Do You Know How Important Curiosity Is In Life And In Therapy? By Dr Linda Berman.

imageCuriosity (Mission San Juan Caistrano) – (Joseph Kleitsch)

“Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great creative people.”

Leo Burnett

Curiosity is being eager to find out about new things, to know and learn about various aspects of the world.

It means that we will investigate with some enthusiasm whatever interests us.

Being curious requires an openness of mind, and a willingness to pursue new knowledge and experiences.

Einstein regarded curiosity as a basic aspect of his success :

“I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” 

Einstein

Well, that was Einstein…. but how might such curiosity help us?

Research into the benefits of curiosity has revealed that it is a crucial factor in academic learning.

“Curiosity is the beginning of all wisdom.”

Françoise Sagan

It is also well documented that curiosity can make us feel happier, enhance relationships, and improve our health and wellbeing.

Curiosity, when developed and nurtured in every child, will continue into adulthood and throughout life.

“It is so important to allow children to bloom and to be driven by their curiosity.”

May-Britt Moser

“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”

Dorothy Parker

Curiosity is a wonderful gift, often stimulated by others and by the wonders of the world around us.

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Scene from Charles Perrault’s Sleeping Beauty.(Detail) Tango 7174. Wikimedia Commons.

“I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

Certainly, when I was at school, children’s curiosity was often crushed by strict, scary and incurious teachers.

Hopefully that has changed somewhat, but it is sad that it has happened to so many during their education in years past.

imagePaul Louis Martin des Amoignes. In the Classroom (1886) Wikimedia Commons.

“It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.”

Albert Einstein

child-830988_1920

“To me education is a leading out of what is already there in the pupil’s soul. To Miss Mackay it is a putting in of something that is not there, and that is not what I call education. I call it intrusion.”

Muriel Spark

Curiosity needs to be encouraged… that is how we learn…. through discovery and through asking questions!

“Awaken people’s curiosity. It is enough to open minds, do not overload them. Put there just a spark.”

Anatole France.

image

Louis-Charles Verwée – Curiosity

imageFalling Apple. Zátonyi Sándor. Wikimedia Commons.

“Millions saw the apple fall, but Newton asked why.”

Bernard Baruch

  • Without Curiosity…….

imageNeznakovmka by I. Kramskoy. Wikimedia Commons.

“The worst decision most adults make is to stop asking questions — trading their curiosity for the appearance of competence.”

Sven Stingers

Without curiosity we will most likely be dull and uniformed. If we do not continually question things throughout our lives, we will lack energy and dynamism and be stuck in our old ways.

Some people may, as the quotation above states, use a lack of curiosity as a defence against appearing not to know something.

However, this is an unproductive trade-off for all concerned; it is an unattractive quality to appear to be a know-all and it certainly does not endear people to us.

It will likely mean that we talk non-stop, blocking out the other, without making eye-contact or any real connection with them.

image

“Wearisome conversation” (A soldier hides his yawn from his lady companion.) 1912. Oscar Bluhm.Wikimedia Commons.

“The secret of being a bore… is to tell everything.”

Voltaire

We will inevitably be regarded as tiresome, intimidating and perhaps arrogant. This defensive stance demeans other people and it also deprives ourselves.

It also results in our relationships becoming one-sided and limited, in that we will miss out on the pleasure of a flowing, interactive, give and take, real and equal dialogue, with each person respected for who they are.

imageThe Jury (1861) John Morgan. Wikimedia Commons.

“There are no uninteresting things, only uninterested people.”

G.K. Chesterton

Being uninterested in others indicates that we might miss or overlook their individuality- the unique aspects of their personalities.

Generalising, and having pre-conceived ideas about other people, implies that we are not curious about what makes them tick.

“The only reason people do not know much is because they do not care to know. They are incurious. Incuriousity is the oddest and most foolish failing there is.”

Stephen Fry

If we do not ask questions, there will be no answers. If there are no answers, there will be no discovery and we will learn nothing.

