The Uncertainty Principle
"Learn from science that you must doubt the experts. As a matter of fact, I can also define science another way: Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts."
The famous physicist Richard Feynman said those words. And while it can be argued very easily that science and psychology are quite different beasts, I do think we can apply the quote in both domains.
In the decades I have been involved with healing from "disordered" dissociative coping, I have met a good many in the psychiatric community, including well-meaning experts who look through the same narrow lenses that we dissociative survivors often do. So, I have had the biased "borderline expert" firmly declare, after a mere 45 minute interview, that I was borderline. I have had a prominent member of the false memory syndrome foundation, after another 45 minute or so interview, proclaim that my multiplicity was not real; so I responded, during an inpatient stay at the general hospital, by being very singular which he heralded as a success. I had an expert in "violent human behavior" worry that I could be homicidal, which would be bizarre if you knew me. I have also had the novice resident—admittedly no expert, but she thought she was which was the problem—on a dissociative speciality unit explain to me that every little memory fragment must be completely validated in order for me to make any progress; talk about setting yourself up!
If you are dissociative, and find yourself in the mental health system, you probably have encountered a similar range of opinions and advice. How are we supposed to find our healing path when we are caught in a mass of confusion? Where can we turn? How can we possibly sort all this uncertainty out?
I always considered myself to be a healthy skeptic. I actually really like that about myself. Sure, it oftentimes makes things more complicated than they need to be and the path becomes a rather windy one. But, as I think I have said here before, I am a scientist and used to questioning everything.
To illustrate, I will share with you another Feynman quote from the 1964 Galileo Symposium in Italy:
We absolutely must leave room for doubt or there is no progress and no learning. There is no learning without having to pose a question. And a question requires doubt. People search for certainty. But there is no certainty. People are terrified—how can you live and not know? It is not odd at all. You only think you know, as a matter of fact.
I believe the best therapists are the ones who are not too proud or too arrogant to admit they do not know all the answers and help us navigate the choppy sea of uncertainty. They tend to be extremely careful about how they impart advice. These are the people I have aligned myself with. So, with all my experience with partisans over the years, I have always come back to the humble open-minded therapist. In this realm, I get great advice. I get advice such as "I don't know if that memory fragment is real" or "Try to validate the emotions over the memories" or, my all time favorite, "You are the expert, Paul."
If we are our own expert, then this means we must carry a huge load in the healing process. We must ask the tough questions. We must struggle with doubt. We must untangle the puzzle that is us. All this friction, this uncertainty, I think is absolutely necessary.
For me, I keep coming back to what makes the most sense to me, another source of positive friction: a level of acceptance for the way my internal makeup has been and a desire for a brighter future. For more wholeness. For more peace. For more healing. That feels right.