What do we mean when we say ‘deep down…’?
We’ve all heard it said, we’ve probably all said it – ‘deep down, they know…’ or ‘I knew it deep down really…’ the listener typically nods in agreement because, it seems, we all understand the meaning of this phrase. Even if we are describing an act, we or somebody else has done, that we don’t consider very clever, we are still crediting that person with a kind of wisdom, a kind of knowing. I don’t feel it’s too much of a stretch to say that most people understand the phrase so there seems to be an unspoken agreement that there is a deep down… but what is it? What do we really mean by it?
When we say ‘deep down they know…’ it could equally be described as ‘they know in reality’ or ‘they know in truth’ but, at the same time, bound with that idea is that it, the knowing, is to be found within us, every one of us. Each of us has an ability that is innately wise, that can see beyond the surface level of appearance. We reach beyond what may be immediately favourable, what we may be more comfortable believing, and get to the core of what is happening.
Many spiritual systems acknowledge this ever-present, accessible wisdom - in Indian religions there is the principle of ‘jnana’ primordial wisdom, the knowing of truth and the nature of human beings - that we can all access. In ancient Greek philosophy, there is the idea of ‘gnosis’, innate wisdom of the truth of life - that we all have in us.
My own experience, with a Sri Lankan background and as a Buddhist monk for a number of years, echoes the above. In Buddhism, the core idea is that everyone has Buddha-nature, that is the true, fully awakened nature, of all beings. Meditation is based upon the idea that there is a ‘jewel within the lotus’ a Buddha-nature within us, every single one of us and via mediation we uncover or recognise that. We may cultivate certain qualities through meditation, but the goal is to recognise that we already are a Buddha, there’s no need to fabricate anything or be something other than we are.
What relevance do these ideas have to counselling? Many of us may seek a counsellor expecting, or hoping, to receive advice, instructions or clear guidance on what to do about some aspect of our life. A guiding principle of most types of counselling is that the client is naturally and essentially directed from within, that we possess within us the wisdom to understand what is best for us.
So, with that in mind, when we approach counselling, we can try to remember that the whole reason counselling is so effective for so many is because we each have this deep down wisdom. Counsellors don’t ‘cure’ their clients, they try to shine a light on the client’s innate ability to access their own wisdom.
Understandably, many of us seek out counselling at a very vulnerable time in our lives when we may feel far from being able to access our own inner wisdom and so we seek guidance and support from someone else.
It is true that the client is exclusively qualified to direct their own personal growth, (we are the experts upon our own life) our counsellors are, without a doubt, there to support us, empathise with us and facilitate our exploration and reflection on our experience but, ultimately, it is us that makes our life decisions and knows what we truly want for ourselves, deep down…