Do you want to reduce your anxiety? Then change your Virtual Question.

I was working with a client suffering from chronic anxiety. We discovered that her Virtual Question was, “Am I a success?” Only after she learned what a Virtual Question is, and how to change it, did her anxiety go away.

Virtual Questions

Virtual Questions are questions that are largely unconscious, operating in the background of our minds, and influencing us all the time. If we want to reduce our anxiety we must become aware of the Virtual Questions we are asking, bring them to light, and change them.

Virtual Questions are profound questions, not frivolous ones about what to wear today or where to go on our next vacation. They are questions that have to do with our identity, questions that explore, “who am I?”

When we ask these deep questions in the wrong ways, we stimulate our anxiety. After we become aware of our Virtual Questions we can change them, change the structure, for example:

  • Don’t ask questions that can be answered “yes” or “no”
  • Delete negations (can’t, didn’t, not)
  • Delete comparisons (“How talented am I?”)
  • Replace ‘why’
  • Detect embedded presuppositions
  • Try different verb tenses (present, future)

The client I was working with had been asking the question, “Am I a success?” It is a binary question, meaning it can be answered “yes” or “no,” so every time she asked it she felt anxious because the answer could turn out to be, “no.” The question also contained a possible comparison, “Am I a success—compared to whom?” And the question contained embedded presuppositions that she should be a success, but without defining what is success.

Unhelpful questions

Other examples of questions that are poorly formed include:

Am I good enough?

Will he ever accept me?

How much time does she have left?

After I worked with my client, she changed her Virtual Question from, “Am I a success?” to “What talents do I want to develop?” Can you feel the difference, because that’s how we measure a Virtual Question—how does it make you feel?

Ask questions that make you feel resourceful

The key to reducing anxiety is to create a sense of safety and control in our lives. To do this requires us to ask the deepest questions in ways that are generative and make us feel resourceful. Well-formed Virtual Questions are not like affirmations, which often cover up our insecurities. Instead, they provide clarity about who we want to be and how we want to live our lives.

When we start to notice and work with our Virtual Questions we increase our ability to address unconscious questions that lurk in the background of our minds. The point is to be aware of the structure, which is often unconscious, and then improve it.

If you are interested in learning more about Virtual Questions, and discovering yours, there will be a free i-Workshop on October 15th, 2016 at 10am (MDT).