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Knocked Off Our Pins

Monday, July 4th, 2022

by Douglas L. Anderson, PsyD



John Caputo is a theologian and a philosopher, and a bit of a character.  If you read his books you will be stretched in what will likely be uncomfortable ways.  Of course, when we lean into moments of discomfort we frequently discover opportunities to grow.  That’s important to recognize, but not my primary point in this article.  Instead, I want to quote something he wrote in the introduction to his book titled Philosophy and Theology (2006).

John notes that “philosophers and theologians go for the “ultimates,” the deepest questions we ask ourselves, or better, that keep imposing themselves upon us.  Philosophers and theologians are slightly unstable types, people who have been knocked off their pins by such questions, who have been drawn into an exploration of the outer and inner space of our lives.”

Here’s the deal.  I think psychologists and psychotherapists who are worth their salt have also been “knocked off their pins” by ultimate questions.  I do hope that we are not “slightly unstable types,” but if intense curiosity and a constant desire to address and make sense of “ultimates” is an indication of instability, then I must defer to this reality!

I often say that psychology, philosophy, and theology/spirituality all address two basic questions we all have: 1. What does it mean to be (to exist), and 2. What does it mean to be me.

Life’s challenges and questions indeed impose themselves upon us.  That includes global issues like COVID, a war in Ukraine, supply chain issues, and so on.  It includes national issues like the numerous political issues we currently face in the US.  And then there are the local community issues and the business/economic issues that come our way.  

Finally, we also all face a variety of personal issues that could include such things as relationship struggles, parenting challenges, medical issues, caregiver challenges, and the onset of a variety of mental health challenges such as depression and anxiety.

I think all of these impositions can knock any of us off our pins no matter how resilient we may be.  And in the midst of all of these challenges we must still deal with those pesky existential questions about what it means to be and what it means to be me.

Our natural inclination is to engage in a variety of mental and behavioral activities to do our best to avoid facing those things that knock us off our pins.  But that is not the healthy approach.  The better part of wisdom is to engage in thinking about these things, and to do this in community with others.  This could happen in our civic organizations, in our churches, and in our conversations around the table at the local coffee shop.

This can also happen in the safe and confidential context of a relationship with a psychotherapist.  Curiosity is a very good thing, and leaning into life's challenges and risking being knocked off your pins will build resilience in you.  That will make your life better going forward.

If you have been knocked off your pins lately, and if life’s challenges have become daunting, give us a call.  River Counseling Services, Sioux Falls Psychological Services, and Stronghold Counseling Services meet you where you are, offering hope.  You may schedule an appointment with the Platte office at 605-337-3444, or meet with one of our Sioux Falls or Yankton based therapists from your own computer or smartphone.  To schedule an appointment please call 605-334-2696.