In some ways, writing a blog feels almost like the opposite of the work I do in therapy.
When we sit together and talk, or when I’m engaged in play therapy with a child, often the most important thing I do is ask questions. Asking questions is part of what creates room for your experience, your thoughts, and your feelings to come out.
While I certainly make statements about what I’m hearing, I’m usually more curious about what things mean to you. Why is that? Well, let’s answer that question by using an easy example: what happens when we talk about breakups.
When somebody says that they’ve just broken up with their partner, people often reply with something like, “Oh, I’m sorry.” The typical assumption is that breakups are painful, sad experiences, so they’re expressing their empathy at your loss.
For me it’s a little bit different. First off, I don’t know that your breakup is a sad thing. I don’t know that it’s painful. I don’t know that it even feels like a loss to you.
Maybe for you the breakup is a great sign. Maybe your partner was manipulative, and the breakup came as a result of your personal growth.
Or maybe your partner was a good person, but just immature in some important way, and breaking up means that you decided you want more in your relationships.
Or maybe your partner was a totally fine person, but you finally came to the place of accepting that you didn’t really love them and that what you want is a love relationship.
Or maybe your no-strings partner was sexy and simple, but your needs changed in relationships and you’re now looking for a more intimate connection.
Or maybe the opposite occurred. Maybe you’ve always been in committed relationships but realize you’re looking for something less serious and more fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants.
So maybe you’re not sad about the break up at all. Maybe you feel liberated. Maybe you feel joyful. Maybe you feel proud and strong and open to the world.
Or maybe you do feel sadness, but sadness is just a part of what you feel.
If I make the host of assumptions that go along with responding to your breakup with, “I’m sorry. How are you doing?” it may show a level of empathy, but it might also completely miss you.
I’d also lose the chance to learn so much about what the breakup means to you, how it came about, how you see it, feel about it, understand it… I’d lose out on getting to know you.
This is one of the big reasons I tend to ask questions more than make statements.
And this is why writing a blog seems almost at odds with the way I do therapy.
In this blog I do strive to generate questions, to create a little room for thinking and feeling and exploration. But because there’s no interaction, it’s also much easier to take a more prescriptive approach to this space.
There’s no lack of articles out there with headlines like, “3 Easy Tricks To Overcome Your Toxic Anger,” and “Why Are Our Kids So Miserable?” There’s certainly value in those articles as they can tell you about research and teach simple tools. When I see particularly good articles of that sort I will share them here.
But those sorts of proclamations – “Here’s how the world is” and “Here’s how you can live your life” – seem to miss a beautiful opportunity. They’re a good fit for the place they come from like magazines and online resources, but therapy is a much different thing.
You and I have the chance to learn how your life and experiences shape you. We get to discover the paths that lead to your snap reactions, the way you read situations and people, your perspective, your body’s responses, the way you are in relationships, and your unconscious beliefs about what’s even possible in life.
That is an opportunity that therapy provides that you can’t get from reading a blog or magazine.
So how do I make my blog a place that is informed by what I do in therapy, while also working within the limitations and opportunities of the medium? This blog will certainly be declarative. Heck, I’ve spent this entire post making statements and not posing questions. I’ll also certainly share research updates, articles I think may be helpful, and my views on things.
But I will also strive to bring the same things that drive my therapies – curiosity, genuineness, openness – into this space as well. I will try to pose questions, to crack open ideas, to point us towards the unknown rather than the well-worn. This will also be a place to experiment and a work in progress. In short, it will be an journey.
Perhaps in that way, the work of therapy and writing a blog won’t be so different after all.