I was recently having a conversation where the words "I don't know" were uttered with such frequency and ferocity that the person I was speaking with became increasingly deflated.
This is all too common.
In our society, we place such great value on “knowing” as the pinnacle of being that when we don't know we a trigger a patterned threat response – flight, fight, freeze or appease.
I have experienced this myself and written extensively in my journal about it. There are certain instances where not knowing feels like the ultimate insult and my patterned threat response has been to freeze. This has happened to me as a leader and as a parent.
In those moments, I experience this self-inflicted pressure to know. To have the answer. To have it all figured out. But usually, the circumstances are very complex or the situation is too new to me. And "knowing" in that instance is an unreasonable expectation.
What's more, entering a patterned threat response as a result of not knowing only feeds feelings of inadequacy and disempowerment. The story of not knowing becomes can't know, as in there's nothing I can do anyway, so why bother. It's out of my hands.
This storyline played a starring role in my depression a few years back. As if it wasn't bad enough that I didn't know what to do or how to resolve what was leading to my own malaise. I actually felt like it was all out of my control and there was nothing I could do to remedy the situation because I didn't know.
Eventually, and with help, I began to see the pattern for what it was. A historical and unhealthy loop I had been living in that I could choose to change.
And so, I rewrote the story. When the words, "I don't know" came into my conscious carrying the weight of an anvil poised to crush me on the spot, I took a deep breath. And I said to myself, "I don't know YET, but I can and I am doing my best to figure it out."
With concerted effort, not knowing has shifted from disenfranchising me to being a source of inspiration. Not knowing is a challenge, a rallying cry to do what I can. To learn what it is I need to better understand. To claim my agency. To take proactive steps to figure it out as best I can by gathering information.
Here are some journaling prompts to help you navigate those demoralizing moments when you utter or think to yourself "I don't know."
What is your patterned threat response when thinking "I don’t know" and you feel you should know – flight, fight, freeze or appease?
What if you rewrite the story to "I don't know yet"?
What does it mean to know?
What's the next best step for you to take?
Want to connect with others, receive guidance elevating your journaling practice and set aside time to journal? Checkout our next Journal Jam on Tuesday, February 23rd and claim your agency to rewrite the story of your life.