If you have had a coaching session with me (or have come to a class or practice group) you have likely heard this question.
How did you contribute to the situation you are unhappy about?
In my opinion it is one of the most empowering questions we can ask of ourselves. When we are in a situation that we aren’t so happy about, depending what it is, then I encourage you to consider this first.
Because it is where your power is.
This self-inquiry must be held in the container of no moralistic judgement and outside of right/wrong thinking in order for it to be powerful. Inside there is no power – for anyone.
If someone has ‘done you wrong’, then of course, we want to find our limits, make good decisions, keep ourselves safe and content. Barring any immediate physical threats to our safety (which is rarely, I mean really rarely) ever a concern with most of my clients, then the best first question to ask is “How did I contribute to this?”
What actually happens.
Sometimes, you might be mis-understanding the intention of another. And your distress is based on what you are thinking, rather than what actually happened.
Sometimes, you had clues (often many clues) over a long time, that what just happened was likely to, and if you answer the question, “How did I contribute to this?” you will get some answers that will help you negotiate this relationship, other relationships and your life with more confidence and self-empowerment. Maybe you chose not to follow up on an instinct, or something someone shared with you. Possibly you chose not to ask questions that would have offered clarity and you found yourself too afraid to do so. Having an answer (or a few) to this question offers you more flexibility in how to respond to the situation.
Sometimes, you may realize that you have said things or done things that have contributed to someone else’s distress, leading them to make choices that you feel so disappointed (furious?) about.
I am repeating this, because we are so quick to want to blame ourselves or blame others. Inside the blame game there is little (read: absolutely no) possibility of making new choices or having productive conversations based in honesty, curiosity, and compassion. Our command of any situation is having as much knowledge as we can. The easiest (and most difficult) place to start is with yourself. It is how you make effective boundaries and powerful exceptions. It allows the internal condition of fierce protection and sweet compassion —for yourself and others.
If you want something different (more power) in your life, if you truly desire relationships based in care and compassion, and be fully empowered, this is the best first question you might consider when faced with a distressing situation. It leads to ninja-style, needs-based decision making based on deep self-awareness and care for others.