The Uncertainty Principle

| By Paul | | Comments (21)

"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.


Paul Author Profile Page said:

In case you haven't noticed, I'm testing new comment threading and notification templates. So, there may be bugs.

Evan said:

Hi Paul, I really like that tie up between the specialties and dissociation.

Also that unintentional slip for 'declare': So, I have had the biased "borderline expert" firmly declase . . .
Declasse = adj. 1. reduced or fallen in status, social position, class or rank; fallen from a high status or rank to a lower one.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Evan:

Thanks Evan. Good catch on the spelling. No wonder why the spell checker didn't flag it. I fixed it. I won't go there as to where borderline ranks in its mental illness status!

Nansie said:

Paul, I think at all levels of education and specialties there are professionals that want to create a box and "type" us. It is them who are dependant on having a nice neat classification and catagory for everything and everyone. I wonder what kind of "disorder" that is? haha I have a very hard time with ppl who think in terms of black and white with no greyish area allowed. DID is a bird of it's own color and some find it so hard to accept something they can't understand and type that they try to eliminate it altogether so it is not real. Those types of people will never offer us anything productive in our healing. I think that we need to avoid them.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Nansie:

Yes, Nansie, I think you are right. It's very hard not to be biased when we work in the same area all the time. I think it's part of human nature.

castorgirl said:

When the world I always thought of as flat, is proven to be round, it's difficult to see myself as my own expert. Saying that, I've also experienced the psychiatrists with their own ideologies project those onto me through their treatment and diagnoses. So, it's difficult to trust their word. If you can't trust yourself, or the experts around you, who do you trust?

I agree, it comes back to questioning and being open-minded. I see this within the context of my work, where students are lulled into believing that everything they read online is true. I show them obviously fake sites, and compare it to "real" ones. They scoff, saying they'll never be caught out by such obvious tactics. Then I bring up another fake site, but with my tone indicate I think it is real... 95% of the students agree with me. They don't question or evaluate what they find.

Although I don't feel like my own expert, I can question my experiences and reality within a supportive framework. Possibly this will help to rebuild trust in myself.

I love the second Feynman quote.

Thank you for encouraging me to think Paul.

Take care,

Paul Author Profile Page replied to castorgirl:

Castorgirl, You do have to find trust somewhere. That's a big part of the healing. Even if it's trusting that basic coping skills we know work.

Paula said:

I am the sculptor and the sculpture. The challenge is mine. Obviously I am the expert and a therapist can only provoke new thoughts, directions and may guide me there. The steps, the chipping away, I have to do myself. There is a reason why I am constantly tired, isn't there? ;-)

The second quote made me smile as it is one of my favs!!!! Great minds think alike ;-)

Reading your journey through the mental health system makes me worry about myself in moving over in 10 weeks time. BTW: we move to Virginia. Not Florida anymore. Maybe one time we even can meet up!

Have a good day and stay doubting. Paula xxx

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Paula:

Paula, This view you have is a really progressive one. I am glad you have it! Welcome, soon, to the US!

Michael said:

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” Einstein.

“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” Shakespeare

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Michael:

Michael, Yes, I love these quotes!! So wonderful! Thanks!

anothersurvivor said:

Seeking help for so many years I've seen a number of excellent to poor members of the field of professional mental health care. The latest started off telling me the "past ones you saw didn't know what they were doing," it suggested to me-walk straight out the door. I've learned a lot from each one about myself and yet no one has noticed or commented to me, except the one I feel I need to run from, that a different person comes to talk at different sessions. My round about point is that deciphering one's way through the system is mostly like hopping on the old playground toy/ride, a large whirling circle with many handles for kids to hold onto as it spins us all into a lovely green. I believe you wouldn't find one now on any "safe"playground.I just wonder when it's safe to listen to someone and when it's not. Yeah, a typical trust issue adding more doubt and less clarity in a life that is distraught with finding the truth, something that is purely etherial.
So good to hear comments from so many willing to go it their way.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to anothersurvivor:

Hi anothersurvivor. Great instincts you have! Good for you. I can't stand it when clinicians brag about themselves. There's no point in that. I think I get your point. This is why I am not a fan of being diagnosed (or treated in any major way) by someone who doesn't really know me. I mean, yes, we present so differently, and especially when we meet someone new, so it makes sense to "trust" someone with whom we've built trust. I know I'm not making much sense here, am I?

