Monday, April 18, 2016

Meditation Monday: The Toxic “What if?”

By Nancy Hall, MA, NCC, LPC
In an effort to take the “manic” out of “Monday,” this weekly post explores techniques, issues, latest research, and other thoughts on meditation. Nancy facilitates two weekly meditation groups at The Awakening Center. For more information, contact her at 773.929.6262, extension 17 or

When my son was little, he was full of questions. Most of them started with “What if?” “What if dinosaurs could be brought back to life?” “What if trucks could fly?” “What if dogs could talk?” He asked these types of questions so often that the “What if?” became “Whuf?” “Whuf it snows tomorrow?” “Whuf worms had ears?”

I loved his unending sense of curiosity and wonder. As adults, we’re often inclined to ask our own “What if?” questions. But much of the time, we’re less curious and more worried or even accusatory. “What if I eat that cookie and can’t stop?” “What if I get fat?” “What if I am unlovable?”

Whereas my son’s “Whuf?” questions seemed contained and information driven (do worms actually have ears?), our “What ifs?” are more sinister. We don’t seem to be seeking an answer. Instead we’re going down the rabbit hole that gets darker and darker.

When a client starts down this path, I like to stop and actually try to answer the question. What if you can’t stop eating cookies? What does that really mean? Do you mean you might eat 2 instead of your carefully allotted 1? Who says you’re allowed only 1? What if you’re hungry for 2?

Or do you mean you’ll eat the whole package if you allow yourself just 1? If so, there is something to be explored there. No crime. Nothing to feel guilty about. But a signifier that pain is present. Does eating the package of cookies provide distraction from emotional suffering?

By answering the “What if?” question, we can get to the root of the fear that triggers the next “What if?”

The toxic “What ifs?” are usually asked by one of our Parts—the Bully who is preparing you for the worst-case scenario. Or the Exile who is simply terrified. But through the compassion and curiosity of Self, you will most likely find that the answer to the “What if?” is not nearly as scary as you thought.

Enjoy your practice.

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