Why should you befriend experiences and things that you are afraid of? Things that unnerve you, disgust you or freak you out? A week ago, I had a moment when my curiosity overcame my fear and I started to reflect on how curiosity can help us overcome inner as well as outer fears.
Curiosity is what researcher, therapist and facilitator, Amy Mindell calls a “metaskill.” Amy coined the term in her 2006 book, Metaskills: The Spiritual Art of Therapy. Metaksills are “deep feeling qualities, or attitudes that bring learned skills to life and make them useful”. As a therapist, I know metaskills are important to my clients and my work, but as a human being, I find they are essential to acceptance, growth and change.
I’ve just returned home from my early morning walk with Herbie, my shitzu-poodle, who gives me both reason and energy to walk every morning at 6.
Looking down at the road, as we walked, I noticed an unusual looking insect — large, about 4 inches long — where I was about to step next.
I rarely examine insects of any sort. In fact, I avoid them at all cost, as they repulse me, actually freak me out. Maybe it’s their creepy crawliness, or their being-there- when-you-least-expect-them nature that I find so troubling. I hate when I find them in the sink, or coming down my bedroom wall or, heaven forbid, in my bed! Yuk!
But, on my walk this morning, for some reason, I found myself a bit interested in this insect laying in the road. As I started to bend over to look at it a bit more, it flew up almost into my face, startling me the way insects always do. And as it flew away, I noticed that it had wings like a dragonfly, and stripes like a bee. Really unusual, something I’d never seen before. I love when something new enters my life and at this intersection, I found myself simultaneously frightened and curious.
As I walked on, I kept thinking about my experience.
- Hmmm, what if when I experience fear, I could also be curious about the person, situation, belief or thing causing that fear?
- What if, in the face of unpleasant, self-condemning thoughts, where I judge myself as miserable human being, instead I could be curious about my feelings, thoughts, unkindness toward myself?
- And what if when faced with people who I expeirnece as “other,” who I might fear — what if I got curious about them instead of turning away or judging those not like me?
Bringing curiosity and awareness to what we fear or despise, or judge as intolerable, is an opportunity to ask questions, to be curious, to inquire into the nature of the “other” — be it an insect, a part of myself, a closely held belief, another human being, or group of people. With curiosity, we can earnestly open ourselves to an inquiry into just why it is that we need to consciously or unconsciously keep ourselves separate?
Thank you dear, unusual and a bit frightening dragonfly on my path this morning. You have awakened me to curiosity and fear — to the possibility of living a more curious life!
How has curiosity been an ally to you? Where have you been able to use a curious attidue to over come fear or separation? I would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment.