Skip to content

How This One Question Changed my Life

Back in the 1980’s, while living in New York City, I saw a therapist, named Dr. Isabella Bick for a couple of years who really made a difference for me. It was not her great therapeutic skills, necessarily, although I am sure she was skilled enough, but for me it was this warm, consistent, non-judgmental, supportive, presence that listened to me with care. I don’t remember most of our sessions over the couple of years that I saw her, except for one that made all the difference for me. I have since thought of that session many times because it was the one session that sticks out in my mind as having had an impact on how I proceeded with my life.

The session that I am referring to, was one in which we were exploring my struggles around making my way in the world independent of my family. I was living alone in NYC with my dog, Picasso and working in the art business. I had started my own art consulting company, and was having a lot of difficulty managing my time, being on focus with developing my business and not sure if I could actually pull it all off. I felt that I had no financial back up and that I REALLY had to make it happen. I had no money in the bank, rent to pay and pretty much lived hand to mouth.

On this particular day, I was talking to Isabella about my fears and concerns regarding my ability to make a go of my business and be successful as an independent adult human being and how anxious it made me feel. Isabella looked me right in the eyes and asked the question that shifted it all and stayed with me for life. She asked, “If you were to meet someone who looked and thought and felt exactly as you do, how far do you think she would go?” I never really thought about myself in that way, so I took my time imagining meeting someone “who looked and thought and felt exactly like me” and I remember answering, “She would go pretty far.” I have no idea where that knowing came from, since I really did not have a lot of confidence in my abilities at that time, and yet I was sure that I was correct in saying that.

But this is what I learned about “knowing”. There are 2 kinds of knowing. One comes from the Greek word logos, meaning that which we learn from education, logic and reading books, and then there is the other kind of knowing, which comes from the Greek word “gnosis” which is knowing that comes through intuition and spirit. Every spiritual insight we have comes through the experience of gnosis. The statement “she would go pretty far” did not come from an intellectual rational place of knowing, it came from that improvable, intuitive place of gnosis.

I don’t think that I realized the impact of having made that profoundly transformative statement until much after having said it. I do remember hearing the question and the answer many times after that for many years throughout my life. Whenever, there was doubt, I would remember the question, and I already knew the answer. It was an internal knowing and a belief that held me in balance when I felt that I was going off course or out of balance in my life. It was the belief that gave me the courage to walk through all the doubts and questions about whether I could REALLY do it on my own, as I have chosen to do so many times throughout my life since then. It was my compass in the dark.

I have not seen Isabella since that time, but I did speak with her once on the phone about 8 years ago. I never told her about that question and the impact that it had on my life. Nor have I ever said, thank you for asking it. I heard from a friend that she has since moved her practice from her NYC office to Connecticut, where she currently lives. In writing this article, I realized  the importance of finding a way to say those words, “Thank you” to her. Perhaps she will even read this post.

So, to Isabella, if she is reading this, thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your thoughtful patient words at the exact right moment in time meant a lot more to me than you probably ever realized. You modeled for me, the great wise woman, sharing the inner knowledge of the crone.

Having this memory reminds me of the importance and timing of words, especially when there is trust between two people. It also reminds me of the importance and timing of my own words to those that I work with as a counselor, who put their trust in me. What an awe inspiring privilege that is!

If any of you have had a similar experience with someone you were working with that you would be willing to share I would love to hear about it. It may have been a therapist, family member, clergy, teacher or friend.

To your continued growth, Leslie.