“Curiosity is the wick in the candle of learning.” William Arthur Ward
Over the past few years I have noticed myself saying a similar phrase to patients. My purpose is to make the process of therapy safe and helpful so that people can achieve their goals. Three words sum up my philosophy of what I believe facilitates healing and growth: curiosity without judgment.
Someone who has decided to enter psychotherapy is usually curious about what is preventing them from being happier or getting what they want in their life. But what often happens is they berate themselves or others for feelings, choices, and actions. It may be about things in the past, presently occurring, or fears about a future endeavor. The result can be a masochistic, blaming or fearful quagmire. “I should have done this." “I’ve wasted so much time.” “How could they have done that?” “What if it doesn’t work out?” This ‘stuck mind tape” is another problem in, and of itself. The net result is that a more curious stance leading to increased knowledge, action and resolution is hindered.
Curiosity without judgment does not give the self or others a “free pass” to not accept responsibility for choices, actions or behaviors. Rather it opens the door to be more fully present to really explore what is impacting present difficulties.
So what gets in the way of people being able to do that whether they are in therapy, or not?
Preconceived notions, fear of the unknown and shame or guilt about feelings, are high on the list of culprits that impede an individual’s natural curious nature. People can generalize feelings about themselves from one particular thought or action. “I’m a bad person because I did, felt or thought that.” Then instead of being curious or open to learn more, a part of them shuts down.