the door to wisdom

According to the Irish proverb Doras feasa fiafraí, the door to wisdom is asking. And sure, how do you get an answer if you don’t ask the question? And that’s not a zen koan, that’s an immediacy that needs to be comprehended right now, not pondered until a mystical revelation manifests. There is no ambiguity in this proverb – ask.  Make it happen! 

Ok, there is a touch of Matthew 7:7 to it – ‘Ask and you shall receive’ but there is also the straight forward logic of to discover you must explore. It is not just knocking on the door, its going through it. Often it is ourselves we need to ask or question – the important enquiry is within.

Some people may eventually get an epiphany, after years of unchallenged torture and unquestioned stress. A realisation may just occur one day, out of the blue and it all make sense but sometimes a simple ‘What the hell is going on?  Or ‘Why am I here again’ is the door out of your particular hell. Because that first why, generally begs the question of what can be done about it?

Of course, not all questions are to be asked of yourself, but those ones mostly bring forth the answers as to solving the problem of why you are depressed, anxious, repeating unhelpful behaviour, being too raw or too numb to function at a level you wish you could etc etc. Some questions are for others; perhaps that’s to another whom has gone through similar experiences and can give you some good guidance, perhaps that’s to your doctor about a meds review or notes on what else you can do, perhaps that’s a why to a perpetrator from your past or one in your present.

Sometimes the answers will unlock doors, sometimes you won’t like the answers that you might hear but even the asking alone is enough to rattle the hinges, to free you from the cage of uncertainty, silence or reticence to move on. There is no onus on a perpetrator to tell you the truth or to not try mess with you further and apportion blame back at you. Sometimes just witnessing that one more lie is enough for you to go live your own truth and cut them totally out of your narrative. Sometimes the answer is that there is no satisfaction here, no need to waste more time or energy. That’s golden wisdom.

Exercise. The Socratic method

This proverb always reminds me of the Greek philosopher Socrates (470 BC – 399 BC) and his attributed quote of “The unexamined life is not worth living” and of the  Socratic Method of examining and challenging assumptions in the search for truth and justice which is not a million miles away from challenging assumptions in cognitive behavioural therapy which gets you to a life worth living.   The Socratic method aka Socratic questioning is a way of challenging philosophical, ethical, legal and even moral assumptions by probing why is it so. ‘Why is it so’ is a very effective CBT tool to challenge thoughts and behaviours and help gain insight as well as examine a means of cognitive restructuring through the insight.

The way to question a thought/assumption is to be methodical. It is not a single ask, but a series of questions – a proper investigation. We are seeking to prove it right or wrong by examining its origins and its validity.

  1. Is this thought/assumption actually realistic? This is the opening gambit it leads to the next enquiry
  2. Am I basing this thought/opinion on validated facts or upon feelings?
  3. What is the evidence for accuracy/trueness of this thought/assumption/feeling?
  4. Could I be misinterpreting the evidence, or asserting it without basis?
  5. Is this a flawed opinion or invalidated logic?
  6. Could I be viewing the situation as black and white, when really its more nuanced or complicated?
  7. Is there another way to view the situation?
  8. Have I been having these thoughts/assumptions out of habit or by a personal prejudice?
  9. Is the thought/assumption still as realistic as when I first questioned it?
  10. What use is it to me if it is wrong, inaccurate, harmful or wasting my time with repetitively?

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