understanding “i don’t know” – part 3

the last two blog entries here were about how the words “i don’t know” often come from information overload, or, alternatively, from a certain anxiety around the emotionally laden information.

today, let’s talk about how we can deal with this, how we can move from “i don’t know” to something like, “i have an idea” or “i’ll try to see if this works”.

in the first entry on this topic, i introduced michael, who was frustrated with his drinking but felt he didn’t know what to do about it. he was overwhelmed by all the unpleasant thoughts and memories associated with his drinking, and ended his story with a disheartened exclamation of, “i don’t know!”

how was michael able to move out of that stalemate?

in his situation, what we did, through conversation, was to look if there were any ideas that he had discounted earlier. (as you may know from a previous blog entry, i’m a friend of digging up old, seemingly useless solutions).

i asked him, “you’re pretty unhappy about this, so i guess you’ve probably thought of some possible solutions before. would you care to run them by me?”

“well,” he said, “i did try AA, went to a meeting, everybody was kinda weird there. also, a few years back, i quit smoking cold turkey, so i thought i could do it like this, too but that didn’t work.”

that looks like a dead end, doesn’t it?

well, it wasn’t. i guess i have a real hard time accepting dead ends …:)

we dug a little deeper and it turned out that the key was in how he quit smoking cold turkey. he didn’t just stop smoking, he also started playing chess again, and also “fell” into a volunteer job.

these two activities absorbed him enough to help him over the first few awful weeks of not smoking. we came up with a similar strategy for stopping drinking – after all, it had worked for him before. he even figured he might as well try AA again. after a few weeks he decided that was really not his cup of tea, but he ended up becoming a regular at alanon – it turned out his family’s drinking history was much more an issue for him that he thought.

well, it looks like we’ll have one more entry on this. in the next and really (honestly!) last instalment of this, we’ll talk about how to make it less threatening to have “emotional knowledge”

isabella mori
counselling in vancouver

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