One of the characteristics of my psychotherapy class was its close parallel with a therapy session. Routine, as an indication of stability, with all its "safe haven" connotation, was strongly encouraged. Our instructor, a venerable and distinguished training analyst, was a staunch proponent of experiential teaching methods, a fervent advocate of the view that a professor's role is to facilitate his students' discoveries through exploration and relentless questioning, rather than by feeding them prepared lectures. His idea was that the teaching process was to be similar to the therapist's guiding his patient's exploration of his issues.
So the one day when instead of his usual sitting down Dr. E stood up and announced that, only for that class, he was actually going to lecture us, was bound to make a strong impression on us. The lecture, he said, was going to likely surprise us; as it was doing to be not in favor, but rather against one prevalent question. We were going to hear about the traps and promises of the "why question".
This was one significant event for a professor who at the beginning of his class stated in unambiguous terms that he saw no difference between the more traditional ex cathera teaching and preaching. Yet, there he was, ready to "preach"to us. And preached he did, painting a dark picture where "why" was shown as a metaphorical spear unforgivably piercing through the carefully constructed armor of one's defenses and coping skills, shattering it all, to prematurely free painfully contained anxieties and fears and guilt.
Our distinguished lecturer concluded his passionate discourse by approaching each of us with a question: "Why... (did you chose psychiatry, are you here today, etc.)?". Such an elegant demonstration of how suddenly "why" can stir a most extreme self closing protective reflex! No less miraculous was the transformation that our teacher seemed to suffer as he was gradually entering deeper and deeper in the "why" country. It did not take long to see how the repeated question of "why" has metamorphosed him, symbolically, from a trusted adviser and teacher in a cruel interrogator-executioner. Thus we learned the important lesson that self-reflexion, as good as it might be, is not to be forced at the speedy rates of the "why" method.
Years after the "do not why others" lesson, I discovered that is also a good idea to try not to abuse "whying oneself". To a "why" question, from others or myself, I learned to answer "why not"?
How liberating that is. Thus, "why not" rather than "why" is the justification of this blog.
I am an academic psychiatrist who chooses to believe in potential rather than deficits, strength rather than weakness, unity rather than split, sense rather than chaos. Not because these choices are "right", or "better", or even justifiable. I am the first to agree that the opposite of my choices are equally right and tenable. As above all, I also believe in dialectics and relativity and complementarity. The light shines in darkness, lies can save lives, and yin requires yang. Yet, we are bound to make choices, and those are my choices.
In the spirit of "why not" my goal is to have this blog as an instrument to explore beliefs and evidence, lore and folklore about the wonders of the brain and the mind. This is not a place for preconceived ideas or predetermined agendas, a cathedra for "preaching" about only half known truths. First and foremost, as our knowledge is unfolding, this is a place for questions. The great thing about "why not" is that it is all inclusive.
And then, contrary, yet at the same time in the spirit of a very distinguished analyst who was once my teacher, as "why not" is my guide, this is a place, maybe one of the few, where"why" will also be welcome.
© Copyright Adrian Preda, M.D.