Curiosity Doesn’t Always Kill the Cat

Good adjustment means that you let others see who you really are instead of who you wish they think you are. ~@sgbrownlow

The Frog thingI follow a number of stellar people on Twitter (Tweeters? Tweeps? Twitterers? Twits?) and have quite the collection of 140-character tweets that I’d like to plaster all over the walls of my office. Most of them are so good that if the clients actually read/did them all, I’d be redundant and have to take up writing for a living.

The collective wisdom available in the mass of humanity is absolutely amazing. When I actually think about the small wave of that wisdom that I’m exposed to every morning as I work my way through TED Talks, Twitter, LinkedIn, Harvard Business Review, Links for Shrinks, HuffPost, the various bloggers I follow (and my wonderful, wise Facebook friends) I feel privileged and enriched. I’m also getting up earlier and earlier because all of this surfing takes so darn long, but that’s another post.

While it’s also true that the Internet is an uncensored, uncurated repository for every little bit of flotsam and jetsam ever uploaded, whether good, bad, or truly horrifying, it is also the repository of people’s passions, of learning, and of sharing. You might not particularly want what I have to share, but someone does. And the opposite is true. I might be looking for exactly the bit of information you contributed. And for those with an insatiable curiosity to know stuff (pick me) the Internet is like Fort Knox – I know all the gold is in there, I just have to find the right door and the correct combination and it’s all mine. Furthermore, finding the right door and the correct combination is an interesting process itself.

Today I have learned about conductive ink made in someone’s garage, open-source plans for a car made of a bicycle, and ‘Haptography’ developments happening at Penn State. I watched a TED Talk that I passed on to Bill (“Five Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Kids Do“) so that he is properly prepared to spend the summer with our grandsons, and I retweeted about half a dozen great quotes/ideas from the Tweeps I follows ~ because they were worth passing on. It’s amazing what can be said in 140 characters.

All of that to say that learning, for me, is a never ending pursuit (I did relieve Bill yesterday by admitting that I ‘probably’ won’t pursue another PhD) that began with a curiosity that has never been assuaged. That curiosity was nurtured in my family by parents who refused to have a TV, forced us to play outside the majority of the time (doing boring things like building forts in the hay mow or having mock battles with sticks and dried cow plops) and who would stop what they were doing to answer childish questions. “I don’t know why that’s happening. Shall we see if we can figure it out?”

Back to therapy. When I, as a therapist, can find a spark of curiosity (about anything) in a client, and nurture it into questions that we can answer together, my experience has been that the client then begins to feel empowered regarding his/her own situation. There is something about the nature of curiosity that generalizes into useful, practical life skills. When curiosity is absent, so is creativity… courage… flexibility… interest… all of the things that make problem-solving possible.

WisdomSometimes, the most effective homework I can give a client in the process of therapy has nothing to do with the often painful or traumatic reasons why s/he came to see me, but rather, an exercise intended to spark curiosity. If the exercise is successful, almost inevitably, the spark grows into more/different questions and the resulting creativity is put to good use emotionally, psychologically, and mentally.

What are you curious about?

P.S. Bill just asked what I was doing – I said, “Writing a post on curiosity.”

“Oh. You mean, like, ‘Curiosity killed the cat?'”

“Um… not exactly.”


4 Comments on “Curiosity Doesn’t Always Kill the Cat

  1. This reminded me of Curiosity Rover– the robotic device currently poking about on the surface of the red planet. Mars is a whole other somewhere, not just a distant land. It can be seen as an extreme challenge, but doable—getting there will test our knowledge, our resourcefulness, and the limits of our abilities in every conceivable fashion. It will be risky, and yes, probably, people will die. We live in a risk-averse world, which means that the value of challenge has been grossly underestimated. As people become more and more “stay at home” and turn to ever more tap-and-push solutions, we are losing our survival instinct. How unhealthy is that? We need to teach our children not only how to assess risk but to push the envelope of their security and embrace it.

    • I agree. You should see the plans Bill has for his grandsons – they begin with “Five Dangerous Things You Should Let Your Children Do,” and progress (deteriorate?) from there. The paradox is that the button-pushing, game-sticking generation does amazing things virtually, and then goes out and tries to duplicate those feats in real life, and the result is often disaster. As I read on the Red Bull website, “—‘s enthusiasm and determination were no match for physics and the law of gravity.”
      Changing the value of a challenge definitely begins with realistic risk assessments. The curiosity, for the most part, is already there.

  2. Very interesting blog! A repost of mine got swept up in the Related Articles section of your post. I’m definitely adding you to the list of people I’m following!

    • Thanks for the encouragement and the follow, Margy. I’m always amazed at the way connections happen in the digital world. I’m going to pop over and take a look at your blog.

      =) S

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