Understanding “Why?”

The “Why” Question . . . Why is it so Devastating?

Since childhood, all of us have been fascinated with “why?”  Remember the questions you asked as a child, and those asked of you now by your children or those you are close to: “Why is the sky blue?”  “Why is milk white and not chocolate?”  “Why can’t I have that toy?”  The inquisitiveness of “why” is fun in children but may become difficult for adults during conflict or in relationships.

There is a part of our being that feels like if we know “why” something happened or someone said something, “instant logic” will appear and we will find a sense of peace and calm.  On the other hand, when we cannot know “why” it may drive anxiety, anger, and fear.

When upset with another, the “why question” often leads nowhere.  “Why did you speak to me that way?”  Even if the person has a response, it is often not the one we want to hear and opens further conflict.  When there is no answer to “why”, we remain frustrated – with the person and the situation.  Worst of all, to be asked “why” places the person being asked on the defensive, which may cause them to avoid further discussion or to evade the “why question” altogether.

A Better Option . . .

When frustrating moments arise in relationships and we find ourselves confused and overwhelmed, consider another response rather than “why?”

“Help me understand . . .”

  • Help me understand your feelings.
  • Help me understand how this situation happened.
  • Help me understand what you need.
  • Help me understand how we might work through our disagreement.

The “why question” is a static statement that places one on the defensive and does not invite discussion.

“Help me understand” removes emotion and judgment, invites dialogue, and is solution-focused on the topic or situation being discussed.

Next Time . . .

If you find yourself in a difficult emotional spot in the future and your mind is telling you to ask “why”, take a deep breath, gain self-control, and rephrase your concern with the words “help me understand.”  You will be surprised at the positive difference that will result from the conversation as well as the care that the other person experiences from you.

Turtle Dove’s Journey Home

Turtle Dove and Lovey Dove are a pair of Doves that live in my office. They are part of the Kimochis curriculum, so I can’t take credit for their story or their cuteness. The story goes that Turtle Dove wasn’t safe to live with his birth mom and dad and so came to live with Lovey Dove. Now Lovey Dove keeps him safe under her wing. Turtle Dove and Lovey Dove are used a lot in my daily work. The majority of children and families that I have the privilege of working with hold DCS involvement or adoption as part of their story. It means a lot to many of my clients and families to know that Turtle Dove and Lovey Dove have a story similar to theirs. A few weeks ago, Turtle Dove disappeared. His disappearance was made worse by the fact that one of my kiddos who is most attached to Turtle Dove is the one who discovered him missing. I searched everywhere. In couches, under chairs, moved furniture, took the opportunity to dust a lot of things, no Turtle Dove.  In a panic, I emailed the folks over at Kimochis and explained the dire situation. No Turtle Dove-How was I going to be able to show stability and reunion to kids who so desperately needed this reference point? I was thrilled when the creators wrote back and said that would not only supply a new Turtle Dove, but also send extras so that there was never a moment of such loss in my office again. Turtle Dove is so happy to be back with Lovey Dove-and now he has brothers and sisters, just in case.

Resources for Suicide Prevention

This weekend as the world continued to process the suicide of two individuals who influenced cultural across the world, there was ongoing conversation about the rate of suicide across the US, the individuals who experience suicidal ideation, and the survivors left behind by this painful ending. ABHS is dedicated to shinning a light on the resources available to individuals who are suffering and their support systems. We’ll be looking at issues and resources related to suicide this week. We invite you to join the discussion. Feel free to ask us questions, post resources you’re familiar with, or share your experience. If you or someone you know is currently thinking about suicide, please contact a resource below or 911 immediately.

