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Asking Empowering Questions

By Jeanie Marshall

Questions guide us in all that we do. Some questions we ask to ourselves; some to others. We walk into a room and think or ask, "What's going on here?" We hear the telephone ring and wonder, "Who's that?" We see a friend and ask, usually quite automatically, "How are you?"

Not every question has a question mark at the end. For example, "I wonder if I'll have trouble falling to sleep tonight." Or, "Let's see if there are any fresh vegetables that look good at the supermarket today." These are examples of rather neutral questions, that is, those that are not empowering or disempowering. They simply guide us in our observations.

Questions You Ask Naturally

You may want to take a few moments to consider what questions lead you through a day. What do you ask when you awaken in the morning?......when you see a friend?.......when you get into your car?.......when you hear the door bell?.......when you pick up your mail?........when you fall asleep at night?

As you become aware of your natural questions, you may find that they are helpful or unhelpful; empowering or disempowering; clear or confusing. Some may lead you to the responses or answers that you truly desire, some may evade the true issues. Internal Messages

Questions and other internal messages guide our observations. Some of these messages may be easy to hear because they are audible and part of our conscious awareness. Others may be conscious but still inaudible. Still others may be inaudible and unconscious.

Our questions and inner messages accumulate at various levels of our consciousness. Some are deeply embedded and insidious. Many are disempowering. Some may have been empowering at a particular stage of our development, but now are disempowering.

Our internal messages have many possible sources. They can originate in childhood, first heard said by an adult. They can be embedded from a perception of an early experience, even a rather undramatic experience. Internal messages are beliefs we hold about ourselves and the outer world, regardless of the original influence.

Since some internal messages are inaudible or unconscious, they can be tricky to uncover. It is important to bring to the surface the ones that operate our lives so that we can work with them. If the internal messages are empowering, we want to energize them. If they are disempowering, we want to neutralize them and/or replace them.

What is the Question?

Individuals in pain or confusion often ask, "What have I done wrong?" Many years ago, I stepped into a trap by answering this question when a client asked me. Now I know that all that is wrong is the question!

The question "What have I done wrong?" returns disempowering responses. Even answering "Nothing" is unsatisfactory. If you are tempted to ask this question, stop and ask another. If someone asks you this question, you can help the person more by suggesting an empowering question rather than answering this disempowering one. Alternative questions lead to more useful insights.

The question "What is the question?" is often the perfect question! Alternatives are, "What is the most empowering question I can ask right now?" Or, "What question can I ask to move us (me) where we (I) desire to be?"

Empowering Questions for a Mess

Here are empowering questions you can ask when you find yourself in a mess. Or vary the questions to assist others in asking for more meaningful information:

* What can I learn from this?

* How have I benefited from this so far?

* Who else has benefited from this?

* What conditions allowed this situation?

And then:

* Am I ready for a different situation?

* What do I want to bring into my life?

* What can I do now to change this?

Such questions as these are far more uplifting and encouraging than "Who did what?" Or, "How did I get into this mess?" Or, "Why did this happen?" Of course, there may be times we must ask and answer questions such as these, but they tend to blame rather than empower. It is helpful to distinguish between empowering and disempowering questions.

Marshall Transformation Model

A set of empowering questions comes from the Marshall Model for Transforming Energy.

* Where is your (or the) attention?

*... Is this the best place for your focus?

* How is your (or the) energy?

*... Is this how you want the energy to be?

* What are your (or the) unknowns?

*... Are you compelled by the unknowns?

Open to A Process for Empowerment

One of the best ways to acquaint yourself with your internal messages is to explore them in a relaxed state. You can do this as part of a meditation or visualization or journaling session.

You will find the process that follows particularly revealing if you focus on a specific situation in your life so that you have a context for the messages. If your focus is on a difficult situation, it will be even more helpful.

For example, you may consider a misunderstanding with your partner, or a job promotion you did not get, or a physical ailment.

Example 1. You may choose to explore a career-related situation through artwork. You draw a picture of yourself that is very small compared to the portrayal of the job. You realize you are telling yourself that the job is too big for you and/or that you are too small for the job. Listen for additional messages that may come through your expression on paper. Ask yourself empowering questions that lead to a deeper understanding of the exercise.

Example 2. You may choose to meditate, asking for a vision about you and your partner. You sit quietly, occasionally aware of your partner's essence, but with no particular thoughts or expectations. You suddenly perceive a beautiful sphere of energy. You feel a soft glow in your heart. You realize that the argument you had this morning is just a minor glitch in a magnificent picture.

The Process: Inner to Outer to Integrated

1. Identify a real situation that is troublesome, confusing, enraging, or otherwise relevant. This provides the context.

2. Select a method for gaining inner information: guided imagery, journaling, art expression, meditation. Your chosen method may be a regular part of your spiritual or personal growth practice or it may be unfamiliar to you.

3. Use the context of the selected situation to bring into your awareness the messages that are operating at a level that is deeper than your usual awareness.

4. Express those messages in some way. Your methods might include journaling, singing, drawing, painting, laughing, crying, dancing, writing a letter which you may or may not send.

5. Listen deeply to the meaning. Explore. Play. Experiment. As you identify the messages and images that are operating in you, select the ones you want to keep. Erase the ones that are disempowering, replacing them with the empowering messages you want. Relax and integrate the new messages into your life. You can make a conscious choice to live by empowering thoughts.

6. Repeat the exercise as often as you desire. To complete the process, re-live or re-visit the selected situation with the empowering message. You are likely to find that your relationship to this situation has changed. If not, you may need to repeat the process or find another method to explore the situation.

Everyday Empowering Questions

Here are some of my favorite empowering questions that can aid in transforming disempowering questions. You may want to select the ones that resonate for you and write them on a card for your wallet or mirror or car. What excites me about today?

What do I want?

How do I feel?

How can I share my gifts now?

What can I learn here?

How can I realize more meaning in my life?

What is worthy of my attention?

Who can I connect with here?

What can I contribute to this situation?

What can I give today?

...and what else?

What's funny about this?

What am I grateful for?

What brings me joy in that experience?

How did I make a difference today?

How can I leave this place more beautiful than I found it?

Can I laugh now?

What is my Truth about this issue?

What's next?

What now?

What is the question?

How can I/we be empowered?

Am I ready to receive the gifts of the Universe?

How does God see this?

Who am I?

Copyright 2006 Marshall House

About The Author

Jeanie Marshall, Empowerment Consultant and Coach with Marshall House, produces Guided Meditations on CD albums and MP3 downloads and writes extensively on subjects related to personal development and empowerment.


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