Curiosity Vs Fear

My Friday commutes downtown are some of my favorite times of the week.

It is not often that I get 25 or so minutes to sit and slow with only one sort of mindless task on the go. Not that driving is exactly mindless, but it sure requires a different level of engagement than the people-related tasks that make up much of my days. Getting to sit quietly with my own thoughts can be kind of a treat.

Usually on these commutes I’ll pop on the radio and listen to traffic reports in order to determine which sort of devious back lane detours I should take to make it to work on time, but today I left it on the album that was playing from our previous excursion.

A familiar song began to play but without the chatter and incessant questions that come with having young kids contained in a vehicle I actually had time to notice the lyrics. And notice I did as I backed the song up a good half dozen times on my drive, giving it plenty of opportunity to sink in.

Curiosity far greater than our fear
It felt so simple, so prodigious, at the same time
Incredible things are happening in the world,
Magical things are happening in the world.

For the record, folks, I’m not a walking dictionary and so I had to look up prodigious just to be sure what it meant.  Google tells me it means: 

Remarkably or impressively great in extent, size, or degree.

I found this song on repeat in my head as I walked through my day, and for good measure played it a couple more times on the way home.

After a day of meeting with clients I realize that these words can serve as a bit of an anthem for therapy.

Brave people come to therapy when their curiosity about a situation or life circumstance moves them to action.  Folks wonder:

  • Is it always going to feel this way?
  • Am I always going to do relationships like this? or perhaps,
  • Is my partner always going to feel so far away?

When curiosity is greater than fear, we are in a position to ask questions that will open the door for the potential to shift our situation.

Without curiosity we resign ourselves to live in fear, without hope of our situations changing. Click To Tweet

Conexus Counselling poster quote by Brené Brown: Curiosity is an act of vulnerability and courage.

And when folks actually get into session I think the curiosity continues, only now they have a companion to join them and guide their wondering.

Fear is a powerful force and it can often lead to coping strategies that aren’t helpful, or ways of managing that don’t serve us well.

Whether we’re fearful of being rejected, abandoned, alone, hurt, sad, afraid, or for some folks—even fearful of joy, I think we all have some inner rocks we’re a little leery of and would rather not turn them over.

Fear of not knowing what would happen if we dug a little bit into those tender places keeps us away from them, but the unfortunate downside is that fear also keeps us away from ourselves. The therapy room becomes a safe haven for inquisition, a place to put fear in the backseat for a bit while curiosity takes the wheel.

Conexus Counselling Poster by Brené Brown: There is a profound relationship--a love affair, really--between curiosity and wholeheartednessAs I drove home and listened again to the song I reviewed my day, noticing the ways in which my clients were both curious and brave as they pressed into dark corners that are sometimes frightening.

  • I heard echoes of curiosity as they engaged creative solutions for tricky situations,
  • I saw partners extend curiosity towards each other’s hurtful behaviour and try to understand it better as a strategy to protect rather than harm, and
  • I heard a gentle wondering about and kind words towards hurt parts that really tried their best to help – even if the efforts caused more harm than good.
  • Today I witnessed curiosity greater than fear, and out of those places of gentle wondering trickled compassion towards the self and other.

When we can approach ourselves and all of the things we do and say and feel with a gentle curiosity, it becomes safe enough to know ourselves better rather than to fearfully deny or ignore parts that seem a little frightening.

And when we can approach others with curiosity it creates the safety needed for them to come out and show us more of who they really are.

  • Maybe that means we need to get curious about why we’re being icy with a friend.
  • Or perhaps need to wonder why food has become a crutch.
  • Or maybe we need to gently ponder why we’re struggling so hard to get out of bed…again.

Conexus Counselling poster quote by Brené Brown: Curiosity is correlated with creativity, intelligence, improved learning and memory and problem solving.Curiosity really is a simple concept, and yet most definitely a monumental task for many of us.

It does, indeed, take a remarkably great degree of effort to choose to respond in such a way to ourselves and those around us.

Judgement, shame, comparison…these are simple.

But curiosity?


And while it’s definitely a tricky task, I think the lyricist is on to something as they link curiosity and incredible and magical things.

When we are able to look through curious lenses the color of life is different. The harsh lines of black and white soften and shades of grey appear, and we can appreciate the nuances and hues that this new lens offers us.

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