Regional Information


This week we lost two public figures to suicide, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. For many of us this news comes a great shock and with some sense of reverent sadness. Sadness that a life has ended, that someone we may admired clearly struggled so much. For others these deaths highlight suicide as an option for escape. In the moments of feeling so lost and so wounded, many loose sight of all the wonderful aspects of life-birthdays, graduations, ice cream. Suicide is a growing problem in the US, up by 25% over the last 20 years. There are options for support and help if you or a loved one ever find themselves considering suicide. There are hotlines, counselors, emergency departments, and an array of family members and other professionals who deeply want to be a supportive presence in a time of darkness. The link below is guide to watching for signs of suicide and how to talk to others when we are worried for their safety.


Finding a Counselor

Last week I was looking for a groomer for my dog. I found an app online that allowed me to mark all of the things I might be interested in; dog breed, price range, distance from my house, office based or home visit, etc. It occurred to me that we have no hesitations in thinking about exactly what we want from professionals such as dog groomers to baristas. Yet we so often have no idea how to choose a counselor. Mental Health is a topic that still doesn’t come up in casual conversation very often, so few people think about what they should look for in a counselor. Here is a short list of 5 things to think about when you’re searching for a counselor.

1) Goodness of fit: Is this somebody I think I can talk to? Like really talk to? Do I feel like they are excited to see me? Do they listen? Do I feel understood? Do I feel judged?

2) Specialty: Counselors typically have a specialty. Mental Health is a really broad profession, much like general medicine. Counselors specialize in different areas of concern, different populations, and different modalities of treatment. Think about what you want to work on. Does this counselor specialize in anxiety? Substance Abuse? Homelessness? Adoption? Trauma? Ask your counselor about their specialty. Listen for them to tell you how what they do will help you meet your goals.

3) Resources: Counselors practice in a variety of settings. Some work in group practices, others in agencies with additional resources, some work in combination with psychiatrists. If you think that additional resources, such as group therapy or medication management, might be of benefit for you; consider looking for a counselor that has access to those resources within their practice. This allows for your team of professionals to communicate and provide a unified treatment experience.

4) Think about payment: Counselors work in a variety of settings that mean different things for payment. Some non-profits provide services free of charge. Some counselors accept insurance which may mean a lower rate, a deductible, or small co-pay. There are other counselors who only accept private pay. There is also the option of sliding fee scales. Think about what you’re willing to invest in your services and ask what options and resources are available to you.

5) Don’t hesitate to try more than one counselor: Its all about fit. Counselors, like people, aren’t all the same. Some of us are quiet, some are sarcastic, some are younger, some prefer to work outside. If your first experience with a counselor wasn’t what you thought it would be, keep looking. The right professional is out there.

Meditation in 5

Some of the feedback we consistently hear about implementing meditation and mindfulness into a daily routine is that it takes to long. So today, we’re giving you meditation in 5

Sit some place that is comfortable and quiet. Take a deep breath. Name:

5 things you can see

4 things you can hear

3 things you can touch

2 things you can smell

1 thing you can taste

Take a deep breath. Try completing this list with a favorite memory, thinking about your last vacation, or a place you’ve always wanted to visit. Notice how your body feels before and after. Mindfulness doesn’t have to take a long time to be effective. Our goal is to feel more relaxed and better connected to the moment and space we’re in. Sometime we just have to count to five.

Mindfulness with Kids

Often when people think about mindfulness there is a mental image of people sitting on pillows and being very still for a long period of time. That can be a difficult image to match with children, especially children who have a hard time self-regulating. For children and adolescents, mindfulness holds the extra benefit of encouraging them to be in touch with their emotions before they act on them. This is something that as parents, teachers, community members, we all hope that children learn: To think before you act. But yes, mindfulness takes on a different shape when we are talking about young children. They often need something extra to concentrate on or they may need to move. Books, like Moody Cow Meditates, or objects like lava lamps can help children learn to pay attention to their bodies, their breathing, and their emotions. These are also great activities to do as a family. Participating in these activities together sends the message that we all want to slow down, that feelings aren’t secrets, and that adults are “big enough and kind enough” to be with children as they figure out emotions.