Feel Safe Not Knowing

6 min read

Albert Einstein once said: “The more I learn, the more I realize how much I don’t know.” Is it OK to not know, or does “un-knowing” create anxiety and worry in humans? Or, alternatively, does the need to know create most of the anxiety and a host of other issues for humans?

Google runs around 99,000 search queries per second, which adds up to a whopping 8.5 billion searches per day on Google. Moreover, the average person searches Google three or four times per day. Psychologists are familiar with clients presenting in session and stating that they have searched Dr. Google and they already have a self-diagnosis.

Psychologist Ernesto Spinelli describes working as an “un-knowing” existential therapist in his book Tales of Un-Knowing. In this book, Spinelli shares several case studies in which he suggests that the best way to uncover the un-knowing aspects of the client’s issues is to be in the un-knowing state as a therapist.

This is not the way of psychotherapeutic certainty and reductionism. According to Spinelli, it is a way of un-knowing. Rather than expounding a set of theories, Spinelli here gives an account of some of the most unforgettable therapeutic encounters that he has experienced during his professional life. Spinelli supports a belief that he is convinced that un-knowing can be an asset in therapy rather than a liability.

Stability Is an Illusion

The reality is that we don’t know what will happen next. “Not-knowing” connects us to things as they are and helps us to be released from the illusion of stability and security. In a way, being aware of the fragility of stability encourages innovation, taking risks, and exploring. This demands courage and strength, both of which are developed, in an ongoing cyclical way, as we allow not-knowing to be present in our life.

This type of not-knowing relates to the ability to not plan or predict ahead of time what is going to happen. In many cases, of course, one needs to plan and be ready. When planning becomes rigid and restrictive, however, it is time to practice not-knowing by trusting the process and allowing it to unfold in a creative, fresh, and innovative way.

“All conspiracy theories are the product of the subconscious attempt of an ignorant yet creative mind to counteract the fear of the unknown with tales of fantasy.” –Abhijit Naskar

Conspiracy Theories

Conspiracy theorists are not especially well known for doing their research on why they have labeled something a conspiracy. However, conspiracies can be an excellent displacement for what is “un-known.” When ideology is threatened by facts—the known—the conspiracy protects the ideology.

Lacking the trust in factual information allows the conspiracy information to flourish because it is biased toward the ideology. The safety in the un-known here is implicit bias. A lack of self-awareness of the accuracy of the conspiracy is ignored or defended. This would be an example of the un-known factor contributing to a falsehood rather than truth. However, there will be presumed safety rewards for the conspiracy theorists when they avoid an inconvenient truth.

Presumably, artificial intelligence, COVID-19, and climate change all fit into the realm of possible conspiracy due to their complexity and the multiplicity of un-knowns that exist in all three areas. Handling the un-knowns through conspiracy allows special interests to gain members, not unlike the Flat-Earth Society years ago.

Accepting the “Un-Known”

Understanding through experience highlights a major difference from understanding through one’s acquired knowledge. We are repeatedly challenged to keep looking for more clarity through our experiences, which will continue to teach us more.

Travel is an excellent example of this experiential learning. We can read and study for years about a particular place and have somewhat of an understanding about that place. However, when we actually experience that place, not in a book or online but in person, we are amazed at how much more we learn.

To get the full benefit of that experiential learning, we may have to forgo our pre-emptive knowledge or bias. We will only achieve a more accurate awareness of, say, Africa, by being in Africa. Our ability to be in the un-known before we step onto that African soil can only help us understand more fully and more accurately the experience that we are having.

The un-known is difficult to accept. Remember that we have been conditioned from birth to know. Google is an example of this conditioning. All the other social media platforms are also examples of the need to know. Who likes my photos? Who likes my profile? How many hits do I have on TikTok?

This need to know is admired by some and practiced by most. But could the un-knowing actually lead to a better existence? Ernesto Spinelli found out more about his clients by not knowing. Your travel experiences taught you more than all your travel research could ever teach you.

“Future shock is the shattering stress and disorientation that we induce in individuals by subjecting them to too much change in too short a time.” –Alvin Toffler

Exponential Change

In a world that is changing exponentially, how long will we be able to hang on to the ever-increasingly unrealistic need to know? Even Einstein had to admit that he came to realize how much he did not know, and he is one of the world’s best examples of knowing. To move toward the un-knowing could alleviate much of our anxiety and depression because these ailments are derived from the ever-increasing complexity to understand the world as it unfolds.

We can still be knowledgeable through un-knowing because we are evolving experientially. Experiential learning seems better suited to the future anyway. Current knowledge is under continual threat of change due to volumes of new and faster research methods.

The speed of change will not allow antiquated thinking in the future for any extended period of time. So-called facts of today have a predicted shorter life span than any other time in history. By shifting to un-knowing and experiential learning, we are moving with the current and not against it. You may even, eventually, feel safer in the un-known. Of course, this is still unknown.

You May Also Like

More From Author

+ There are no comments

Add yours