in my last blog entry i talked about how the words “i don’t know” often stem not from not-knowing, but from information overload. the knowledge gets buried in a mass of (often unpleasant) information.
the second reason why we sometimes feel we don’t know the solution to our problems is because we might have a deep-seated fear of knowledge, especially knowledge that is connected to feelings.
years ago, when i worked in a jail, i met “janis”, who for all intents and purposes appeared below-average intelligent and who seemed to be suffering from a pretty severe case of attention deficit disorder. she could never sit still, and she would continually sidetrack any conversation by comments about the furniture in the room, the pictures on the wall, the weather, etc.
from the story that slowly emerged from in-between and behind her distractions, i found out that she had been quite neglected in her childhood, and that there had been sexual abuse. the person who sexually abused her was an uncle who was also sexually involved with janis’ mother.
apart from the sexual abuse, he was quite kind and sometimes attentive to janis, and he would also occasionally financially support the family. as happens so often in cases of child sexual abuse, her uncle told her that no-one is supposed to know about their “little secret”, and also that janis didn’t “need to know” what went on behind closed doors between him and her mother.
knowledge, then, became dangerous for her.
the knowledge that what her uncle did to her felt bad and wrong, the knowledge that something strange was going on behind closed doors, the knowledge that her mother could not pay enough attention to her – if she were to become aware and talk about this knowledge, she would threaten whatever tenuous hold she had on at least a little bit of care and attention.
she talked about how she took her uncle’s exhortations quite seriously and started wrapping herself in a fog of not-knowing.
in the next and last instalment about this topic, let’s talk about how we can recover our knowing.
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