Tuesday, March 13, 2007

"Why?” Is an Important Question... But So Is the Contra-Question: "Why Not?"

In my 2003 pop-psych book, Living Life, Anyway, I suggest that the What? Where? When? and How? questions in life at times pale in the face of the typically tougher question: Why? (This is especially true when a tragedy occurs… as in “Why me?”)

One of the vignettes in my recently published pop-psych book, Mom and Dad’s Pearls of Wisdom… You Gotta Love ’Em, specifically talks about “Asking Why?” I herewith will share it with you:

Asking Why

Although my father never finished the tenth grade, there were numerous times when it seemed as though he had a Ph.D. in “common sense and wisdom.” When I was beginning my sophomore year of college, I consulted my academic advisor about what my major should be. The following weekend, at home during a visit with my parents, I was relaying to my father the fine points of the discussion.
“My advisor said to me, ‘Your test scores indicate that you have a variety of interests and the intelligence for graduate school. Your weakest area, however, is English. Since you want to be a teacher, I suggest you major in your weakest area as preparation for both graduate school and your career as a teacher.’ Dad, he thinks I should double-major in English and education.”
“Is that what you want to do?” my father asked.
“I think so, Dad, but I’m still struggling with the question of ‘Why?’”
“Son, what I know about college you could put in a thimble and still have enough room for your finger. But maybe you also need to ask yourself the ‘other question.’”
“And that is…?”
His response:

Whenever you’re struggling with a decision,
it’s good to ask, “Why?”
But sometimes it’s also important to ask, “Why not?”

As you can see, my dad taught me the importance of what I refer to in my self-help book, Adult Loving Relationships, as the contra-question the asking of why not. My experience has been that both of these questions – Why? and Why not? – are equally important.

Question: Has the asking of the "Why not?" contra-question ever been particularly helpful to you?



DH said...

I almost always ask myself that question. Then, I ask why not? And even if I don't like it (whatever it might be) one little bit, I remind myself of "God never gives us more than we can handle". Take a deep breath and...Well...I have to be flattered that God is giving me the challenge of handling the situation. It's nice living as an optimist:) DH

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hello DH,
Thanks for adding to this interesting problem-solving scenario. In interestingly, at lunch today I was talking with some friends about this Post and one of them said what you said, “God never gives me more than I can handle. But I guess asking the contra-question still is a good idea.” One of my other buddies then said to him, “God also gave you a brain – use it to its maximum potential. Yes, ask yourself, and use, the contra-question.”
Thanks again, DH,

Kelly (Lynn) Parra said...

I usually find myself saying, why not, all the time and yep, sometimes it gets me going to do things I might just ignore. haha!

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi Kelly,
I agree and have had similar experiences -- the contra-question not only can keep us form doing things we regret having done, but also doing things we are glad we did (both adding to our quality of life).
'til next time,

Anonymous said...

I've noticed the question "Why Not" usually involves something really fun. Some examples in my life have been decisions to skydive, buy a boat, go to the beach on a school day, and take my wife out to a dinner we probably couldn't afford. I think you have to give in to this side every now and then just to remember you're alive.

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hello Macanole,
Thanks for your excellent point (as usual).
Interestingly, per your last observation, "I think you have to give in to this side every now and then just to remember you're alive," in my pop-psych book, "Living Life, Anyway," I make the statement, "Life is more than just the absence of death."
Yeah, I hear ya... bon appetite,