Personal, Uncategorized

The Tyranny of Why

In one of Doug’s recent personal coaching classes, his classmates gave him the title of “Yoda” because of his gift of wisdom.

Yoda, the renowned Jedi master in the Star Wars universe, trained Luke Skywalker in the ways of the Jedi.

In our house, I am Luke Skywalker trying to glean knowledge and insight from Yoda, my Jedi master.

I want him to share his positive psychology and personal coaching skills with me.

When I tell him that, he says it’s hard to counsel and coach your family.

I don’t understand this, and continue to pester him to at least try.

I want to tap into his well of wisdom. I want him to answer all my troubling questions that start with the word “why.”

One night as we were going to bed I rattled off a list of “why” questions and waited for him to share his wisdom with me.

Instead, he looked at me and said, “We need to get to bed. I have an early flight in the morning.”

“But what about all my questions and all that Yoda wisdom I want you to share?”


He had already fallen asleep.

I was left alone to ponder my “why” questions long into the night.

The next day while waiting to board his flight, he called and said, “We need to discuss the tyranny of why.”

That one phrase was the stroke of genius I needed.  Why didn’t I consider the “tyranny of why” and why didn’t I come up with that beautiful phrase?

(Check out that irony…I still can’t move past why.  Why didn’t I think of that? Why didn’t I realize I was asking unanswerable questions?)

When my dad suddenly died of a heart attack, and when I was diagnosed with cancer, and at many other times in my life, I got stuck on the question why — like a needle stuck on an old record album, repeating the same sound over and over.  Then I realized those questions were tormenting me and leading me nowhere.

There were no valid answers that would give me the peace I needed. Those questions were holding me back and preventing me from healing and carrying on with my life.

I started rephrasing my questions, starting with the word, “how.”

How can I learn from this? How can I improve? How can I develop more faith, compassion and understanding?

That recognition transformed my thinking, which changed my responses.

So when Doug reminded me of the futility of why, I started reframing some of the questions I’ve been asking.

I don’t know why some things don’t go according to plan. I don’t know why we feel prompted to make certain decisions and then end up disappointed because the decision didn’t lead to what we wanted. I don’t know why people I love have to hurt.

But, asking all those unanswerable questions will never lead me or anyone to a healthy, healing path.

When we get stuck asking “why,” we become like obsessed dogs chasing our tails and making ourselves so dizzy that we fall down and collapse, ending up worse off than we were before the hopeless, useless chase.

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Sometimes there simply are no answers that will wrap everything up into neat, understandable packages. Sometimes we just have to wait for the beautiful, slow gifts of healing and perspective to settle over us and finally give us the peace and perspective we crave.

In the meantime, it’s nice to remember the Yoda wisdom about the “tyranny of why.”

1 thought on “The Tyranny of Why”

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