Nansie said:

Paul I just have to reply to you and Another's post. In my education I got some training in this stuff and I can tell you one thing. When you sign up or see a professional T that T has been trained to know this is not about him/ is all about the client. It is one thing if we want them to confirm their credentials for us. It is another thing completely if they brag or boast about themselves. This has always been a BIG red light for me and I avoid it like the plague. If any professional has to build themselves up by putting down others there is something opinion. If they discredit a certain type of therapy...behavioral vs. psychoanalytical that is educational and instructional. If they put down another professional then something is wrong with their work ethics. You just don't do that. My professionals have different styles and approaches...this is a given. This is also why sometimes we need to meet with a few different ones before we find a fit. This doesn't necessarily mean anyone is bad or is just about style and dynamics and approach and theories. Every piece of research I have done explicitly states that with our diagnosis psychoanalytical long term therapy is what is in order. This combined with art therapies or music therapies can be even more beneficial to the client. But all in all and getting back to my makes me angry when a professional has to put others down in order to build themselves up! My motto is "Don't walk, RUN"

Paul Author Profile Page replied to Nansie:

Nansie, Agree you with you 100%. While many of us are sensitive to this, many more are not. Case in point one of the therapist blogs we all know about that I rail against.

anothersurvivor replied to Paul:

Nansie- I totally agree. Thank you for your comment. I am personally, a health care worker and do trauma work with others (after continuing to work on myself for over 20 years, tri-weekly supervision, and several "breaks" during the year). I have also had the privilege of being treated by several wonderful people and the reason I feel confused about whether to give this new psychiatrist another few tries is because he was so perceptive about the different parts of me which others, despite their insight, often failed to understand. Do I give up on him because of a overblown ego and miss an opportunity to learn more about treating myself or be gone with the wind? You know- if I was my own client and had this issue, I'd really want her/me to talk to me about it. Boy, one of the true blessings about this site is the ability to think/talk things out. Best practice? Talk to him about HIS issue; yes.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to anothersurvivor:

Anothersurvivor, I can see why you are confused about whether to give it a go with this psychiatrist. Another few tries will not hurt. It it were me, I would give it a go and trust your instincts. You seem to have good ones. You could also bring up his ego with him directly and see how he responds.

Nansie said:

I agree with you totally Another! The healthiest thing to do is address it in a respectful but open way? haha This is really a test for us...Tell this psychiatrist what makes you uncomfortable but yet why you have still come back? Give him/her a chance to step up to the plate? Good luck and let us know how it goes? :)

anothersurvivor said:

Today I sent off my official letter of termination to my "new", now "old" psychiatrist. I feel a great sense of relief and must now begin to heal... again. The pictures and ruminating thoughts had started and I was lucky enough to have a therapist who insisted on helping me look as honestly as possible at what was happening. I once again had thought I was wrong. This man could not be practicing and treating people with no knowledge of trauma, or, with what he learned 20 years ago. I ignored my gut that said something is wrong. He's not right. I lost my self to an "authority" when I had my own honest experience shouting to me, "You are the authority on you!" How many times must it be hammered into my head? Just because someone has power, (whatever the kind, intellectual, physical, emotional) it does not give them some right to exercise it over me. I admit he was doing his best but that doesn't mean it was good enough. I must begin to respect my experiences and give myself the authority I deserve. Hope this doesn't sound angry but I have to say I'm a bit angry at myself.

Paul Author Profile Page replied to anothersurvivor:

AnotherSurvivor. Sorry, I delayed approving some comments because I had a technical issue on the site I had to solve. I am glad you were able to make a decision like this. I had to make a similar decision a couple years ago. It was not easy for me because I had developed a deep connection to my therapist over many years. But I knew that things had run their course and I needed to change direction. I know this is a different circumstance from you. But in my case, I trusted my instincts and I was right. Good job!

Nansie said:

AnotherSurvivor, Congrats to you! You did something about it... it took a while but now you are on a new road and going forward again. Be proud of that. These things are hard because we are seeing professionals that are supposed to help us heal and sometimes they just don't have the right answers. Sometimes we try to hang on anyway just in case it is us and we need to learn something different. Sounds like you gave this man a good chance and amount of time before you made this decision so that is good. Don't be hard on yourself... when we need to make major decisions it is hard and sometimes slow cuz we have to get our inner community onboard and prepared too.... Take good care!

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This page contains a single entry published on September 21, 2010 1:29 PM.

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