Furthermore, if we accept everything that is asserted by others, without curiosity or questioning, there will be no place for originality or creativity.

Those who wish to be innovative need, actively, and sensibly, to follow their doubts and curiosity about existing facts that they find questionable, rather than uncritically accepting what they are told.

“If we would have new knowledge, we must get a whole world of new questions.”

Susanne Langer

51228327548_f36db6c830_oMark Edwards – Deciding What to Do [2020]

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day.”

Albert Einstein

  • Curiosity About Ourselves 

image

The Moment of Truth I – (Paul Gauguin)

“Be a loner. That gives you time to wonder, to search for the truth. Have holy curiosity. Make your life worth living.”

Albert Einstein

How can we satisfy our curiosity about ourselves? Perhaps we might go into therapy (see below) or maybe we will learn in other ways about who we are and what makes us tick.

We achieve personal growth through self-reflection, self questioning and curiosity about our inner world.

Psychotherapy, group therapy, real conversation with others, meditation, research and reading widely can all help in terms of developing clear and constructive ways of thinking about ourselves.

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The Painter’s Mother Reading – (Lucian Freud)

“Books were my pass to personal freedom.”

Oprah Winfrey

  • Curiosity About Other People

imageTwo Friends – Andre Lhote. Wikioo.

“Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. The greatest problem with communication is we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply. When we listen with curiosity, we don’t listen with the intent to reply. We listen for what’s behind the words.”

Roy T. Bennett

There is something to love, and to be curious about, in everyone.

Obviously, we may find some people more interesting than others, but sometimes it takes a little effort to discover intriguing aspects in the person we may meet.

In addition, finding new and interesting places to visit in the world and being curious about the people there, together with their different cultures and customs, is a good way of expanding and encouraging our own sense of curiosity.

imageMichael Palin and Munzer Fahmy. Wikimedia Commons.

“I’ve always been blessed, or cursed, some might say, with an insatiable curiosity, a desire to find something out about a people and a place. That’s where it all begins.”

Michael Palin.

Satisfaction in terms of our curiosity about the world and other people is also gained through studying and reading widely, either alone or with others.

imageReading  – Edouard Manet. Wikioo.

“Reading is an exercise in empathy; an exercise in walking in someone else’s shoes for a while.”

Malorie Blackman

  • Curiosity In Therapy

A powerful way to learn and to satisfy our curiosity about ourselves and others is through having psychotherapy.

Curiosity on the part of both therapist and patient is highly important.

In therapy, it can be linked to the concept of ‘not-knowing,’ which I discussed in last week’s post. The therapist is certainly not an all-knowing being, despite what people may project onto them.

The therapeutic process is about an equal, collaborative and co-operative curiosity, where both therapist and patient can function together with a spirit of exploration, enquiry and discovery.

In this way, being curious can lead to understanding and insight. The therapist can spark the patient’s innate curiosity by demonstrating how valuable is the process of wondering and questioning together, rather than coming to quick conclusions.

This is certainly not about therapist nosiness or intrusiveness, but a genuine professional and compassionate feeling of interest, a desire to learn and understand and reflect on self and other within the therapy room.

Whilst asking direct, closed, or confrontational questions is not appropriate in therapy, gentle questioning to understand more about the patient enables us to learn and reflect on the other.

“Be curious, not judgemental.”

(Unknown Source. Often misattributed to Walt Whitman.)

From the very start of therapy, there is a necessary professional curiosity with open questions like… “Can you tell me what brought you here today?”

These kind of questions lead the patient to think, feel and explore, with a view to insight, as the therapy process deepens. As therapists, we will be curious to help the patient find their own truths and their own answers.

In the medical context, research related to doctors has considerable relevance to therapy. A paper entitled  ‘Empathy and Patient–Physician Conflicts’  reveals that:

“Caregivers who can learn to sustain their genuine curiosity about and receptivity to patients’ perspectives, even in the midst of emotionally charged interactions, not only reduce levels of anger and frustration for both parties, they can significantly improve decision-making on both ends and increase the effectiveness of treatment.”

