“The answer is: I don’t know”

I’m thinking of getting this embroidered on a pillow or something. An ancestor of mine used to answer questions this way, and, looking at it this week, I am struck by the bluntness and honesty of it.

The truth is, nobody ever has all the answers. Human beings, which you and I both are*, are remarkably fallible. We are subjective and biased and we have limited ability to know what other people are thinking. That’s just how we are, and it’s not a bad thing.

The great thing, though, is that I am an expert on me. And you are an expert on you.

When you sit with me as a therapist, it’s important that we remember together that you are the expert on your own life. I may have some research and experience, but the expertise lies with you. You know the details of your own story, you know your gut reactions to questions or suggestions, you know the people in your life better than I ever could.

But it is also an important reminder to us both: it is okay to not know. Having the “right” answer to a question is almost never as important as it seems.

With all of this laid on the table, what good is it to talk to a therapist? If I’m not going to give you all the answers, what use am I?

This I do have an answer to:

My job is to work with you to figure it out. Or to work with you to help you have the skills and the confidence to live with uncertainty, or to trust your instincts. The goals are yours to define.

What I can promise is to listen deeply, and ask questions which help you develop your own understanding. I can coach you in skills if that’s what you want. Again, the goals are yours to define.

 

*unless you’re a robot, in which case, hello robot and I’m sorry, I’m not qualified to provide therapy to artificial intelligences. That’s way beyond my expertise.

The smell of the rain