July 4, 2020
“Part of being successful is about asking questions and listening to the answers.“
Anne Burrell, American chef
There have been nightly protests for several weeks in my former hometown of Portland, Oregon. Some of it peaceful, some of it not. When destruction and violence occur, I hear people ask: Why is this happening? Why are they doing this? Why isn’t someone stopping it? Why? Why? Why?
When we launch into “why thinking,” our stress level elevates. It’s because our minds start to spin, and churn, and make guesses that can mascaraed as truths. We’ll keep the treadmill going as the brain seeks an answer because why demands proof. Guess what? There really is no proof. There is no logical answer to why because there’s really no good reason why all of this destruction is happening. What to do?
Pause. Step back and take a deep breath. Allow your heart and brain to sync up. Then ask the same questions only thing time inserting WHAT instead of WHY.
WHAT is the destructive rioting about?
WHAT causes people to act out in such destructive ways?
WHAT needs to happen to de-stress the situation?
Here’s another example. Remember the hot pursuit of toilet paper at the beginning of the pandemic? I remember thinking, “Why are people hoarding toilet paper? I can think of a dozen things around my house that I could use of TP.” When I moved into “what thinking,” I soon had a better understanding. It’s amazing what you can find out after a few minutes of research.
Check out Bella DePaulo, Ph.D.
Other people are hoarding, unwittingly setting an example to be imitated.
Looters: Other people are doing it, so why not me? Why does it matter if I steal one thing or a dozen?
Images are suggesting scarcity.
Rioters: Empty store shelves imply that there’s not enough of something to go around. I will grab what I can.
People are worried and they want to do something.
Anarchists: I can’t sit home and do nothing. I must participate, even if its violent and destructive.
Then there’s the recent issues around racist labels, movies, songs, etc. A white woman friend told me that she thought that removing Aunt Jemima from syrup bottles was disrespectful of the woman’s image and her family. I asked a black woman friend what she thought. Stereotyping Aunt Jemima as a kitchen slave reminds her of her ancestry and it hurts.
When I heard that “Gone with the Wind” was pulled from TV I was shocked and saddened. How is it a part of the BLM healing movement? I’ve seen the movie probably a dozen times. I always saw it a tragic love story. When I watch it next time, because I will, I vow to see it with different eyes. Mine and the eyes of the slaves.
One recent night, when I was fed up with it all, I decided to watch “West Side Story” on TV. Something to take my mind off racism, white fragility, whys and whats. It wasn’t long into the movie that I realized it was a story about Puerto Rican immigrants unwelcomed by white gang members. Natalie Wood, as Maria, wore brown face makeup. I had to turn it off. As my black woman friend advised me, “…Once you open your eyes and start to see the world through my eyes, you can never turn back.”
My hope is that this will inspire you to catch your Why thinking. When you notice the spinning of whys, pause and wait. Then ask What is this about. At the very least, you’ll find a few moments of peace.