What qualities do we need to acquire in that pursuit?
John Keats, whose birthday is today, suggested that we need to embrace a state of ‘negative capability’ which he described eloquently as “when a man is capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason.” What he alluded to is perhaps to emphasise that uncertainty can be a creative force with boundless possibilities if we are able to harmonise ambiguities of life without constraining them within rational systems.
This framework guides me in my therapeutic work. Clients often enter into therapy in uncertain phases of their lives amidst the throes of painful upheavals. Overwhelmed with distress, they look for answers that can mitigate their suffering.. from the therapist. My effort is to provide a space to facilitate and empower the client to seek answers within themselves. In that quest I foster a climate of negative capability in the client so that they can acknowledge and explore possibilities that emanate, to work through their uncertainties. Though I attend to this task with professional knowledge accrued through theoretical inputs and an empathic stance attuned to suffering, I also have to nurture and hone my skills in negative capability. In pursuit of that, I strive to remain in that unknowing state, adopting a reflective stance and gently let the emotional core of the interaction guide the processes. To paraphrase Keats, I continue to be “enchanted by the flowing complexity” of the therapeutic interaction. This I believe is the essence and beauty of psychotherapy.
It is akin to listening to Miles Davis’s “Kind Of Blue” and his use of space between the notes. He remarked, “Don’t play what’s there, play what isn’t there.”
Often I sense this when I see two birds flying across a boundless sky…what unites them is the vastness which they are trying to fathom…
Would love to have a glimpse of your responses here!