What’s your fundamental question?
Today, I want to present a simple yet powerful exercise to help you become conscious of unconscious thoughts that cause unnecessary suffering.
Our unconscious brain screws us up. A lot. Much of the suffering we encounter in daily life originates from unconscious thought constructs like insecurities, ego, jealousy, etcetera. We can stop this suffering by becoming aware of these unconscious thought patterns; as we realize how unnecessary they are, their power diminishes. Roads to awareness like spirituality, therapy, travelling, and many more can help with this. As might this simple idea of Fundamental Questions.
So what is a Fundamental Question? It’s a question that occupies your unconscious mind. It can pop up in certain situations or be there, in the background, always. It might originate from childhood experiences, or from something someone said just yesterday. It might be easy to find, it might be hard. It might be general, or very specific. It can be an open or yes/no question.
When I started digging, my most pressing question turned out to be “is it OK to be alone?” I used to have few friends, and insecurities about this snuck into my unconscious mind. I would feel insecure when sitting home, alone, on friday evening. I felt like I had to be with friends to be worth something. When I saw this clearly, I realized the ridiculousness of this thought. Of course it’s OK to be alone! Being with friends is great but I don’t need friends to mean something. I shouted out (dramatically), “Yes, it’s great to be alone!” and nowadays, I even enjoy being alone!
There seem to be some generic questions that most people struggle with, for example:
- “Am I enough?”
- “Is what I’m doing right now good?”
I read about a 50-year-old woman who had been born by Caesarian section and her mother had died during delivery. She had always carried the Fundamental Question “Is it all right to be alive?”. For fifty years, she had lived in the guilt of having had her life given at the cost of her mother’s life. What she needed was the acknowledgement that it was all right to be alive. Answering this question for herself made her much happier and more at peace, almost instantly.
The questions can be very general open questions, or very specific yes/no questions. They are both fine. The yes/no questions are the easiest to handle, usually just becoming aware of them lets them dissolve. If the open questions can be broken down into yes/no questions, write down the very general open question, then break it down into smaller questions until you arrive at the yes/no questions. Or maybe it helps if you pose the open question as a yes/no one. This enables you to dissect even those big and general open questions like “Is what I’m doing right now good?”
This exercise works best if you ignore conscious questions for now, e.g. “What do I want to do with my life?”, to become aware of your most unconscious, most fundamental questions. Yet if you never ask yourself that question and it pops up, then it might be an unconscious one worth to investigate.
Remember, the idea of Fundamental Questions is just a tool, a tool to help you become aware of unconscious thoughts that cause negative feelings. It can be powerful because it enables you to dissect and analyze thought patterns in your conscious mind—retrieved from the depths of your unconscious mind—where you can take a good look at the core issue.
You might be able to dig deep and find some right now, or they might pop up later. The crucial ingredient is awareness: you need to listen to your insides, to your deepest feelings. Listen to what’s happening deep down, below the veils of your mind’s day-to-day business. Try to find Fundamental Questions especially in moments when you feel strong emotions (like craving, irritation, envy, frustration, aversion). Not only emotions but also thoughts and—especially—bodily sensations can be hints.
Why not try to find some right now? Sit down, dig deep, good luck! What do you find? Let me know in the comments or on the forums!