We are all informed by what we believe we know. How could we not be? Our experiences, knowledge and perspective provide a frame through which we look, in the main seeing what it is we expect to see. To help us navigate our complex world our mind creates filters for us, short cuts that sift and organise information. It means the stuff that is seemingly most significant gets through, and the superfluous stuff passes us by.
You experience this when you decide to buy a new car. All of a sudden the roads are full of the kinds of car you are looking for. Or when you decide to move, when for sale signs are immediately more prominent.
The challenge with this phenomenon is that most of our filters are outside of our awareness. It’s not our conscious mind that is deciding what we do and don’t need to know. This means we can miss really important stuff. We don’t know what we don’t know, and we don’t know when others’ maps of the world may offer a different perspective or be more helpful.
If you’re a physio, your go to may be that problems are soft tissue ones. For an osteopath, bones are potentially more prominent. To the reiki healer, perhaps energy is the first port of call. How you look determines what you see.
It’s the same in psychological work, our approach and preferences inform what we see. That means an important part of the work is to know our own biases and to make sure we are really listening, looking, and questioning. We need to be sure we are not assuming, hoping, anticipating or fearing. We need to refer on when we are not the best placed person to help, and to know this is in the interests of both the client and our own professional practice.
So when you sit down with a psychotherapist, as well as asking them what they do, ask them what they don’t do. And what their limitations are. These should be questions they are clear about, and willing to answer.