Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the phrases we play on repeat in our minds and how they frame our reality. I wrote about one of these the other day – the phrase “be free.” When I say that phrase to myself, I feel my consciousness expanding. But here’s another one that many of us have on repeat that we often aren’t even aware of: It’s the phrase “I know.”
Unlike “be free,” which creates expansion, “I know” creates constriction. If you know, there is no room to learn. If you know, then you can only ever see what you have already decided you know. If something doesn’t match what you already know, it will be ignored or discounted, because it doesn’t fit the reality that you’ve already decided is the truth.
There is no space in “I know.” “I know” is a contemptuous phrase. For those who “know,” there is black and there is white, but gray is absolutely intolerable. For those who know, believing in gray makes you a fool.
Doctors often fall prey to “I know.” The ones who don’t – the ones who allow themselves to be free to not know are the special ones. Those are the doctors I want to see. The ones who are brave and secure enough to embrace the truth that they don’t always know the truth.
“I know what multiple sclerosis is. I know that there is no cure. I know that what I eat has nothing to do with how I feel. I know that my personal relationships have nothing to do with how sick I am. I know the cause of my illness. I know that your way of seeing things doesn’t apply to me. I know that I am a victim of random unfortunate luck. I know that only doctors know. I know that I am not responsible for my own healing.”
These are the anthems of those with chronic illness who “know.”
“I know” is a closed door. “Be free” is an open door. But people who know will fight hard for their own limitations. People who know will defend with passion and fervor what it is that they think they know. And that’s okay. If you choose to be free, you can tolerate people who know.
But understand that the reverse is not true. People who know will be terrified and enraged by you if you choose to be free. You will be ridiculed, discounted, marginalized, and run away from. These two phrases and their respective realities cannot coexist for those who know.
The openness of being free is a direct threat to the certainty of knowing. The willingness to revise one’s position. The willingness to admit vulnerability. The willingness to embrace the fundamental uncertainty of life. This is the essence of being free. And this, by the way, is the expansive state that makes healing possible.