Your Need to Know Why Acts as a Natural Anxiolytic

No one likes to live with uncertainty. That's why you always look for the reasons behind everything that happens to you. However, are they all valid, or should you change some of them?
Your Need to Know Why Acts as a Natural Anxiolytic

Last update: 14 October, 2021

Rational logic drives our world. The verbal language that we all use as a basic form of communication falls under the category of indicative language. This refers to the language of description, interpretation, and explanation. Additionally, it’s the language of linear causality, whose process of reasoning consists of the search for origin (cause-effect).

When certain things happen, it’s pretty common for people to search for their origins, causes, and explanations. This need to find the reason behind everything is translated into verbal language with the interrogative word why. However, why does this happen?

Your need to know why

If one thing’s for certain, it’s that, as humans, we want to find answers to all kinds of questions we’ve developed over the years. We need to be certain about things. Just think about it, do you like feeling doubtful? Is it easy for you not to have control over situations, people, or things?  Probably not. Because, as a human being, you like to have all the answers, and that’s highly unlikely to change any time soon.

The classical sciences, which first appeared hundreds of years ago, conceived a purely deterministic universe. That may explain our need to know. Indeed, sciences reflect a universe where certainty, truth, and reality join together to make a fairly balanced world.

Edgar Morin pointed out that the principle of classical science viewed contradiction as a sign of an error of thought. This principle wasn’t only applied to scientific research, but it became installed as a sociocultural cognitive style, as a way of processing knowledge. However, postmodernity recognizes and faces contradictions, and understands that it’s possible to see the same thing from different perspectives.

A woman feeling worried.

The logic of causal-linear why

The logic of the causal-linear why is part of the usual discourse in human-being interaction. However, this does depend, to a lesser or greater extent on the specific culture involved.

Using the word why, both in questions and answers, helps explain and understand both easy and complex situations. For example: if your stomach hurts, you probably ask yourself why and immediately think about what you’ve eaten during the day. Or, if a friend is unpleasant toward you, you wonder why and try and work out if you’ve done something to upset them. Indeed, asking yourself why is automatic. That’s because you always want to know the answer.

You often find yourself asking why something happened to you. In fact, you secretly hope that by knowing the cause, the problem will disappear.

During therapy, it’s quite common to hear patients ask questions such as, “Why is this happening to me?”; “Why did they do that?”, “Why did I react in that way?” etc. As a matter of fact, why is possibly one of the most repeated words in therapy sessions. However, this word doesn’t necessarily present a formula for resolving a conflict.

Your upbringing may determine how often you ask yourself or others the question why. As you know, children tend to spend a great deal of time asking their parents about all kinds of things. Parents usually answer them in a pretty linear, cause-and-effect manner. However, the more a child asks questions, the more likely their parents are to feel tired and respond with less tolerance.

The term why is one of the most used on a day-to-day basis. It’s a powerful word that constitutes a bridge that makes it possible to get more information about a topic. This term opens the game to new knowledge that can make you think, reflect, search for other points of view, and even doubt what you already know.

Causal explanations can refer to different motives

  • They may be due to the relational context (an interactional why). For example: “I reacted like this because the other person yelled at me.”
  • Frequently, the person doesn’t continue down the recursive path. For example, they might say “They reacted that way because I told them not to bother me.” Therefore, only a section of the relational circuit is taken into consideration.

Psychoanalysis also gave rise to explanations regarding the search for origins in a person’s past, childhood, or adolescence. Following this line of thought, perhaps the emphasis isn’t on circularity or linearity, but on the need to search for the motives of things. In fact, in reality, the human being has a structure or pattern of mental functioning that makes them think this way.

Someone in the face of a chaotic situation may try to impose an element of order to continue functioning. This is how social, religious, cultural, family norms are constituted. In the face of learning, these imprint the correction and rectification of errors.

In addition, verbal language helps maintain communication through its own coding. Also, to a certain extent, it guides interaction through a syntax of discourse and semantic articulations.

Explanatory Rivotril: a kind of natural anxiolytic

When you’re faced with a fact that makes you feel uncertain and anxious, trying to work out where it comes from produces momentary (or sometimes lasting) sedative effects. Therefore, you might say that the desire to find a reason is like an explanatory Rivotril (an anti-anxiety medication).

This new information, such as finding the words to understand the event means you feel a certain sense of security that makes you feel stable.

Therefore, your system remains stable. However, when an unexpected event suddenly happens, (a death, a move, a job dismissal, etc.), this balance breaks, which leads to a crisis situation As a consequence, you start wondering why it happened to you and what you’ve done to deserve it, etc.

An explanation of the fact makes it possible, through understanding and action, for you to reestablish your security. This would be the first step to you acquiring a new equilibrium.

A woman thinking about our natural anxiolytic.

The effects of anxiolytic explanations

Some explanations will quickly get you out of a moment of tension. However, they don’t change the situation at all. We refer to those situations in which the information provided is superficial. They serve to momentarily maintain your balance after the appearance of the problem. However, they’re only palliative measures and don’t lead you to adjust your perspective of how the problem’s actually constructed.

Rationalization and intellectualization are defense mechanisms of this type. Basically, you start thinking about what happened to you and why. This can provoke conflictive feelings in you. These are known as anxiolytic explanations. They resolve your anxiety momentarily by dividing phenomenons into categories.

Remember, everything in the world is categorized. When a problem appears, you probably use a category to understand why it happened. For instance, you might say “He’s a bad student because he’s lazy” or “He drinks a lot because he’s depressed”.

However, anxiolytic explanations are also frequent when you try to find the reason for a certain mood that appears suddenly. In fact, when you feel sad or anxious without apparent motivation, you immediately feel the need to find out why.

In general, this might mean you consider the reason to be a superficial external element. For example, you may say “I feel sad because it’s raining… gloomy days aren’t my thing”. Hence, you’re attributing your mood to the weather. You also might involve a person you’re close to (friend, relative, etc.), and you use their reactions as a reason. For instance, “That happened to me because you made me nervous”.

Explanations, Actions, and Growth

The anxiolytic explanation or explanatory Rivotril is widely used. However, it can be confused with other types of explanations that do cause a modification in actions and promote growth. It seems that when you categorize what happens to you, you feel calmer, even though that doesn’t necessarily lead to you changing your actions. In fact, what you’re doing is giving a name to the event which helps you avoid navigating the sea of ​​uncertainty that comes from not knowing.

An anxiolytic explanation gives momentary certainty, but it doesn’t ensure a change. In fact, you’re pretty much stuck with the issue if you don’t do anything to change it. As a matter of fact, explanatory Rivotril is a pseudo motive that neither adds content nor causes a change in your thoughts.

The true explanation is in recategorizing things. In other words, placing what happens to you in a different category in order to reformulate it. Restructuring your anxiolytic explanations promotes change. Therefore, don’t be afraid to modify your categories and add new actions to them.


This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.