Depression

Curiosity and Wellness

By Alison Bonds Shapiro, M.B.A.
Created Oct 4 2010 – 7:20am

 
As I was growing up I heard, “What you don’t know won’t hurt you”. When it comes to healing, my experience is the exact opposite. What you don’t know may very well hurt you. Curiosity is essential to wellness.

I have been emailing one of my health care practitioners lately. It’s something that is becoming more common – a way to get timely advice on subjects not requiring an office visit. As I was doing this I realized that my practitioner was relying on me to relate what was happening to me accurately because she was not seeing what I saw. Then I thought about the fact that even when she saw me in person she was relying on my reporting things that are not visible.

By Alison Bonds Shapiro, M.B.A.
Created Oct 4 2010 – 7:20am

As I was growing up I heard, “What you don’t know won’t hurt you”. When it comes to healing, my experience is the exact opposite. What you don’t know may very well hurt you. Curiosity is essential to wellness.

I have been emailing one of my health care practitioners lately. It’s something that is becoming more common – a way to get timely advice on subjects not requiring an office visit. As I was doing this I realized that my practitioner was relying on me to relate what was happening to me accurately because she was not seeing what I saw. Then I thought about the fact that even when she saw me in person she was relying on my reporting things that are not visible.

How truly curious are any of us about ourselves? Do I examine myself with an open, loving mind and heart, willing to understand and know whatever I might find, or do I look at myself with a bunch of preconceived notions of how I should or should not be and shut my eyes to what I don’t want to know?

Most of the time I suspect that I assume all sorts of things about myself. I am in my 60s now. I sometimes surprise myself when I look in the mirror because I have been experiencing myself as younger. When I am surprised do I turn away and recapture the fantasy or do I take in the image that is in front of me, welcoming and knowing the way my vitality expresses itself at this age? Do I know what my body looks and feels like now? If I don’t know, how can I accurately report things to my health care practitioner?

Practicing curiosity about myself when I am well helps me continue that practice when I am sick or injured. I can start today by just looking at myself and being curious and welcoming what I find – perhaps taking a couple of minutes in the mornings as I get dressed just to notice what’s there. If I let go of the judgments that come up – I should be this – I should be that – and simply notice, I can learn a lot. The more I practice this, the deeper and more subtle my knowing becomes.

Having the habit of being willing to know myself makes it easier to look when I am in distress. Our usual reaction to injury or illness is fear. Looking at the truth of our problems in those circumstances takes courage. I may not want to know how much difficulty I am in, but not knowing does not help injuries heal.

When I am sick or injured, in order to find out what to do next I need to be willing to learn everything I can know about what has happened to me and what I can do to help myself deal with it. If I already have a good idea of how I was before the illness or injury and a practice of curiosity about myself, I have a wonderful basis to understand the extent of what is different due to the illness or injury and to articulate it.

As I take the time to learn about my condition I am better able to understand the feelings and sensations that are happening in me and explain them. To say something hurts is not a lot information. Perhaps the pain is burning. Perhaps it is localized to one small area. Perhaps the pain is a dull ache. The more I simply investigate the pain the more information I have about it.

If I am curious about my body and my injury, when the doctor tells me something, I can examine what I have heard and see if this interpretation fits what I am experiencing. Maybe there is something else the doctor needs to know. I have a friend who has trouble with speech as a result of an injury she received. When she talks with a doctor, that doctor may misinterpret what is happening with her because he or she does not hear sufficient information. My friend will often have to try again or get someone else to help her explain what she knows is true for her body in order for the doctor to understand and make a correct diagnosis and develop a useful treatment plan. The doctor simply lacks information.

Not being curious has a similar effect to my friend’s difficulty with speaking. Even if I have no difficulty using words, I cannot explain what I have not chosen to know. Together, in partnership, with me accurately describing what I experience, my health care professional and I can work together to give me the best chance to flourish and be well.

 

 

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