation, what would I choose… confident, creative, compassionate, clear…what?” I would add to this the value of imagining being this way so that you have a clear mental picture of what these states of mind look and feel like. This will have you triggering the same sort of chemicals (mostly serotonin and endorphins) that are triggered when we are actually being this way, which will go a long way to your feeling better.
The last question (question four), is another that I feel many of us never ask, and that is, “How important is my being able to shift to and sustain this new way of thinking and feeling?” In other words, given that we are not feeling angry, stressed, frustrated, etc., deliberately or on purpose, unless we are willing to make influencing our state of being really important, we will simply continue to react the way we have in the past.
In my “Life from the Top of the Mind” seminars and books, I call making this process of defining who we are in this more deliberate way a priority, our “Highest Purpose.” And, once again, the reasoning behind this has to do with how the brain processes information. In other words, given that the brain is always rewiring itself, or constantly creating new neural pathways, the more influential we are in the creation of these pathways the more influential we become in our life and in the lives of others.
Therefore, if, in the future, you find yourself feeling stressed, frustrated, angry, resentful, depressed, or any other feeling that isn’t serving you, I would encourage you to ask yourself four questions:
1. How am I feeling?
2. How long do I want to feel this way?
3. How would I rather be feeling (and what would this feel like)?
4. How important is this process to my happiness and success?
Because, until we learn to ask questions that are more about the solution versus the problem, we will forever be stuck in the “problem-focused” part of the brain.
~ All the best, Dr. Bill