posed in a tone of compassionate curiosity, “why?” is transformed from rigid accusation to an open-minded, even scientific question. instead of hurling an accusatory brick at your own head (e.g., “i’m so stupid, when will i ever learn,” etc.), the question “why did i do this again, knowing full well the consequences?” can become the subject of a fruitful inquiry, a gentle investigation.
this is a quote from the chapter entitled “the power of compassionate curiosity” in gabor mate’s in the realm of hungry ghosts: close encounters with addiction
the idea of therapy as a research project has always intrigued me, and it’s something i’m still working towards. it’s a very delicate thing; where is the fine line between such compassionate curiosity and the wild power that comes with acquiring knowledge? knowledge is intimately connected with power, and knowledge-about is very similar to power-over. it objectifies. in both, there is a sense of grasping. i “have” power. i “have” knowledge.
by the very nature of things, the therapist always knows more about the client than the client does about the therapist. even in a situation where both parties strive for as egalitarian a relationship as possible, an equalization of that knowledge would end the therapist-client relationship.
talking about the nature of that knowledge, the nature and amount of knowledge about one another, can help. bringing difficult relationship dynamics out in the open always helps.
transforming the nature of that knowledge can be even better: turning knowledge about into knowledge with. knowledge about is a one-way affair. in “i have knowledge about you”, one is the subject, the other is the object, and that’s it.
in knowledge with, knowledge changes from a one-way street to an open and shared field. this is where curiosity comes in and is so important. curiosity is about openness, about allowing possibilities. curiosity is not linear, it is not one-way. it is 360-degree.
“hmmm, i wonder what happened there?” as opposed to “why did you forget again?” “let’s see what we can try to do differently next time” as opposed to “you better learn this once and for all!”
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