I Don’t Know.

“I don’t know” is a phrase I utter countless times during the week. It’s a phrase that not only irritates me when I say it, but annoys all those I say it to.

Let me go back a few years. Right back to 2004 when I started therapy. I was seeing a child and adolescent psychologist who was incredibly patient and understanding with me. I don’t remember the questions she asked. I don’t remember much of what I worked on with her back then… but I do remember saying “I don’t know” an awful lot!

Eventually I made my poor psychologist a list of what “I don’t know” meant.

  • I can’t tell you because I fear your reaction.
  • I don’t want to tell you.
  • I know but I don’t have the words to explain.
  • I honestly have no clue.

I think there may have been a few more explanations on that list but I no longer remember. These ones are currently applicable to almost all of the “I don’t know”s I utter.

I’m completely aware that the phrase is a form of avoidance. Often I say it without thinking. What often happens now is that my psychologist will ask a question, and without a second thought I’ll say it. Sometimes she cuts me off with “I know what you’re going to say!” It makes me stop, take a breath, and think about what to say.

I can’t be the only one that does this! What’s your automatic reaction to questions in therapy?


2 thoughts on “I Don’t Know.

  1. hey rach i have been there many times and like you i make a list of “i don’t know” it seems easier that way…..like not having to think…

  2. You’re definitely not alone. “I don’t know” is also my automatic response when something is too hard to talk or think about. It’s definitely a form of avoidance. I didn’t even realise that I said it so often until an old therapist confronted me about it and encouraged me to be mindful of my use of the phrase. Most of the time I say it out of fear (or reality) that actually thinking about/answering the question will cause too much conflict, either within me or within a relationship.

    I think it’s a great idea that you made a list of definitions of what your “I don’t know”‘s mean and shared it with your psychologist. A really positive step!

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