How often are you put on the spot and asked a question…? How often do you feel that you should have all the answers? We know that it’s not even humanely possible to know everything and somehow this idea permeates our society. Sometimes at school we get penalised for Not-Knowing with a big fat ZERO or an F when we cannot regurgitate the version of reality presented by the teacher. Over the years, we are afraid of Not-Knowing, we prefer the illusion of apparent pseudo-knowledge than the anxiety of the undefined. I am about to pack all my bags and start a journey to a few of corners of the globe (no pun intended!). I am slightly tense, slightly excited, and most of all… I don’t know and I have no means of knowing for sure what will happen. It is similar to entering a coaching or counselling session: I have NO IDEA what will happen! I trust my skills and knowledge, but it doesn’t mean that the map is clear in any way. My approach is based on creating the map together with the client as we go along. I find it quite funny when people seem to think that there is some defined path that they should follow in the process… that I have somehow pre-programmed the sessions and I will consequently head towards one specific point. In fact, the moments where I was hell-bent on a particular idea were the most uninspiring and insipid, just like a lukewarm cup of tea with too much milk and sugar.
Broadly, I do have a sense that a particular client, for instance, has to go towards deeper human contact, while others need to explore their own place in the world. However, all of this “clever” counselling talk has to stem from what the Buddhists call the ‘beginner’s mind’. A coach or counsellor needs to approach every moment from a position of curiosity, without the jaded attitude of “I’ve heard it all before”. Essentially, no one wants to be thrown into a huge bag in the practitioner’s mind called CLIENTS. We want to exist as unique individuals. True transformation comes from Not-Knowing. It’s more beneficial to be open without assuming that a particular person has to change in a particular way. Gestalt psychologist call it creative indifference, they trust that what is unfolding is right. The climate of trust is one of the greatest resources you can weave into your creative work.
To my mind, psychological growth is about unlocking new and unused areas in the psyche. This can be done when we can bear the brunt of Not-Knowing, rather than jumping to conclusions. We have to bathe in our direct experience, feel it, sense it, smell it, hear it, touch it and turn it inside out. Then, we can ponder the significance of it. What does that mean that I find some people really annoying? Or that my colleagues really like me? Or that I run out of patience faster than the speed of light…? Whatever the question at hand, giving ourselves ample time to unpick it helps us understand our meaning making apparatus. Coaching or counselling has a lot to do with how we create meaning in life. We can do it through the lens of the past and then we limit our perceptions to what the child in us is capable of seeing. As an adult, we have much more options and our meaning making apparatus is superior to the one of the past. It’s a bit like comparing a light microscope with an electronic microscope. If you want to grow into new versions of yourself, you’re better of using an electronic microscope that will help you look into the cellular structure of your psyche.
Here are a few points you may want to ponder:
- What do I find obvious based on my past experiences?
- What are my habitual feelings, thoughts and behaviours?
- What do I believe to be certain that my Not-Knowing could threaten?
I am not saying it’s easy, I am not saying it’s obvious. It seems to me that people and organisations of today will thrive better if they let go of the notion that everything needs to be certain and planned out with precision like the hedges in Versailles. Perhaps we could embrace the unknown just a little bit more, so that Not-Knowing is valued for the many potential paths it can create.