Curiosity as an Antidote to Anxiety and Shame
Updated: Dec 17, 2018
Have you ever heard the phrase "Curiosity killed the cat?". It's a popular saying that I think most of us in the US have grown up with. It's something caregivers say to stop children from getting into things. The very sentence evokes a sense of fear--that if I continue doing whatever I'm doing, something bad will happen--I could even be killed, like the cat! It also inspires a sense of shame--shame that I'm doing something very wrong, I am wrong.
The saying is an unfortunate one, because the truth is, Curiosity is necessary for all human development and learning. If we aren't Curious, we won't explore, and if we don't explore, we don't really learn to understand the world around us or within us.
Anxiety and Shame do not enjoy Curiosity, and in fact, are deeply threatened by it. Anxiety and Shame do not wish to be explored. When we explore thoughts and feelings that trigger Anxiety or Shame, it might even, in those moments, make them feel more powerful--but the truth is, getting to know them is the only way to make them smaller for the long term! Curiosity is the secret weapon against Anxiety and Shame, and can be a critical skill to learn for self-growth and healing.
One of the most important things that we can do to protect ourselves is to develop and practice a sense of Curiosity. Curiosity allows us a sense of freedom, we can let our guard down and get caught up in a genuine desire to learn something, understand something more.
When we can work with a sense of Curiousness about ourselves in therapy, we can step out of anxiety, fear, embarassment, guilt or blame, and simply get to know ourselves better without judgement.
Developing the skill of Curiosity will take practice! Try for a few minutes every day. When you find yourself becoming stressed or distressed, take a few deep breaths, and just notice (curiously) what is happening in your body and mind.
Imagine yourself to be a child, joyfully pretending to be a scientist:
1. What is happening in my body?
Listen to the observations without judgement. If you aren't able to do this at first, just notice it--try not to judge yourself again! It's a practice! If you catch yourself getting off track, notice it and come back.
2. What is happening in my mind?
Again, tune in with a spirit of Curiosity--without judgement.
When you are finished, notice how it feels to meet yourself with Curiosity. Was anything different? If so, how?
Practicing Curiosity with yourself isn't easy--especially when we live with Anxiety or Shame. Creating Space Counseling and Wellness can help you to get to know your Curious part and strengthen it, so that practicing can become easier. You'll soon see for yourself, that the more Curiousity leads, the less powerful Anxiety and Shame become. Call today for an appointment!