I’m one of those people who can tell you exactly what happened, play by play, in an intense discussion that I had with someone years before.
I can usually tell you what I said, what he said, how he looked when he said it, what I said in response, and what I was feeling when I responded. I’m empathic and sensitive, and the most important conversations of my life are etched upon my soul.
So here’s how I can tell that I’m doing some kind of intense personal growth work that is rubbing right up against a core belief–the kind of intensity that might just shatter a long-held belief or way of doing things:
I get fuzzy, and I forget things.
Perhaps you can relate.
I Don’t Know
If I’m the client in a session with someone who’s helping me wade through my stuff, and we’re really walking right in the thick of it, one of the truest signs that we’re in the right place is that I start saying a lot of this:
“I don’t know.”
And in those moments, I really don’t know. Everything feels blank, everything feels fuzzy and not quite clear–and I’m one of those people who almost always “knows.”
I’m not talking about “absolutes” or righteousness–I’m saying that generally, my preferences about anything–where to eat, what it meant to me when so-and-so said such-and-such, whether or not I like an article of clothing, whether or not it’s a good idea to spend money or save it, whatever–generally, my sense about these things feels clear.
When I’m butting up against a core issue, I hesitate. I rub my eyes.
I have to ask the person speaking to me to re-ask their questions.
Sometimes I have to ask them to rephrase what they’re saying, because I know that they’re speaking English, but it’s as if the words aren’t computing–I’ll find myself thinking, “What are they saying? What does that mean? Wait–what are they saying?”
Major Insight: This sort of muddling confusion is the last defense Ego/resistance/the critic will put forth to fortify itself.
“I don’t know” is a way that we can separate ourselves from clarity, from taking action, from a solution to a challenge, or even from just being with what is.
If we don’t know, how can we possibly be expected to change? If we “don’t know,” then we can rationalize not taking action.
A great way to test out whether or not “I don’t know” is used as a defense from seeing the truth? Try standing firm around the belief that the person *does* know.
Someone who is defending a powerless position will get really, really angry when they hear that statement. They’ll insist that they don’t know, repeatedly. They’ll tell you all of the reasons why they don’t know. They might even spin a Story of how they couldn’t possibly be expected to know, now or ever.
I’m not talking about the Buddhist concept of “Don’t Know Mind,” where you approach everything as a beginner, with openness. Being willing to sit with Don’t Know Mind is immensely powerful.
I’m talking about an emphatic statement made by someone insisting that they do not “know” how to handle an issue, when in fact, they do.
We Always Know
We know what our personal answers are. We know what we’re hungry for. I wholeheartedly believe this.
We might have fear around voicing it–but we know.
We might not be listening–but we know.
We might not know steps to getting what we want–but we always know that they are out there.
It’s not about what we don’t know.
It’s about what we’re willing to declare.
Confusion Precedes Clarity
It’s the very process of being “in it” with the confusion that produces, eventually, the clarity we desire. There’s no short-circuiting that process. I don’t care what anyone is trying to sell you– “How to” is massively over-rated, and not even usually what we need.
What we need, as Brene Brown says, is to look at what gets in the way.
“I don’t know” gets in the way.
What doesn’t get in the way?
How about: “I’m committed to knowing,” or “I’m excited to learn,” or “I’m willing to be present with ‘not knowing’ until the next right step appears.” Or even– “I’m willing to be gentle with myself every time I notice myself saying that ‘I don’t know,’ ” or “I’m open to the idea that ‘not knowing’ is not a big deal.”
Try it out: Take out a sheet of paper, and make a list of the top five things that you feel stuck around, like you “don’t know” what to do.
Finish this statement: “If I don’t know exactly what to do, I could probably try…”
Then–and this is the part that the “I don’t know” resistance was trying to keep you from, because it’s scary–actually commit to trying the things that are on your list.