Is vs Why

Is vs Why

When we experience something unpleasant, it is common to ask ourselves why this is happening. Many forms of counselling ask this question.

Even if I identify that my experience now is because something happened in the past, I can’t change the past.

So a much more useful question is “what is”. Asking “what is this” keeps us in the present moment where this is actually happening now. It encourages us to cultivate a more nuanced and sensory appreciation of the unpleasant experience, which offers our cognitive functions more options in terms of how to respond.

But there is more. It encourages our cognitive function to loosen their grip on what something is. If I am anxious, then I know I am anxious. It doesn’t take me effort to know I am anxious. But it does generally stop me checking what constitutes that anxiety. The “anxiety” is actually our cognitive function labelling a rich (and surprisingly not always unpleasant) set of physical and emotional experiences. The more we ask “what is”, the more the word, e.g. “anxiety” ceases to be “true”, and the more it becomes a loose descriptor of a collection of other sensations and experiences. Again, allowing our cognitive function more options in terms of how to respond.

But this can go further. It is actually possible to see that this label of “anxiety”, or whatever label we use to describe our experience, no longer really fits the experience. And this realisation can itself be liberating.

This discovery is the real target and goal of the Odoki Method - helping people see sufficiently richly what is happening in their experience that the brain can’t but reinterpret the experience differently.

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