On Curiosity

hil unnamed (1)

 

 

All of us have something to give others that is exactly what they need. It doesn’t cost a thing, it’s an ever-replenishing resource, and it’s one of the most healing agents we can offer another human being. It’s our curiosity.

Okay, maybe sometimes, it does cost something. When we aren’t feeling curious at all in a charged relationship, it may cost us our ego pride to let go of needing to be right and become curious instead. In those instances, it also costs us some effort, because we might have to do a little work to get there. But when we hold the intention to get curious, curiosity is always available to us. And always worth the effort.  

Curiosity is a marker of emotional neutrality. If you’re genuinely curious about another person, you’re de facto not judgmental. De facto, not reactive. You’re neutral. And while curiosity is a symptom of emotional neutrality, it’s also the avenue for getting there. Which (provided your goal is to be psychologically and emotionally healthy in a given relationship) is where you want to be. Cultivating emotional neutrality does not mean becoming a lobotomized robot. It means existing in present time, in the now, with another person. Versus being sucked into reactions based on your history, your habitual stories, dynamics that control you versus you having choice or any say over who and how you want to be.  

If you can’t muster curiosity about the other person in a particular moment, get curious about yourself. What is going on in here? Inside this whirling reactive hurt or angry cyclone that at the moment is me? Inside this shut down closed off fortress I have built? Getting curious about the body can be a great place to start. It’s an effective way to get out of the repetitive cycles that tend to go on in the mind. What is happening in my body? Where do I feel intensity, or numb? Can I focus on my breath for a moment here, and breathe a little more deeply? Calming the body can lead us into the ability to get curious about what is going on in our mind. The stories we tell ourselves, and believe without question: that’s precisely where we need to bring on the questions! Is there another way to see this situation instead of the way I always do? Is it possible that the way I am experiencing this might be optional? Could I shift just a little bit and open up to a new perspective?

Getting curious about yourself is bestowing that healing agent upon the human being you happen to hang out with 24/7. For that reason alone, it’s highly recommended. But also, getting curious about self in a charged relational moment can shift the dynamic with the other person, precisely because it takes you out of the dynamic. And hopefully, through managing self, you can calm down enough to get curious about the other. And maybe even start to ask them some questions. About how they’re doing. About what is going on for them.

Not just any question will do. I think we can all agree that “What the hell is wrong with you?” doesn’t exactly convey curiosity. But, “Tell me more about why you think that?” “What do you need right now?”, “What can I do for you?”, these are the kinds of questions which transmit the curiosity that melts armor. That opens hearts. That heals.

20 thoughts on “On Curiosity”

  1. good one, TF 😘

    On Wed, Oct 25, 2017 at 12:38 PM, Hilary Illick wrote:

    > hilaryillick posted: ” All of us have something we can give others that > is exactly what they need. It doesn’t cost a thing, it’s an > ever-replenishing resource, and it’s one of the most healing agents we can > offer another human being. It’s our curiosity. Okay, maybe ” >

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    1. I love the cartoon. I do that to my “guy” all the time. He is a good indicator of whether or not I am truly being curious and emotionally neutral. It is a practice and I am grateful for those people in my life who can mirror for me how it’s going.

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    2. Thank you for this added insight into what curiosity allows for: it invites us into owning our part. No curiosity lets us stay in whatever our Story is. If it’s a Story of victim and blame (which so many stories seem to be), we stay stuck right there. Owning nothing. Unable to grow.

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  2. You are so smart! In those charged moments, I’ve been trying discipline… taking a deep breath and not falling into the trap of reacting (often much better to respond than to react). But curiosity is so much more fun! A much more positive way to go about it, and so much more productive. AND to use curiosity to search the self when we can’t seem to muster it in the heat of the moment is brilliant- although for me, it may be a postponed curiosity 😊.

    I am looking forward to using curiosity in this way- thank you.

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    1. I think what you’re getting at here is that curiosity engages our intellect. It gives our mind something TO DO instead of just something NOT TO DO. “Don’t react,” isn’t as helpful as, “Hey, get curious.” If we can give our mind something productive to do, it can actually get out of the way. Get out of doing all the same ole same ole things it does that get us into trouble…

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  3. I think the most important question is “is there another way to see this situation instead of the way I always do?” That is a very tough thing to do. To see, while in a disagreement, (especially with someone you love) and to change on the spot. I know that I will remember this the next time I start to travel down that familiar path. And I also know that with practice I can change the pattern. Thank you for writing this and for the reminder that being curious (a student of the world) makes one the best teacher.

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    1. Remembering it in the moment is Black Belt worthy. Even if you realize it afterwards, which is when I tend to realize Oops I was stuck in my same ole same ole same ole story and reactivity, you can always say, “Can we start over?” “May we please have a do over?” I may write a blog on do-overs one of these days… Thank you for your comment.

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  4. I love this. being right and making someone else wrong is so right there for me, always. Curiosity allows space for something. I was recently in a challenging relationship with someone who got angry (and looked a little scary from time to time). Whenever they would I would go straight to shame, making them wrong around being angry, and having it that they really SHOULDN’T BE ANGRY. There was no love, compassion, or curiosity. He felt judged, unloved, and unsafe to express his emotions. It’s not just curiosity what’s needed, it’s total acceptance. Loving people exactly the way they are (and the way they are not). Loving their anger and resentment too. Curiosity is the gateway. Pausing and saying ‘is what I’m making up about this situation really true?’

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    1. Yes, exactly, the gateway. It’s hard if not impossible to jump right from hurt or reactivity to compassion and acceptance. We, alas, are not saints. Having gateways to get to our most loving selves is so essential I find. And curiosity is certainly one of them. Thank you for your comments and participation in this ongoing conversation.

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  5. This is from Nick on FB:

    Curiosity. What a concept. It’s so basic and life affirming and we had it in spades as kids. It’s a nice place to get back to. In fact, rather than blame myself for this or that pattern of thinking or behavior, I’m going to get curious about it…. There, I just tried it for a moment. It felt nonjudgmental and kind of healing.

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  6. I have a major overarching goal to let curiosity becomes a bigger part of my life. I am curious but this emotion gets so easily squashed by other uglier feelings. Feelings that are neither illuminating or elevating.

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    1. What about getting curious about how that happens? About what is so compelling to your mind about the “uglier feelings”? It’s kind of fascinating to get curious about that. On some level, our mind might think we have to work through our “uglier feelings” or reason with them, and then somehow we get sucked into letting them dominate. Getting curious about that internal process might loosen things up, and lead you into the state you want to be your overarching one…

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