I find myself often asking questions to clients that I know I need to be asking myself. Much of the art of clinical work has little to do with giving answers or telling people what they need to know, as these things are never beneficial when I am struggling with something.
The art seems instead to be in asking the questions, out loud, that we are unable to ask ourselves when we are holding on with dear life to whatever it is that is holding on to us so tightly. And in all the ways that my clients are generous enough with me to offer the space for me to put a new question in the air, it is in that same moment that I hear that question being asked out loud.
Often, like it was today, the words float in space and I recognize that I am hearing the question posed for the very first time as I ask it to the person sitting across from me…
“Why do you think you need the last word?”
“Why do you think it is so important that they understand what you are saying?”
“Why do you think they heard it one way when you intended something very different?”
“Why do you think that became so unbearable for you? What about it is really so impossible?”
‘Why do you think those words from that person meant so much to you?”
“Why do you think you worry about this particular possibility so much?”
“What is it about you that makes this in particular worth so much?”
The bravery my clients show in speaking their realities into the air offers me the opportunity to hear, usually for the first time, the questions that I have not yet been brave enough to ask myself. And so as they share in their own vulnerability, I am able to take a more honest look at whatever is buried in my quiet interior. I am able to ask myself a question that I didn’t even know I needed to ask.
Paired with the gift this has become is the frightening reality that at whatever moment I think I know enough to tell a client what they should know or need to do…in that moment I am missing the opportunity to learn from them what I need to be asking myself.
Their humility and bravery, and generosity with their humanity, are teaching me a great deal about what it means to be a human being in the world.