WHITNEY CAIN, PHD

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My Therapist Works at Target

I’m not much for sharing my most intimate secrets when it’s appropriate or expected.  I’d rather catch you unawares when I spill my deepest hopes and fears.  I especially love disclosing such information to one particularly unsuspecting Target checkout lady.  I see my shopping cart total as her copay.   

I’m currently in a continuing education class that encourages (read: requires) personal disclosure.  Last week, the facilitator asked how we felt about “not knowing.”  He noted our clients assume we are experts, so admitting “I don’t know” feels impermissible and uncomfortable. 

First, let’s laugh a little.  My clients are too savvy to see me as expert.  I like to think they see me as a well and ethically trained colleague in living who knows lots of tricks to support them in negotiating life and finding their best, most authentic selves.  Who the devil calls themselves an expert in that?

But back to not knowing:  I jumped at the facilitator’s prompt.  “I love ‘I don't know!’ I’ve always loved it!  I don't know so much stuff you can't believe it.”  Blank faces eyed me without a hint of the Target cashier’s warm alarm.  I blathered on.  “Don’t you like ‘I don’t know?’  How in the world could you know everything?  Knowledge is like money or potato chips or dopamine.  There’s always more to be had.  Plus, you can find out what you don’t know once you realize you don’t know it, am I right?”  The facilitator interjected, “OK.  How do others feel about ‘I don’t know’?”

Finally someone spoke.  Luckily, she goes all to pieces when she doesn’t know something.  Apparently, that’s what you’re supposed to do, because the facilitator got all smiley and my classmates started disclosing; some even cried with relief to find like-minded others. I, on the other hand, sat in the corner like a shunned Mormon.  There wasn’t one other commiserate not-knower.

I don’t know why I’m comfortable with not knowing, nor do I understand why my classmates are uncomfortable with it.  Clearly, there’s something I don’t know.  Regardless, at least for now I’m going to stay okay with not knowing, but first I’m going run it by the Target cashier.

Whitney Cain