how can we move out from under the helplessness of “i don’t know”?
as i mentioned a few days ago, what is underneath “i don’t know” sometimes is a fear of knowledge, a fear of what might happen were we to become aware of knowledge that we have hidden away, or perhaps of the consequences of speaking this knowledge.
this can happen in any situation where secrets are bred, which are most often situations where there are rigid hierarchies of power. one of the ways the holder(s) of power stay on the top of the heap is by enforcing secrecy. the means by which this secrecy is enforced can range from barely noticeable, subtle manipulation to extreme violence.
“don’t tell or else!” is the message.
the best way not to tell and to avoid the “or else” is simply not to know what’s going on.
unfortunately, this can become so deeply engrained that even after the threat is gone, there is still a habit of not knowing, of being fearful of knowledge.
whenever we have internalized hurtful rules, it’s a good idea to start rebelling against these rules and to do the opposite.
“don’t tell” can become “tell! speak out! speak up!”
when i work through this with clients, we rarely start with the types of knowledge that are about big, traumatic events. we limber up by addressing little issues here and there. i try my best to make it comfortable for clients to be honest with me, to tell their truth. i tell them that obviously, i need to earn their trust and that we may need to take our time getting there. i show them interest and respect for their life story – what they already know about themselves. i don’t throw around shoulds and shouldn’ts, which would just be another damper on their own knowledge.
after a while, this client accumulates a little store of acknowledged knowledge, of knowledge that we know to be safe and ok, and we start moving towards words like, “oh, wait a second, actually, i think i do know!”
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