In his writing, The Republic, Plato paints out the reality of our world in his famous allegory called the Cave. Imagine a cave with a large number of people trapped in it.The prisoners are chained at the end of the cave and what they see in front of their eyes is only the wall at the end of the cave.These prisoners have been living like this all their lives, and they have never turned their heads for a moment and can see nothing but the wall in front of them and only see the shadows.These prisoners believe that these shadows are real objects, because they do not know more than that neither can they turn their head to see the real light.
But one day, one of the prisoners dares to look behind him and look at the flames.At first, the light of the fire bothers his eyes and he cannot see anywhere, but slowly he is able to see the world around him.Then he comes out of the cave and is exposed to the enormous light of the sun, a light that, due to the high amount of radiation, once again irritates his eyes and deprives him of the power of sight. His eyes slowly become accustomed to the sunlight and can gradually see and touch the realities of life outside and understand the tragedy of life inside the cave. He had ever been content with the virtual world of shadows and what he was witnessing now seemed so natural to him. At the same time, he remembers his imprisoned friends for what a blessing they have lost, and regrets he can’t share this moment with them.
After a while, he returns to his former position at the end of the cave. His eyes and beliefs are no longer accustomed to these shadows because now he has seen the Truth. He can now separate the shadows from reality, which always seems normal to his imprisoned friends. While he has seen the real world, his friends have been happy with the superficial shadows and the reality they are witnessing inside the cave.
According to Plato, most people, like these prisoners, believe and enjoy the shadows and never dare to question their reality in order to go beyond it. The greatest act we can do as a leader is helping people to think and ponder. A great author and philosopher always makes people think for themselves and by asking the right questions, he or she directs their mind beyond the current reality. According to most psychological theories, as a counselor you are not there to answer client’s questions but meant to ask them the right questions so they can find the answer within themselves.
There are three main reasons why asking the right questions are so important:
1- Unless something is revealed to us within ourselves, we don’t have it nor understand it fully: As human beings, we are created with freedom on what to believe and what not to believe. When someone shares with us their opinion or tell us what to do, we don’t fully accept it unless we see its truth for ourselves. Imagine that there is a road inside of you that can lead to your desired destination. Someone can point or tell you to take the road but unless you see and realize that road, you wont take it. That is why it is more effective to be asked the right questions rather than be told what to do.
2- Right question can lead us to right answers in life: Plato was well known for his art of asking questions. Confessing that the greatest knowledge to him was “All I know is I know nothing”, he always had an outlook of curiosity toward life. When we ask the right questions, we can lead the person into a right path and also make them interested or curios in their approach.
3- Asking the right questions give the person freedom to choose: Our human spirit is born with freedom and naturally, we push back anything that tries to force or controls us. By asking the right questions, we are able to lead people to the greatest treasure of all; wisdom. Since the person choses the answer, he or she is able to believe and apply it to his or her life.
The path of Truth always starts with questioning our current reality. When we realize what we see is not all that there is, we start to walk in the path of Truth which brings us back to our eternal home. Asking questions then should become a habit for us, for we are at the most fault when we believe we have all the answers to life. A great reminder and a question to ask ourselves is “What am I learning today?” This will lead us to many great possibilities and valuable lessons in life.
About the Author
Parsa Peykar has a master degree in Clinical Psychology from Pepperdine University while having a private practice in Beverly Hills. He is also a adjunct faculty at Pepperdine University’s Graduate School of Psychology and Education and international author.