Asking the wrong question:


I met a breathtakingly beautiful and brilliant young medical student on her way to sort out a failing relationship and the rest of her life. Her whole persona seemed wrapped around these unspoken questions: “Will I end up alone? Is there something wrong with me? Will I be able to have the relationship my parents do?”

She was the child of immigrant parents from India who themselves had provided her with a loving home but had also raised her with high expectations.  It was obvious they had done a wonderful job with their daughter. She was self disciplined, had strong ambitions for herself and focused her life through the lens of intent.  So… was she happy?  In some respects, yes. I believe she loved life, loved people, was truly curious and maintained a sense of awe and love for what she did and was yet to do. Yet she also described herself as “always disappointed”; the question was, in what?

Oh, those Other People!

Our medical student was an individual with a sense of inner discipline. This ingredient is necessary to create a life of stability. It is, however, not necessary for success. Brittany Spears is successful but has no inner sense of discipline; thus she is a train wreck with no stability. Contentment is based on stability. Long term Happiness is synonymous with contentment thus also requires stability. Fleeting happiness is just based on self gratification and can be achieved from any number of means.

However, our student’s parents forgot the other golden rule: other people do not think like we do. Their daughter was raised in such a way that few people think like she does. People of any culture rarely grow up with high expectations balanced with the love and respect she had; I believe it is rare to find this. This sort of environment encourages both self esteem and self discipline. Self esteem is necessary to balance duty and individuality; self discipline is necessary to balance the needs of yourself with the needs of others. Our medical student talked about her boyfriend- he doesn’t seem as yet to match her self discipline. When she tries to help him, it just makes the situation worse; you can’t substitute your self discipline for another person’s lack of it. This leads into codependent chaos.

“All you need is love” is a cliché that just is not true. A degree of understanding and shared intent is required as well.

Our medical student was asking herself the wrong question. “Will I end up alone?”  isn’t a useful query because it comes from fear.  It is obvious to me that she will not end up alone, but you can’t reassure someone who has this type of question; it is dependent upon other people. Her fear is causing her to forgo common sense. It prompts her to selfishly sacrifice for others, to try to make them better so she will not be alone. A more productive question for her is “am I a good mother?” Although she has no children yet, working backwards from this question forms a workable intent that creates a map for what she truly desires. “Am I a good mother?” leads to a series of other important questions: will I be a good mother? What do I need to be a good mother? What skills must I have to be a good mother? Whom must I surround myself with in order to be a good mother? How can I learn the right skills required to be a good mother and find someone who supports me in practicing them? How do I create the environment I need in order to be a good mother?

Here’s what a good mother needs: A healthy supportive and equal relationship with their spouse, self esteem and self reliance; self discipline, independence and a sense of self worth. An education is imperative. It’s also important to have a sense of balance and the ability to be consistent and not be manipulated. Financial security makes a good finishing touch. 

Our medical student’s parents have done an amazing job. Our medical student, if not distracted by the wrong question, will herself do an amazing job.

Dr Brilliant Cliché

The Granny DR comments:   That fear of being alone issue is a big can of worms for many people. I would like to present the case of a friend of mine: over the years, he has started talking faster and faster, in order to keep a shield between himself and his own emptiness. Now he talks so fast I can barely hold a conversation with him. He has no idea how off putting this can be and will fire excuses and evasive maneuvers like a machine gun if asked to slow down. I’ve known him since he was 21 and I sense behind his frenetic rush an increasing fear of looking at the reality of his life- he is in his 50’s now, has never maintained a successful relationship past a year, has no children, can’t seem to connect to women with whom he has a realistic chance. He fixates on women much younger than he, who are interested in him only as a friend. He also tends to be drawn to women who are a little bit nuts or in life crisis situations. Most insidious of all, he has so little skill in sharing with others that the basic needs of another human being can seem like unreasonable demands to him. He seems to want to be able to remain in a position where he can fault his partner for neediness and be in the right.
There’s a lot of lonely, frantic people out there. We need to talk to them!

Dr Brilliant Cliché responds:  This gentleman, like our medical student, is using codependence as a device but for different reasons. She is sculpting her life and her boyfriend (the clay), need only to comply.

This gentleman sounds mentally ill. ? Aspergers or bipolar.

Granny responds- Ha ha! He is a frustrated artist. They are ALL just a little bits nutz.


About Dr. Brilliant Cliché

Dr. Brilliant Cliché and the Granny Dr. are a fictional web presence and advice blog. Together we offer a joint perspective that is deep but not academic, entertaining but not fluff, and educated yet street smart. By joining the internet community we hope to share thoughts and stimulate insightful conversation around pressing issues that affect us all. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts. (This is not a site for therapy nor does it intend to replace medical or other professional care. ) You can leave comments here or email The Dr. at and don’t forget to like us on facebook. Our facebook page is Dr. Brilliant Cliche
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2 Responses to Asking the wrong question:

  1. One reader replied:

    jbuford39 – I have never had a male patient of any age who was afraid that he would not be able to get married when he wanted to. This is one anxiety that appears to be confined almost entirely to females. I always have at least 5 females in my practice between the ages of 25 and 30, with good jobs, good looks, and good personalities who suddenly become anxious that they will never get married. I tell them not to settle, among other pieces of advice. I wonder if having 25 magazines entitled “Bride”, or somesuch is really insidious propaganda. All the men seem, to worry about when they are about to be married is whether or not “pigs in a blanket” will be served.

    Dr. Brilliant Cliche commented:

    I agree marketing to the 25 yr. old “old maid” is an issue. Families treat young woman who aren’t engaged like young men with no girlfriend. No grandchild anxiety is similar to homophobic anxiety. I have met men with the same fears. The will I meet my soul mate and is this the right one is a cultural phenomenon. Bollywood does this real well. This anxiety to music and dancing in the streets.

  2. Granny says- I think that the lack of marriage anxiety on the male’s part has less to do with cultural programming and more to do with the “survival of the species” instincts from a deeper level. Don’t forget that a man can sire any number of children and not even know about it, technically speaking. If a woman conceives, she ALWAYS knows, unless she is one of those unbelievably ignorant girls on “I didn’t know I was pregnant”.
    Think about it- if you NEED a home and safe environment in which to raise the children which your biological time clock is impelling you to produce, and which will be grown in your own body, you can’t afford to be as casual about matrimony.
    Some of this man/woman difference stuff is more primitive than we realize. The fact that we live in our heads and seldom consider our instincts doesn’t mean the instincts don’t still function. It just means we are not in control of them.
    Show me a woman who can control her fear of being alone and I will show you either a woman past menopause or a woman with very good job benefits and/or a solid support system.

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