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Thursday, August 4, 2011

Our Uncertain Situation

We Live in Ambiguity
As certain as we are here now, we truly do not know what tomorrow will bring.   We function based on an educated guess but what we all know is that, we really don't know.  A lot of us try to pretend, to ourselves, that we know.   We do things to safeguard the future to try to make it as predictable as possible.  We know we will die but many of us try not to know that and, indeed, we can't know when or how.
A certain amount of denial is necessary, I suppose.  How would we function without it?  For example, we can't think every time we get into our car to go somewhere that we are in charge of a 2 ton weapon.  We'd never head out for anywhere!  Who would take the chance!  The current film, The Tree of Life seems, to me, to try to address or at least display this uncertainty in part.
Here is another offering on this subject:
September 19, 2012
It’s not impermanence per se, or even knowing we’re going to die, that is the cause of our suffering, the Buddha taught. Rather, it’s our resistance to the fundamental uncertainty of our situation. Our discomfort arises from all of our efforts to put ground under our feet, to realize our dream of constant okayness. When we resist change, it’s called suffering. But when we can completely let go and not struggle against it, when we can embrace the groundlessness of our situation and relax into its dynamic quality, that’s called enlightenment, or awakening to our true nature, to our fundamental goodness. Another word for that is freedom—freedom from struggling against the fundamental ambiguity of being human."  Pema Chodron
Sometimes people think that therapists are weird or therapists are different from ordinary people or, even, that therapists have magical powers.  Actually therapists have families, and problems, and bills to pay, and good luck and bad luck, and health issues and schedules and pets and so on, just like everyone else.
The one way that we may be different is in being more able to or, perhaps, more accustomed to, sitting in the ambiguity.     We have to learn how to not always have an instant answer for everyone.
We have to try not to decide for a client what is right for them.  For the most part, we do not tell people what to do.  We have to learn to position ourselves in the middle of another person's ambivalence or two-horned dilemma and see both sides. (You may notice that this is part of what makes a discussion of your problem with a therapist different from your discussion of it with a relative or friend.)   We have to be able to stay there with the patient while the patient struggles with their effort toward resolution. 
Sometimes our role requires us to sit with someone while they suffer.  Sometimes a therapist so wants to save that person or, at least relieve them of their pain in the moment,---of their sadness, with comfort.  But, that's just what it would be, momentary.  And, in so doing we would rob them of possible progress toward an insight.
We help people toward integration by staying with them and helping them stay with, and not avoid, their issue.  We are facilitators; we try to help our patients find their own way.
We tolerate what may ordinarily be uncomfortable so that the patient has a better chance of facing their own reality.
Here is a lovely quote on this topic, written by Tom Kelly, MSW, called Learning to Live with Not Knowing:  "Jung's concept of individuation is often misconstrued as striving for a nirvana-like state of bliss.  In truth, individuation---the process through which we form our own personalities

apart from others---is anything but a comfortable journey into wholeness.  Our psyche requires that we go beyond the familiar to confront the unknown in the world and the unknown parts of ourselves.  The challenges we face are giving up the illusion of control, developing a living and vibrant relationship with our own psyche, and learning to live with not knowing."

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