Home » Blogs » Neuroscience and Relationships » Questions Are Great Brain Boosters – A Few Fear-Busting Questions, 3 of 3

Questions Are Great Brain Boosters – A Few Fear-Busting Questions, 3 of 3

We looked at differences between “real” questions and rhetorical-why“s in Part 1, and, in Part 2, how rhetorical-why-loops can (seriously) trip up our brains.

Here we look at questions that can reboot our brains, as needed, especially when it comes to getting out of fear-inducing, toxic thinking patterns spawned by rhetorical-why loops, and back to normal optimal functioning.

In a breakthrough study published in the academic journal Science, researchers found newly formed memories associated with fear can be “erased” by disrupting the “reconsolidation” process that affects the memory content.

Using an MR-scanner, by repeatedly exposing subjects to the same memory without the fear previously associated with it, all traces of fear was dissipated from the part of the brain (the amygdala in the temporal lobe) that stores fearful memories.

In other words, the memory at some point was rendered neutral as it no longer triggered a fear response.

Conceivably, good questions can be used to achieve similar results.

Fear-busting questions

Whereas rhetorical-why-loop questions can cause a perfectly good brain to spiral into an array of deflating or de-energizing states of fear-based emotion, in contrast, “good” questions can be used achieve the opposite effect.

A thoughtfully structured question can open up new space in an instant – like turning on a light in a once dark room – to help us see things from one or more new perspectives.

Recall that whether or not a question enriches or blocks optimal brain processes depends on its intent (often subconscious), and that the intent of rhetorical-why-loops isn’t to resolve issues or bring people to together with a new sense of shared mutual understanding.

In contrast, good questions can influence us to start a new behavior, and break free or let go of old disempowering ones by sparking emotions that energize new firing and wiring of neurons, even the growth of new neurons, such as emotions of enthusiasm or curiosity. Such emotions regulate fears and doubt, keeping them at low optimal levels where they facilitate optimal functioning, rather than impair it.

The emotion of curiosity is far more conducive to optimal functioning, activating the neural activity that sustains momentum and allows for possibility thinking and positive action. And “momentum” is essential in helping us face and conquer any fears or obstacles along the way (par for the course to reach goals!)

Truthfully, nothing increases our banks of knowledge, wisdom and understanding more quickly and easily than questions – the right ones, that is. They impact “the story” we tell ourselves in our mind, our “self-talk.”

Those who do not have power over the story that dominates their lives, the power to retell it, rethink it, deconstruct it, joke about it, and change it as times change, truly are powerless, because they cannot think new thoughts.

~ Salman Rushdie

Below is a sample of positive intentions to set, along with a few fear-busting questions that can turn rhetorical-why-loops into empowering questions.

Start by setting an intention to free your mind with possibility thinking.

Say to yourself, I’m going to entertain the notion that I am free to think of this situation in new ways, ones that allow me to feel happier, and also feel the pain or anxiety without letting this overwhelm me.

Validate your wish to lower pain and anxiety by wanting to knowing why.

“Wouldn’t it be wonderful if knowing the answer could take away the pain, bring back what was lost, help you restore relative calm and peace of mind?”

Affirm and honor your natural tendency to know and understand why.

“You really would like to know the answer, wouldn’t you?”

“It would be great to completely understand the situation with certainty, wouldn’t it?

Introduce questions that consider possibilities.

“Ever wonder if asking other questions might be more helpful?”

“What does the pain I feel in this situation say about how much I care?”

“Would it be more troubling if I did not care?”

Ask rhetorical-why questions that energize optimal emotions:

“You love to ask questions, don’t you?”

“Have you noticed how refreshing new questions can be?”

“Ever notice you’re inquisitive by nature?”

“Can you see the value of questions in helping you understand how much you care?”

Take optimal a notch higher:

“Why not look for new reasons to smile?”

“Are you grateful for a brain that asks questions?”

“How about asking questions that inspire you to take positive action?”

“Why not love questions that foster health?”

“Would you like to know how to better enrich life  in and around you?”

A world of questions, a free-to-think-and-feel you.

The answer or solution is not necessarily to never use rhetorical why-loop questions per se, and rather to be and remain aware and conscious of their toxic intents, and thus, take action to change and shift the emotional state of your body by consciously changing your thoughts to match your intention to produce optimal emotional states.

The solution lies in first understanding and consciously awakening to realize that: we have infinitely more creative power over the emotional energies of our body than we have dared to imagine.

The social environment, including relationships in past and present, have the power to change the structure of the brain and thus alter the mind – in a negative or positive direction. The good news is that the brain has built-in flexibility to change throughout life, so in a sense, with good conscious cognitive-emotional reexperiencing, you can turn your life on a dime (so to speak).

Step by step, you can change your life for the better and practice acceptance, that is, fully accept yourself and life without completely understanding why something happened.

It feels wonderfully freeing to be open to taking positive action to learn new amazing things about yourself and life. You were born free, and deserve to live free.


Questions Are Great Brain Boosters – A Few Fear-Busting Questions, 3 of 3

Athena Staik, Ph.D.

Relationship consultant, author, licensed marriage and family therapist, Dr. Athena Staik motivates clients to break free of anxiety, emotion reactivity, and other addictive patterns, to awaken wholehearted relating to self and other. She is currently in private practice in Northern VA, and writing her book, What a Narcissist Means When He Says 'I Love You'": Breaking Free of Addictive Love in Couple Relationships. To contact Dr. Staik for information, an appointment or workshop, visit, or visit on her two Facebook fan pages DrAthenaStaik and DrStaik

No comments yet... View Comments / Leave a Comment



APA Reference
Staik, A. (2013). Questions Are Great Brain Boosters – A Few Fear-Busting Questions, 3 of 3. Psych Central. Retrieved on June 27, 2019, from


Last updated: 26 Jan 2013
Statement of review: Psych Central does not review the content that appears in our blog network ( prior to publication. All opinions expressed herein are exclusively those of the author alone, and do not reflect the views of the editorial staff or management of Psych Central. Published on All rights reserved.