Hardly anyone has heard of philosophical counseling, but now that I’ve started my own philosophical counseling and consulting business, I’ve had loads of opportunities to describe the “how’s” and “why’s” of this form of philosophical practice. I start by emphasizing that, at the heart of the matter, philosophical counseling entails thinking about our lives and experiences in ways that help us become better people who think, live, and feel better along the way. Even though I think that’s a pretty compelling description of what’s at stake, it’s been met with a variety of responses.
Some people get it right away and are really excited to learn of such a “practical” approach to life’s questions. Some people are genuinely intrigued and want to learn more. But there’s another response that I hadn’t fully anticipated, which, although less common than the first two, has been frequent enough that it motivated me to write this post.
Some people respond by saying, “Thinking as a solution to life’s problems? Huh. I think the real problem happens when people think too much.”
Now, let’s be honest. Approaching the topic of philosophical counseling per se is a new thing for me, so there’s a solid chance that my elevator pitch needs some polishing. But since I’ve heard it more than once or twice, I couldn’t just chalk this skeptical – if not down right dismissive – response up to poor marketing. I started to think about thinking, what it would mean to think too much, and if thinking too much is really a problem. (One thing is for sure: If thinking too much turned out to be a problem, it would be a major problem, one that could undermine all that I’ve been thinking and doing and working up to for so long. In the spirit of my philosophical commitment, then, and since I’m all in favor of critical self-reflection, I took this to be an important point of exploration, even if considering the possibility felt a tad bit risky).