What's Wrong v. What Happened ?

 

As the suggestion that we should "ask what happened to you, not what's wrong with you" appears to be gaining ever increasing traction, I think it might be a good time to step back a little and examine this a little more closely. As with anything that risks becoming a cliché, I think we need to delve a little deeper into the ramifications of asking one vs. the other of these two questions.

 

At a basic level: "What's wrong with you?" could classically be seen as a closed, rather than open-ended question.  If someone asked that question in some anger/frustration/disgust etc., the answer from anyone on the receiving end in these circumstances would very likely be: "Nothing". Case closed. 

 

The question "What happened to you" is clearly more open-ended, and, when asked skillfully in an appropriate setting, could lead to many different and potentially helpful answers, depending on circumstances.

 

However my concern is that, making this a "one vs. the other" question, could imply that there is never anything "wrong".  If the word has any meaning in the English language, we are all well aware that there is often something wrong, which is why many of us are so interested in exploring a trauma-informed approach to our work. When anti-social behaviors manifest themselves as sequelae of trauma, something is wrong somewhere.  

 

Further, if this mantra gains common currency, we (in "the field") run the risk of being seen as apologists for all sorts of problems, in the same way, for example, as sociologists who have sought to 'explain' behavior, have been accused of 'excusing' behavior. So, while I well understand the impetus behind asking what happened in someone’s past development, to help explain a current situation or set of behaviors, I think we need to be careful in making this an either/or question i) so that that it does not become a cliché and ii) so that it does not become misinterpreted by the public as offering excuses for behaviors. We need to acknowledge, explore and try to help resolve past issues; but we also need to acknowledge that we are usually doing this because there is something wrong somewhere in the picture.

Original Post
×
×
×
×