Each month I come to this blog trying to decide what pearls of thoughts I will leave before the public for its perusing. Sometimes, but rarely, I have a choice among topics that crowd my mind from which I can choose. Other times, more regularly, a topic occurs in between monthly postings due to something I’ve read or experienced. Other times something gels on which I have been reflecting for some time, finally deciding to put some words to it. This month the ol’ writer’s block has set in, the dreaded deadline is staring down at me, and I literally don’t know what to pen. I guess I could talk about deadlines, writer’s block, or simply what it’s like to write a blog like this one. All of that would be some good reflective writing on what’s going on with me in the moment, like one of those rock songs where the lyrics talk about writing the song you’re hearing. Is there anyone out there who remembers 25 or Six to Four? Alas I don’t want to do that either, or not exactly that. A good self-reflective question that emerges, however, is why do I want to write this blog? What do I expect it to accomplish? Why is important to me that I get my words down on this blog to be placed spread-eagle before the public and all those critical eyes out there? That question can be pushed even to another level with the hopes that people who write blogs can reflect as well on their experiences as bloggers. Maybe, and most likely, many other bloggers go through the same experiences I do when little fruit is available as the deadline approaches. So what about this blog? What does it mean to me? And for those whose eyes connect with this blog article, what does your blog mean to you? Why do you write your blog? What do you hope to gain from it? And what do you gain from it?
In the Beginning
This month’s blog article marks the 43rd time I’ve presented a monthly offering for the public. To put that in perspective, last month’s posting reached three-and-a-half years of monthly endeavors for this website. Looking back over the topics tells its own story of how and why I began this blog. As a Licensed Professional Counselor and Supervisor (LPC-S), I own a private practice where I work with clients and supervise counseling interns. The blog articles from the beginning and into the early months of this blog revolved around topics of therapy. At that time, the website had a different name as well, Contemplations: Center for Existential Psychotherapy. Given that emphasis, my early writings focused on existential work in counseling. Logical articles focused on what existential therapy entailed. An existential approach comprises many themes that speak to the struggles that people face day-to-day. So other articles delved into the richness of existential themes: transitions in life; encountering major struggles that living brings our way. Additionally, I focused on some existential therapists and philosophers whose writings influenced me, such as Albert Camus and Viktor Frankl. Straightforward counseling topics emerged as well that I thought would be useful to therapists. An example of the latter is an article I wrote sometime back on the counselor and finances, delving into the notion that some counselors have a difficult time thinking about how they should charge clients. A topic on career counseling also made the grade as a possible path for counselors to take. So it’s easy to see that the early postings were directed at the field of counseling and professional counselors whom I hoped to reach in order to simply reflect on the field in which we’re engaged, and how counselors want to pursue their work.
Arts & Literature
With a master’s degree in Literature, I’ve always been interested in reading and writing. What I had written about certain therapists and the various themes of existentialism served as a springboard into other areas I wanted to approach. I reached a point several months in where the desire hit me to write about more than the field of counseling. I still wanted my writings to serve the basic framework of counseling, but I wanted to spread out to other areas. That desire showed itself in writing about things literary: book reviews, lives of historical figures, and day-to-day encounters and struggles. An example is a book review I did of Jane Hirshfield’s Ten Windows, a book about how poetry can speak to the notion of mind, personal experiences and struggles in living. These topics still served a wider framework for counseling, but they were not specifically counseling oriented. I strongly believe in the notion that the living out of our lives is what brings people into counseling in the first place. Many enter therapy because they’re depressed, anxious, going through relationship problems, moving through major changes, etc. All of these presenting concerns in counseling are cached in a larger picture called life. So I wanted to tap into how the themes of writers, philosophers, and other artists could help anyone understand their personal journey. Although such topics may be germane to counseling, they could also reach a wider audience of people who simply want to reflect on what they’re going through and how the arts could speak to their concerns. Hence I discussed historical authors, the work of being a writer, and various poets. I did a couple of book reviews that touched on ideas I felt were well-fitted to the purpose of the Contemplations website. Hence a name change occurred several months in: Contemplations: Exploring Literature and the Arts. The name change most definitely would not signify a counseling practice, which reflected my desire to expand the audience I hoped to reach. What I discovered was that I was hoping for interaction with a wider audience to engage is discussion about ideas. Ideas have consequences. I hoped for a dialogue about ideas.
Where to Now?
The second phase of Contemplations still informs what I hope to accomplish with this website. But a further expansion has occurred. No doubt one of the major foci in counseling is the mind of the human being. How we are in the world, what Heidegger calls being-in-the-world, speaks to the mindset we hold as we approach and encounter our living out what we believe. What I became truly interested in was the notion that how we live day-to-day is a portrait, a working out, of what we believe and value – our ideas that we hope to see become real in the world. In other words, how we go about navigating our lives uncovers our mind. Questions that became interesting to me included: Do we live out what we say we believe? If not, what is preventing our living out what we believe? Do we really believe what we claim we believe? The readings of Walter Kaufmann brought me to these interests in his voluminous works on various psychologists and philosophers. A few months back (July 14, 2016), an article I penned titled “Random Thoughts” noted this shift in interest for me. In that article I laid out some themes and research areas that I wanted to explore more in depth. They included mind, meaning, knowing/doing, humility/finitude, and worldview. Hence I began reading more in these areas and blogging on such topics as human change, risk taking, the search for personal meaning, values exploration, pursuing our dreams, etc. So this third phase builds on the expansion of the second; I’m still targeting a wider audience than counseling and counselors. But this phase also is somewhat full circle with its emphasis on mind, returning to the world of psychology, but in a larger sphere that involves literature, the arts, and critical inquiry. This focus represents a third change in the title of the website: Contemplations: Exploring the Mind: Literature, the Arts, & Critical Inquiry. The critical inquiry piece represents a change of mind on my part in wanting more critical pieces for the blog that hopefully lead people to generate their own questions by which they can engage the website in some form of dialogue. I strongly believe that the various endeavors in the arts and in the sciences uncover the minds of human beings. The counseling field now is in a transition that began a few years back on integrating mind-body, a theme that has been discussed and debated for centuries. Yet that very transition represents ideas, the thinking, that’s going on in the field. The explorations of the categories I delineated – mind, meaning, knowing/doing, humility/finitude, and worldview – entail where I want to take this website.
What Do I Hope to Accomplish?
Basically, and really it doesn’t get any deeper than this, I blog because I want to. And I blog about what I want to explore. Exploration is key for me rather than persuasion or debate. Although I have my positions, I hope the blog articles here over the months and years that follow will engender dialogue, discussion, and interests that people can integrate within their personal journeys. On one level, I simply like writing about the topics I’ve merely touched on here. I believe the world of the arts and sciences can provide wonderful grist for the mill for discussion, exploration, and discovery. For you other bloggers out there who come across this blog, why do you blog? What do you want to accomplish with your blog besides building your business? What ideas are important to you, and why are they important to you? The one tidbit of information I can provide through the evolution of this blog is just that. It evolved. It went places I didn’t expect when I first created this website. The name changes for sure reflect its evolution, but more importantly, my own thought process changed. Hopefully this blog represents my mind and what I value. Moreover, I hope through this blog I’m living out my own values. Given that it’s changed over the three-and-a-half years I’ve been posting blogs, no doubt it will continue to change in ways I have yet to anticipate. I think being open to that is important. So I close with this question, as much or more for me than for others. Quo Vadis?
Not that bad of a blog coming out of writer’s block just before the deadline, huh?
John V. Jones, Jr., Ph.D., LPC-S/February 14, 2017