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What I’m Learning About Curiosity

Duncan Riach

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I’ve had many conversations with my therapist in which I’ve been talking about my interactions with someone and she’s said, “He [or she] isn’t curious.”

After a brief pause to reflect on my therapist’s observation, and to think back through the interactions I had with that person, I typically exclaim “Oh shit! I hadn’t even noticed that.” Even as I’m writing this now, I’m thinking of some other very disturbing interactions I’ve had in my life and I’m realizing that those were also characterized by zero curiosity from the other person.

So, this is a pattern for me. I enter an interaction with another human being, and I often bring some very vulnerable part of myself and lay it out in front of them. I guess that part of me expects them to at least reflect back what I’m showing them (“Ah, it’s a thing!”), if not ask clarifying questions (“What kind of the thing is it?”). Instead, the response I get is one of the following (or something akin to them):

  • “You shouldn’t have that experience.”
  • “I don’t have [or haven’t had] an experience [or experiences] like that.”
  • “You shouldn’t talk about that.” Yes, I’ve really been told this.
  • “Sharing that with me is abusive.” Weird, but this really happened.
  • “If you were more {religious, spiritual, good} you would not be having that experience.”
  • “Here’s a solution [to make me feel more comfortable with your experience].”
  • “You’re feeling [unconscious] rage at me.” If you keep asserting what my experience is, then yes, eventually I probably will start to feel angry.

But this way of being responded to is so familiar to me that I don’t even notice when it’s happening. Instead, I start to explain myself, to try to be seen and heard. Perhaps this person has not understood me, I presume, because I’m not explaining myself clearly enough. So I double-down and lay out more details, being more vulnerable, exposing myself to even more invalidation.

“Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces.” — Jesus

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Duncan Riach

Top Writer. Self-Revealing. Mental Health. Success. Fulfillment. Flow. MS Engineering/Technology. PhD Psychology. duncanriach.com