Jodi Halpern.

imageThe Doctor’s Visit. – Paul John Reid. 2000. Wikioo.

“Let the young know they will never find a more interesting, more instructive book than the patient himself.”

Giorgio Baglivi

It is important that the patient, too, enters therapy wanting to know more about self and the world. No matter how painful and traumatic their story might be, most people who have therapy, when the time is right for them, will have some curiosity, wanting to understand and to learn.

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Woman dissociating and feeling fragmented. 2016.Dyversions. Wikimedia Commons.

” I was awfully curious to find out why I didn’t go insane.”

Abraham Maslow.

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“Patients waiting to see the doctor, with figures representing their fears.” Rosemary Carson. Wikimedia Commons.

“When we feel threatened, as we do when we are traumatized, our entire organism is geared up to find the source of that threat and to do something about it.”

Peter A. Levine

  • The Curiosity That Killed The Cat.

imageCuriosity – Horatio Henry Couldery. Wikioo.

“All animals feel Wonder, and many exhibit Curiosity. They sometimes suffer from this latter quality, as when the hunter plays antics and thus attracts them.”

Charles Darwin.

It is a good job that cats have nine lives. Their curiosity can be their ultimate downfall. Curiosity could also get us humans into trouble.

We certainly need to be aware that asking too many questions can appear oppressive and over-inquisitive, potentially swamping the other person, who may then withdraw from our company.

At times, when we are attracted to something that could be risky, then this is the moment to stop…. and think! If we do not, our curiosity could get us into hot water.

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John William Waterhouse: Psyche Opening the Golden Box – 1903. Wikimedia Commons.(For details of the Psyche myth follow this link.)

Questionably honest clickbait adverts online often try to cash in on our curiosity. They beckon us in, urging us to follow their dubious links with big statements and powerful temptations.

This is a time when we need to hold back, and sometimes curb our curious desires to follow things through.

Sometimes these adverts can be bogus, leading us to be tricked in some way, through their bold and seductive false claims.

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Example clickbait adverts. Wikimedia Commons.

“Clickbait is the worst. That’s my big moral highground, when I don’t click on clickbait.”

Kevin Feige

  • Curiosity And Falling In Love.

imageSimon Glücklich Paar im Gespräch. Couples in Conversation. Wikimedia Commons.

“People of a lively imagination are generally curious, and always so when a little in love. “

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

“If you can let go of passion and follow your curiosity, your curiosity just might lead you to your passion.”

Elizabeth Gilbert

If it were not for curiosity, we would not fall in love. Wanting to find out more about the person to whom we are initially attracted is a way of getting to know them, understand them and to feel closer.

imageLove – Liu Xiaodong. Wikioo.

“What is it that causes us to fall in love? We are met with those first, initial glimpses– a kind of curiosity, a longing for that which is both familiar and unknown in the other. And then comes the surprise of discovery; we share certain aspirations, certain appreciations, and that which is different excites us.”

Eowyn Ivey

Being listened to and really heard by another person wanting to know more about us feels like a loving and caring act. We all desire and need this kind of curiosity on the part of the other.

Eye contact is also important. It demonstrates that we really are curious to know more and make connection with someone, to discover their essence, their essential self.

imageEye in Eye – Edvard Munch. Wikioo.

“All it takes is the curiosity and courage to initiate engagement with another human being, and the willingness to listen and learn with an open mind.”

Brian Grazer.

© Linda Berman.

Becoming a follower of this blog will certainly help develop your curiosity! And this is NOT clickbait!!      Linda x

2 comments

  1. For me, curiosity is the magic link between two of my favourite professional and personal attributes, empathy (as you discuss in another post) and spontaneity. I could write a whole article about the differences between spontaneity and reactivity, as two very different kinds of unplanned responsiveness, and curiosity would certainly be a marker of spontaneity.

    Liked by 1 person

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