The Winding Path

Counselling Services provided by Barb Zacharias

July 2011: Curiosity Part 1

Posted on Jul 15, 2011

Curiosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will.
~ James Stephens

Lately, I have been writing about The Void—now thought of as Spaciousness. In the same conversation that resulted in reframing The Void as spaciousness, we also talked about those inner voices that seem to haunt us—and are louder and more persistent than anything we supposedly think up for ourselves.

We remember being called stupid, or fat, or any other label for ‘less than.’ And any time we try to tell ourselves otherwise, that label clamors and grows more insistent. This makes for very hard therapeutic work when we try to exchange internalized negative messages with positive ones. And usually some progress can be made. We do grow more confidant in believing the positive self-talk and in refuting the negative internalized messages—that may feel true but are not true.

In a sense, we have to choose not to believe them anymore. We come to the conclusion that they no longer serve a purpose, they are not helping us. If it is not helping, why do we ‘go there’ in our minds?  It seems we have to first put aside these labels (or beliefs) in order to move forward—to finally believe we are worth the effort.

But I digress. Back to where curiosity fits in. Some of my inner voices were getting rather rowdy—it was hard to think straight over the din—and I was getting frustrated trying to shush them up and bring some gentler, kinder voices into the mix. You know, the ones considered party-poopers by those rambunctious trouble makers. And rather than fight them, it was suggested to me to get curious about them. Why are they ‘in there’ the first place? What prompted them to party a little harder just then? That sort of thing.

In general terms, I know where these rabble-rousing negative messages come from. Most of us could tell similar stories of parents, or siblings, or classmates who said or did things that left indelible marks. We internalize this stuff to be true. As we mature, we usually encounter opportunities that test the ‘trueness’ of the statements we have internalized. While we all have our ‘less-than-optimal’ moments, we also all have our moments of brilliance, of strength, of beauty, of contribution, of appreciation.

What we need to get curious about is what prompts all this negative self-perception. A misspoken word, a certain look, a sequence of events can all act as triggers. And we remember. It brings up all that old messaging. Time for those gentler, kinder voices to get a little louder and remind ourselves that we are not still 10—or whatever age—and not in the same situation. It may feel like we are in it all over again; but it is good to remind ourselves that we are in a new moment in the present. We can choose a different response. We can choose to think differently.

This is where curiosity conquers fear, or anxiety, even better than bravery. When we get curious, we ask questions rather than fight to the final breath. And last I checked, the point of this whole ‘get up’ is to make the most of every breath we take. To be more mindful.

Giving ourselves time to be curious also allows us to ask ourselves, What do I need?  Do I need to beat myself up at this particular moment? Or do I need to care for myself on a deeper level? What would that caring look like? If you are reminded of a past moment, what would you have liked to receive at the time of the insult or injury? Can you give that to yourself now?

As you get curious about what ‘gets under your skin,’ may you find rest from the rabble-rousers of your mind.

Stay tuned for next month when I relate this bit about curiosity and fear as it relates to my phobia of bears…

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