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  • Writer's pictureJae Ritchie

Courageous Curiosity

Unless you are currently living under a rock, have never logged into TikTok or other social medias, or are simply out of touch with modern television programming you must have heard of an Apple TV Series called, Ted Lasso. At the very least you have likely encountered one of the most iconic scenes from this series that takes place in an English Pub. Ted Lasso, played by the very talented Jason Sudeikis, in what has come to be known as the “Darts Scene” references the quote by Walt Whitman suggesting that the key to withholding judgment against someone lies in our ability to be curious. If you have not seen it, I highly suggest googling it and giving it a watch.

I believe it takes more than simple curiosity. To truly rid ourselves of the very human nature to judge what we don’t understand requires not only curiosity, but courageous curiosity. The human condition is comprised of so many different layers that require more than simply scratching the surface with a simple question of why. While asking why a person does something may give you a glimpse into their psyche, how much deeper will your understanding reach if you continue to peel back the layers driving the actions of another person.

Brené Brown has described curiosity as a “shit-starter.” She has also shared that, Choosing to be curious is choosing to be vulnerable because it requires us to surrender to uncertainty. It wasn't always a choice; we were born curious. But over time, we learn that curiosity, like vulnerability, can lead to hurt. As a result, we turn to self-protecting – choosing certainty over curiosity, armor over vulnerability, and knowing over learning.”

Being curious requires us to step outside of our comfort zones, challenge our thinking, ditch the routine, and allow ourselves to experience the rewards that being open will bring to our lives. If this task feels daunting, it should. Attempting to be more curious about myself and why I think, feel, and respond a certain way to different external and internal stimuli was and still is, scary as fuck. It was so much easier to just respond with anger, to insist I was right, to demand respect.

In January of this year, stress was running high in my life. I was involved with planning a wedding that was taking place over a thousand miles away, dealing with a potential health issue for myself, a health issue for a close family member, covid in the household, and trying to be supportive to my fiancé as she was dealing with personal struggles 1000 miles away. All this stress came to a head and an explosion that threatened to derail everything we had been working for occurred. In this moment I had very few options. Get courageously curious about what created this intense level of discombobulation within me or lose the future that I so deeply wanted and had invested nearly three years of my life creating.

I could have stopped at the superficial why does this situation trigger me and landed on a perfectly plausible reason for feeling as if I was suffocating. Why? Because someone disrespected me, and respect is incredibly important to this Enneagram Eight personality. (More on the Enneagram in future entries) I could have embraced the ‘how dare they’ mentality that I have often lived and breathed when anyone in my past has risked disrespecting me. I was guilty of standing idly by and watching multiple relationships die on the ashes of the bridges I burned while I gathered up any remaining materials that might have been used to rebuild those bridges and incinerated them as well. I am the queen of destruction in the name of self-protection ensuring that I will never appear weak. I could have safely landed there and eloquently made my case – if my fiancé had not called bullshit and threatened to pull the plug on the wedding. There simply wasn’t enough perfume to cover up the stench of that failed argument. Necessity forced me to become curious. Necessity forced me to dig down deep and get to the very core of what was causing this angst within me.

I didn’t want to be curious. I wanted to be judgmental. I wanted my fiancé to take my side and see that I was in fact right. The need to be right is also no stranger to me and to those that deal with my insufferable behavior. I come by this trait naturally, organically, as my father was never wrong. He would go days before answering a question, just so no one would ever be able to say that he was wrong. My children are all just as incorrigibly right as I am. This makes for interesting family dinners if we are all on opposite sides of a topic demanding we are in the right.

After months of putting her in the middle of a situation no one deserved to be in, she had reached her limit. As I saw things, I had two choices – plan a future without the woman I love or get courageously curious. Neither of these options incited warm fuzzy feelings within me. However, it was clearly time to get to work. I knew what needed to be done. I also knew it would not be easy.

I tend to think more clearly when on the move. I carried myself off to the community center, headset, phone, and a list of needing to be listened to podcasts. If I am thoroughly honest with myself, I wanted to find someone to back up my position in this situation. Still angry, feeling disrespected, unvalued, and hurt – I was unwilling to see that I was the maker of my own madness.

During my therapeutic process my therapist and I determined that I was the famed or is that infamous variety of anxious avoidant attachment style. I tend to live by the motto go big or go home in all areas of my life so why would I settle for a garden variety anxious or avoidant, when I could be both. I had been avoiding emotional attachment to anyone for decades. Working on my issues that established my need to avoid intimacy and connection seemed logical and prudent. The rest would figure itself out – or so I thought.

As I was walking around the track, stewing in my own anger, I happened upon a We Can Do Hard Things podcast episode entitled Why We Love the Way We Love: Attachment Styles with Dr. Becky Kennedy. If you are unaware of this podcast, it is hosted by Glennon Doyle, Abby Wambach, and Glennon’s Sister – who affectionately goes by Sister so I couldn’t tell you her name off the top of my head if forced to…The level of transparency given by Glennon and Abby regarding their relationship is both admirable and endearing. Their commitment to each other shining through everything they do, every look they share, every story told. They never shy away from discussing with their audience, the hard questions. As Dr Becky is discussing the types of attachments we develop from childhood relationships Glennon reveals that Abby is an anxiously attached partner. When an issue occurs between them Abby immediately goes to – “Am I loved? Am I loved? Do you see me? Do you see me?” Trust me when I say to you that in that very moment, I reached the most profound AHA moment I have ever experienced.

Hiding behind my feelings of being disrespected and unvalued was my inner child who constantly wanted her mother to pick her. Who wanted someone to choose me. Who for the first time in my life needed someone, my fiancé, to choose me. Courageous curiosity led me outside to sit on the very cold stone steps of the community center and allow the tears of that inner child to roll down my face as I recognized for the first time this need to be chosen, to be put first. Courageous curiosity allowed me to say to that little girl, “it’s ok, I choose you.” Courageous curiosity showed me that I didn’t need my fiancé to choose me because I had in that moment chosen myself. By so desperately wanting to be validated in my relationship I was creating an untenable situation for the person I had pledged to spend the rest of my life with. I was demanding that she choose me at the risk of losing or alienating her own child. I later realized that I didn't need her to choose me, because she already had when she said yes. She just happened to have room enough in her heart to choose both of us.

Courageous curiosity opened my eyes and my heart to a much deeper understanding of how I operate in my relationships. Choose me has been an inner dialogue that has driven my relationships since the very beginning of my existence. Choose me has pushed me to discard people before they could discard me. After all, if they haven’t chosen me, it would be so easy to walk away and pretend that I don’t exist. Isn’t it better for me to be the one that walks away? To be in control. To show them I don’t need them.

Being curious not only saved my relationship it allowed me to see someone else for whom they truly are and to appreciate them in a way that staying “right” or pushing to be respected never would have allowed. For this I am most grateful.

Walt Whitman implores us to, “Be curious, not judgmental.” I would plead that you allow that courageous curiosity to start privately. Ask yourself the hard questions and allow your mind and heart to be curious with the answers.

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2 komentarze

01 cze 2023

Beautifully written and soo thoughtful and inspiring. Attachment is something that one can heal from by attaching to a securely attached other person. 🥰

Jae Ritchie
Jae Ritchie
01 cze 2023
Odpowiada osobie:

Thank you!

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