Asking Questions

When we have arrived at the question, the answer is already near.
--Ralph Waldo Emerson


I love questions. I can ask questions about anything. If I am in engaged, I’m asking questions. I have tried to curb this habit over the years, but sometimes I just can’t help myself and the questions just pour out.

Sometimes it takes multiple questions for me to finally settle on THE question. For non-questioners, it can be hard to understand the beauty, I know. Some even find it annoying and distracting.  I once had a high school teacher limit me to only 4 questions per class!

One of the reasons that I love being a therapist is that I get to ask questions. I ask a lot of questions—open ended, subjective questions.  How did that make you feel? Where do you carry that in your body? Have you ever felt that way before?

I also get asked a lot of questions. Often, the questions that I am asked simply cannot be answered. Why did my husband die? Why do I feel so badly? When will I get over my depression? Why can’t I just fit in? Why did she leave me?

Questions such as these have no answers. They reveal a pain and an ache that is palpable. They communicate a longing that surpasses words. Sometimes a client will look at me through a veil of tears and quietly, humbly, desperately, whisper “why?” I, of course, have no concrete answer. I don’t know why.

What I do know in that moment of tender pain is that the question is an invitation. While I can’t answer the “why,” I can join in the question, and my presence in the void provides comfort—even more so than if I could answer the question.  So, it’s the question—not the answer—that somehow lightens the load. I am honored and privileged to sit with another person’s painful questions. 

I suspect that the presence of another person is not the answer that Emerson had in mind but I think it is often the very best answer.

  • Are you a question asker or answerer?
  • What is your hardest question right now?
  • Who shares the burden of your deepest questions?
  • What question are you afraid to ask?