Get to Know Yourself: The ‘Wonder Why Why’ Method
“Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.”
How much do you know yourself? How much do you know about your real motives underneath your life decisions? What is really underneath that feeling of anger, frustration, dread, responsibility, guilt, low energy, and so on? The true answer is nowhere else but within you.
This simple yet powerful process helps you see more of the truth of the situation by getting to know yourself in a deeper and more direct manner. Below I’ll also provide two examples; one to do with the truth underneath one person’s wanting to lose weight, and the other example is about what might be underneath one’s resolution to make more money.
Although facing the truth is not attractive at first, the longer one follows it, the sweeter it becomes”
~Rumi (Fihi Ma Fihi or Discourses of Rumi)
You start by asking yourself a ‘Why’ question about a decision you have to make, or perhaps about the mood you are in lately which you do not like, or maybe ask why you have picked a certain New Year’s resolution. Then ask another ‘Why’ to question your earlier response and so on. In parallel, you should be aware of your thoughts, emotions, feelings, and bodily sensations as you answer each level of the whys.
Keep your inquiry open and open-ended. Open means being mindful to let go of your assumptions and beliefs. Do not set goals or anticipate any outcomes (e.g. I want happiness, or clarity, or being a better person, …) Do not judge any responses that may arise. Open-ended means that this is a never-ending lifetime practice. Even within a session of Wonder Why Why, you should not stop your self-inquiry if there is still insight arising.
- Close your eyes, relax and take a few calm and deep breaths.
- Try sensing your body, particularly your arms and legs without forcing anything or judging yourself.
- Try to visualise working on your resolution as vividly as you are able to. Then ask yourself why you picked this, why you want to achieve this or change something. Be candid and honest with your answers. (If you don’t have a resolution, just tune into your present state; what you might be thinking, feeling, sensing).
- If you feel you are not very good at visualising abstract ideas, you may do a test run of your resolution and gradually work on it while using this process as a monitoring tool as you go along.
- Guided by your response, keep asking yourself follow up questions. Try to remain open and spontaneous rather than railing and controlling the next question.
- While responding try and stay self-aware; observe your thoughts, feelings emotions and bodily sensations as they arise.
- Ask yourself “What am I feeling right now in this moment?” If you cannot clearly tell how you feel then try and see which one of these primary emotions describe your state best: do you feel sad, mad, glad or scared? (See also Knowing how you feel can be your saviour.)
- Why have I picked losing weight as my New Year’s resolution?
- Because I feel miserable the way I look.
- Why do I feel miserable about my looks?
- Because I don’t like myself (contraction in the chest or throat, sadness, feeling lonely, sad and small,…)
- Why don’t I like myself and what is this contraction about?
- Feels like it’s because of my friends and relatives; in fact all people around me; judge me by my looks, size and body shape. My self-worth seems to be dependent on how I look! (Staying with the contractions, you feel the heat in your chest/face/forehead, anger is here now…)
- Why is my self-worth dependant on others, what’s this anger about?
- It feels dependent on others because of XYZ… (I’m kind of feeling guilty now)
- Why XYZ and what’s this feeling guilty about? Keep breathing and remain self-aware…
- Umm, the fog seems to have lifted and I see a little bit clearer now how my feeling guilty because of XYZ is underneath my resolution to lose weight!
Perhaps a more truthful resolution for you is to be compassionate towards yourself and more accepting of your physical shape regardless of what others think of you. You might be surprised that through self-compassion you might even start eating a little healthier and even exercise more often without it being a chore!
- Why am I resolving to make more money next year?
- Well, to pay off some of my accumulating debt. That surely must be a good thing.
- Why have I accumulated so much debt anyway? (feeling a bit defensive, wanting to stop the inquiry, body getting stiff)
- Well anyone half blind can see that with my income and the high costs of living, I cannot maintain my deserved lifestyle. I tried hard not to but I ended up having to get a loan and then rack up my credit card too. (starting to feel sorry and victimised, a bit of anxiety and shaking is around …)
- Why do I have to maintain this so-called “deserved” lifestyle anyway? Why can’t I live within my means?
- I don’t know, but it feels like my self-esteem is at stake here. Well, I must keep my circle of friends, to belong, to socialise. No kidding, to do that I must maintain this lifestyle, mustn’t I? (Doubts arise and cracks appear in your solid belief about your “deserved” lifestyle. You feel some spaciousness inside, a hint of relaxation and joy is here. You like it very much and want to hold on to it. Space is closed and joy is gone)
- Why did I enjoy my moment of doubt? Why did I lose the joyful space? (You feel a kind of deep anxiety; it feels like a lost child who is separated from his parents in a crowd. You quickly shore yourself up and dismiss the doubt, the pain feels too much to bear)
- Why am I not prepared to go deeper with this? What’s the nature of this feeling of being lost and needing people around me at any cost?
- … I see …
In this example, probably a more truthful resolution for you could be to reduce your costs rather than making more money next year. You can go about this by accepting yourself and loving who you actually are without having to maintain a certain lifestyle just to have people around you, approving you, protecting you. Of course you must consider the realities of the economy and job market too.
These examples are necessarily simplistic scenarios but they should help demonstrate the ‘Wonder Why Why’ process. In this manner, you can begin to see for yourself that perhaps the driver behind your decisions might be a feeling of guilt or a lack of mirroring and approval by your parents and so on. You’ll get to know yourself at a deeper and more intimate level. You can begin to love and accept yourself just the way you are while also working on improving your life situation.
I originally wrote this in relation to “New Year’s Resolutions”, but it is a useful general self-inquiry process