Stress Relief: Asking The Wrong Questions (Part 1)

by Doc Orman, M.D.


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This week, I’m going to examine how the questions we ask ourselves in life relate to our stress.  Have you ever wondered about this?  Was that just a question?  Was it a good question?   A silly question?   A potentially empowering question? 

You see, questions are very, very important.  Why?  Because they direct our focus. And as we saw in last week’s three posts (Focus and Stress, Either/Or Thinking, Focus and Relationships), what we focus on, either automatically or by conscious intent, has a good deal to do with the amount of stress we end up with. 

Some Questions Are Better Than Others 

All questions are not of equal value.  Some are better than others.  Some can cause you to experience more problems and stress in your life.  Others can empower you and enable you to reduce the amount of stress you will have. 

Look at the following questions: 

  • What’s wrong with me?
  • Why are other people so much smarter than me?
  • Why are other people so much more successful and happy than me?
  • Why did I marry such a jerk?
  • Why are my kids so unwilling to communicate? 

Wow!  I’m feeling pretty bummed out just by writing these down.  I think it’s easy to see that these are all not very empowering questions.  They all tend to focus on negative perspectives.  And by focusing us in this way, they cause us to distort the truth about life. 

Now look at the following group of questions: 

  • Is there anything really wrong with me?
  • Are other people really smarter than me, and am I giving myself full credit for what I do know and have learned about life?
  • Are all those people who look much happier than me really all that happy inside?
  • Is my spouse really a jerk, or might the way I’m looking at my spouse by focusing exclusively on the “negatives” be part of the problem?
  • How could I change or improve the way I reach out to my kids so they will want to share more with me? 

The differences are rather striking, yes?  This is the awesome power of questions to focus our thinking (and subsequent feelings and actions) in life.  If you take a bunch of people who have high levels of stress and compare them to a group of similar folks who have low levels of stress, you’ll find that the individuals in these two groups routinely ask themselves very different types of questions. 

Questions Reveal Our Deeper Assumptions About Life 

You can tell a lot about a person’s philosophical beliefs by listening very carefully to the types of questions they ask.  This is because questions don’t arise out of thin air.  They come from our underlying assumptions and beliefs about life. 

Einstein once said that a very common mistake most scientists make is assuming that the way science advances is by first making observations about events in life, then asking questions about how these events might be related to other factors, and then finally conducting experiments to confirm or disconfirm these theorized relationships. 

Einstein said this is incorrect.  He said that first and foremost, all science starts with the assumptions, beliefs, and philosophies of the researcher.  This determines, in large part, what each individual is likely to notice/observe and also what questions will make sense for them to ask.   

Thus, all science is limited to only those questions that researchers in any era consider “legitimate” to ask.   

The “genius” most people attribute to Einstein was not due to his being so much smarter than other scientists who ever lived.  Rather, it was due to his willingness to ask certain questions that other scientists couldn’t even conceive of.  (NOTE: For an interesting article I wrote many years ago click here:  How Einstein Arrived At E=MC2) 

Questions You Ask Yourself About Stress 

In the next post, we’ll take a deeper look at how the questions you ask yourself about stress might be the most important factor of all in how much or how little stress you end up with.

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