What do we know, really know? “Not much“ is my answer. Even some theologians admit to much unknowing and mystery. I’m often amazed at how little I know about a person or a marriage, after many intimate conversations. Even the most “mature” people hide very deep secrets. Some of the “best” marriages suddenly show deep flaws and fall into jeopardy. Couples who appear mismatched on the surface sometimes share very rich and fulfilling private lives behind closed doors. Human beings and their relationships are extremely complex. Any effort to categorize humans is suspect, including professional diagnoses (especially professional diagnoses).
I take comfort in all this mystery and uncertainty. I wouldn’t want a Crystal Ball. I don’t even like to know in advance how novels end or how much time is left in a movie. Human complexity, unfathomable depth, and ultimate uncertainty make us all unique living breathing works of art. Still, I find the pursuit of human understanding to be noble, enlightening, and fulfilling, even though we can never “get there.”
It is always tempting to fall back on judgmentalness, labeling, and prejudice in order to simplify life and establish some order and certainty. Yet, I think we cheat ourselves by doing so. One of the hallmarks of maturity is the ability to live courageously in the face of uncertainty, to make decisions, to make commitments, while not knowing.
All of this complexity leads to tremendous potential. Even though we all have a tendency to live in ruts, the potential for human creativity and change is as great as the unfathomable depth of our complexity. One of the dearest gifts for me as a psychotherapist is the honor of witnessing the inner life and the emergence of new behaviors. When therapy works (and it doesn’t always), being loved and respectfully witnessed allows clients to explore their depths and realize more of their potential.