Posted: May 4, 2020 in: Pain-2-Power, Personal Empowerment

Want to Know Yourself? Be a little like Columbo.

People generally think they have all the information they need to figure themselves out.  After all, they’re the ones who lived the lives they’re striving to improve.  They may remember lots of details from early chapters in their life stories—often, all the way back to kindergarten.

The trouble is that our minds also suppress some of the confusing, complex or painful parts of our life stories, leaving us without needed information to understand how we developed patterns of emotion, thought and behavior we might want to change.

That’s where being a little like Columbo comes in.  Columbo, featuring a detective played by the late Peter Falk, was a television series that ran from 1968 to 2003.  And Columbo was unique because he tended to be self-effacing as he tried to find out the truth.  “I’m kind of slow connecting dots,” he might say, “but when you mentioned you were out of town on business when Judy went missing, I couldn’t figure out . . .”

You get the idea.  Columbo was a burrower.  He would gently circle back, again and again, and ask one question after another, until a story made complete sense to him.  Nothing less than that satisfied him.

In the process of getting to know ourselves, it is often important to go to the sources we can for more information.  We shouldn’t necessarily be the sole sources.  Parents, siblings, friends and others may be able to share incredibly valuable parts of our life stories with us.  And asking them for that information in a non-threatening way can be an important part of turning pain into power.

I can think of lots of examples, because I have helped lots of people do this, but here are a few examples:

  • Mom, I was thinking back to when dad left for Colorado, after you two divorced, and I realized I never asked you something. It might seem like a weird one.  Maybe it doesn’t really matter.  But, did you tell him how strange it was for him to move so far away from his kids?  Or did you feel like it was just easier for him to be further away?
  • Grandpa, I’ve been trying to get my head around why my mom was always so worried about me driving—like really worried, every time I used the car. And she was nervous about a lot of things when I was growing up.  She said she doesn’t know why, but she said I could ask you.  Did anything happen to her when she was little that would make her such an anxious person?

Nothing is more important than knowing yourSELF.  From that foundation, any goal can be reached—any goal.  And the process of knowing your own life story isn’t just a process of introspection.  It is often also a process of gentle investigation.  Don’t be too shy about it.  Be a hunter/gatherer of truth.


Dr. Keith Ablow


One response to “Want to Know Yourself? Be a little like Columbo.”

  1. J Sanders says:

    To thine own self be true.