Other Voices - David Sheedy - 4
Curiosity and Intimacy
Good morning everyone. I said last time that I would write about narcissism and arrogance in the next article. I’ve since realized that to assume I have anything to say on those subjects IS arrogant and narcissistic. So I’m going to look at something else of interest first.
I’ve long wanted to write a book. And when I do, I already have a topic. (The Gimli-esque publisher is laughing out loud right now, trying to imagine a guy who can’t deliver an article on time could ever focus long enough to finish a book. Wayne? Piss off). My topic is ‘Curiosity’. I apply it corporately in many of my programs; the basic tenet being that the number one quality a manager needs to have in order to be successful is curiosity.
I believe the same thing applies relationally, and is much more integral to successful intimacy. Therefore In order to be intimate with my partner, I must remain curious. This sounds like a great idea, but we each have some huge barriers to doing this on a consistent basis. The biggest one is ego. Wayne has done an admirable job over the years talking about and defining ego. In this situation I am going to suggest that the more I am attached to my own ego, the less curious I am able to be.
If I am in discussion with my partner (Hi Terri!), I may believe that I am being curious. I can even state that I am. And yet as she tells me what is going on for her, what she might need, what she notices about me, feedback she has, or resentments she has created, I notice my need to correct her. I realize that I want to defend my position, or give her more information, so that she sees my point of view.
This is my ego talking. This is my need to impose my own version or impression of myself onto another. And why wouldn’t I? I’ve worked for many years to create this ego, it serves me, defines me, comforts me…who can blame me if I use it so that others can see me as I see myself?
Thing is, while I am so busy convincing, I’ve stopped being curious. I cannot be intimate while serving my ego–it isn’t possible. So the conversation swirls ever downward, usually ending up with me being defensive and resentful. Why? Because my partner won’t take on the version of myself I’m attempting to foist on the world. And in all of that, I’ve learned little or nothing of who she is, what she wants, how she wants to do relationship.
It’s the ultimate example of ‘it’s all about me.’ And it doesn’t serve me unless I don’t want the relationship to grow or shift.
Now, knowing all of this, it would therefore seem logical to just avoid it. To put my ego aside, and be truly curious. To listen without judgement to what is going on for the other person, and allow what they are being to exist without trying to change it.
I’m not very good at that. I suppose it is because without ego I don’t know quite who I am. In the most challenging moments of my relationship, I know at some level that I am getting in my own way. I even do a check and see if I am ‘being curious.’ And more often than not I believe I am. Here’s what I miss:
Asking questions does not equal being curious
If I count the number of questions I have asked, and they seem plentiful, I mark myself as curious. What I’m learning to do is examine the intentions behind the questions. Why am I asking these questions? Do I want specific answers? Am I frustrated that the answers aren’t what I’d hoped? These are signs that instead of being curious, I’m being manipulative. I am trying to negotiate/manipulate the answers to prove and support my position. My ego. I am therefore learning two basic things:
Be open to outcome without being attached to it. When I become aware that the nature of the answer doesn’t matter to me, only that there is an answer, I’m on the right track. As soon as I try and reach a particular outcome – be it a particular admission or position, or even resolution or consensus – I have become part of the drama.
Ego has an agenda– Authenticity has a curiosity.
Don’t care, just be interested. Wayne said this to me in one of our first sessions – that he was interested, but didn’t care what happened in our session. I was justifiably upset – how could he not care?? About ME???? He laughed. He does that a lot. The moment I start to care about the answers, about what the other person says, is the moment I choose to feel better or worse about myself, based on what THEY say. So if my ego doesn’t ‘like’ what is being said, I go non-present and start defending. Being interested in how they perceive me, instead of caring how I am perceived, keeps me present and authentic.
These two are the difference between hurting myself with what my partner tells me, because it doesn’t match my own self-image, and staying present in the moment so that I can learn more about how she sees me. And I can then remember that she actually doesn’t see me, just her version. And since I can’t control that, why try?
I don’t mean to sound like I have it licked – In fact, I swing back and forth depending on how aware and present I remain. If I’m feeling anxious in a conversation, I check my ego and my intentions. And I usually find where I am in the way of being really curious.
So, does this happen to any of you? Just curious.