Bringing Curiosity to Life

By: PERIANNE VANBELOIS, MA, LLPC, LLMFT

I have recently become an Aunt again, and it amazes me each time it happens, how these little humans so quickly change the way we go about our lives. They begin to teach us more about ourselves.  The way we worry when they make a strange noise, the frustration we feel trying to get their tiny feet to fit into their footy pajamas, and, as they grow, the many “why” questions we attempt to answer.

As I watch my nieces and nephews grow, I have seen their ability to bring curiosity to everything they do. How do things work, how do you fix things, why do we do things the way we do them, why does someone feel the way they feel. All questions I have been asked, and all the people around them meet their curiosity with kindness, and wonder of our own. As I watched this play out, I couldn’t help but wonder what would it be like to bring child-like curiosity to our lives as adults?  The judgment free ability to reflect on choices, our emotions, our reactions, and our values and beliefs.

 Curiosity is powerful. It allows people to reflect on areas of their lives that they once accepted as “it’s just how things are done.” It allows people to make their own informed decisions, and can facilitate change in areas and situations in which change is needed. Adding some curiosity to our adult life can create some change in the following areas: 

Improving Empathy

Curiosity means wanting to get to know someone and their worldview. It means asking questions, conversing, and not making assumptions. This allows for deeper conversations, and a want to understand the other’s emotions as well as our own. This type of curiosity, to go out of one’s way to engage on a deeper level, takes some courage. It is courage that we see in many children. From asking the new child on the playground to play, to asking “why are you sad”, when they see someone crying. It is the courage that children have to check in with their peers and loved ones when they see an emotion being expressed, that leads to stronger empathy.

Building Stronger Connections

Bringing curiosity to our conversations with partners, children, and friends shows our desire to connect. This allows the other person to feel valued and appreciated, and to feel that what they have to say matters. When we think back on the start of a relationship in our lives, there is curiosity there. Wanting to get to know the person better, so we ask more questions, we actively listen to them, and then our fondness for the person begins to grow, and the connection deepens. The person we are connecting with will typically return this active listening and curiosity, that makes us feel valued. How powerful, that some curiosity on our end, can lead to getting to know someone on a deeper, more genuine level. 

Discovering Emotions

Bringing curiosity to all areas of our life also means checking in with ourself, and what we are feeling. This curiosity that we can give ourselves allows for a place to explore. It may be uncomfortable at times starting to identify how we experience something. There may also be times of joy as we reflect on our emotions. However, in time, there is hope that it will be freeing to be able to bring curiosity to our own emotions. 

Understanding of our Self

Bringing curiosity to some of our day to day thinking, activities, and habits can bring some understanding. Maybe it solidifies for us that we do have a certain belief, or that we do like our bed time routine. However, bringing some curiosity to an emotion or habit, may show an area that has room for self-improvement. Without kind, non-judgmental curiosity we likely remain unaware of our strengths and weaknesses. 

Curiosity can lead to more self discovery. It can create a space where we explore what we value, what we believe,  what brings us joy, and how to do more of those joy-creating things. It prevents the “stuck” feeling from lasting, and creates a space to always explore.

 We don’t always know the answers, for the children in our lives when they ask “why” and “how”, but we search, we ask for help when we need it, and we come up with the best answers we can give. I think we can all use a little more of that in our lives. As I look at just a few areas that change when non-judgmental curiosity is brought to life, I think “How amazing, we did this at such a young age!” How amazing we can make the choice to bring curiosity to life again. 

Lindsey Bandy