My brother is making progress on my website. I keep telling him there is no rush to get the site up and running because I’m not at all sure that what I am doing is wise.
I came across a blog written by a psychiatrist. She talked about people complaining about her site giving advice and they included reader’s comments as advice! She no longer writes in her blog.
As a psychologist I will not be in as tricky a position as her since I have nothing to do with medicines. I will not be addressing medication apart from recommending people see their doctor or psychiatrist to discuss that kind of treatment.
On the other hand there is a strong taboo in my own profession against giving people advice. The theory is there is no point in telling people what to do. In the first place your advice may be wrong for that person because we are all unique individuals and what works for one may be the worst possible choice for another. In the second place most people don’t listen to advice. Advice doesn’t, it CAN’T, change people. People have to change themselves and advice is often heard as criticism which can produce a defensive reaction that works against the person changing. In the third place if you give advice, as a professional person, you lay yourself open to being sued for giving bad advice!
It is when I think about that third place that I am overcome by an urge to pull my head in and scrap the whole idea. Just thinking about the problems I could face over this website makes me go weak at the knees.
It isn’t just that people might complain or try to sue me that worries me. I also am sure there will be many psychologists, not to mention other professionals, who will strongly disapprove of the amount of self-disclosure contained in this blog.
The only thing more taboo in the psychological profession than giving advice is self-disclosure!
I have already mentioned my tendency towards pessimism — well it is in full flower over this site. I have visions of being sacked over it, of having my license to practise taken away, of facing public censure from other psychologists, of being targeted by the media. I envision religious people accusing me of being a bad example whilst the non-religious people accuse me of taking advantage of vulnerable people to turn them religious and so on.
My fears demand an answer, and they want a very good one, to the question: “Why?”
What on earth is my reason for doing this? I have so much to lose and nothing to gain in exposing myself like this. Why not just start up a web site optimization service and leave it at that? Why include an advice column, articles or a blog?
Every time I try to write an answer to that question I come up against arguments that blow holes in the rationality of the answer. None of the answers I come up with feel like they are good enough.
I want to help people, yes, but some people will not be helped and some may actually feel I have had a negative effect on them.
All the possible answers to the question of why don’t stack up against the biggest “Yes — but” of them all. Yes, but what if you hurt, upset, and distress people? What if you make mistakes, get things wrong and others are harmed?
That question distresses me a lot. The last thing I want to do is harm anyone. My mind comes, again, to the big question — why? Why am I doing this?
I have searched and searched and searched for someone like me, for a site like I plan mine to be and there is nothing. All advice sites are either amateurs or they charge for the advice. All professional people blogging, and most of the other people who blog, are fairly reserved in what they will say about their personal lives.
Why am I putting myself on the line like this?
The only answer that justifies the risks I am taking is the one I keep coming back to every time I ask the question — because I think God wants me to do this.
All I can do is pray that is true and do what I believe He is asking me to do.