Positive Curiosity

Michael Yates

Michael Yates, Project Director for State Contracts including ASAP, FOCUS, PATH and Home Study

“So, let’s begin at the beginning,” she said to the audience. “Let’s begin with positive curiosity.”

What a cool place to begin, I thought.

The audience was a collection of therapists, supervisors, program, and agency administrators from varying disciplines. The subject matter facing the audience was the very hard work of treating complex trauma in children and families – the type of trauma that stems from abuse and neglect and can have an insidious impact upon families and other care-giving supports. Margaret Blaustein, the creator of the ARC Framework (Attachment, Self-Regulation, & Competency), was describing her preferred starting point when beginning the difficult work of untangling the complexity of the trauma nestled within a child’s story.

This is the kind of hard work that drips with pain and sorrow. It is further complicated by a child’s behavioral response to a world sending messages that he or she is damaged goods, unworthy, incapable, and perhaps worst of all, unlovable. It’s hard work, in a hard place. Child, family, and therapist alike are not immune to getting stuck in this hardest of places. How do you begin getting traction to move forward when healing, recovery, and resiliency seem, at best, idealistic, and at worst, foolhardy and naive?

Positive curiosity, just maybe, is the place to begin.

Think about it. By definition, “curiosity” means a strong desire to know or learn something. “Positive” has many meanings but, in this case, positive is emphasizing what is laudable, hopeful, or to the good – constructive. So, positive curiosity seems to be a strong desire to know & learn emphasizing what is hopeful, good, & constructive. It sets a posture of openness to understand, first, before solving or fixing anything. It invites questions and wonder without having the answer or solution for children and families coming from hard places. It even encourages attunement about where your own thoughts and feelings are coming from in response to the world around you … or the family you’re serving … or the system in which you’re functioning.

For the hard work in the hard place of complex trauma, positive curiosity may be the right beginning, indeed.

I can’t help but think we’d all benefit from a little more positive curiosity in all walks and in all places of life, not just through the therapeutic lens of treatment. What would positive curiosity look like for you at home? When you look in the mirror? Riding in the car with your kids? At the dinner table? At church? How about on a walk with your spouse? Or parenting when your child is fighting you at every turn? What would positive curiosity look like in a board meeting? Or in supervision? Or how would it look in a business meeting? Or during an agency’s strategic planning?

Clearly, positive curiosity may be a healthy place to begin with in many walks of life, not just for those providing treatment to the wounded who have come from hard places. Try it out and see if it fits for you. Positive curiosity may be the perfect beginning for helping you get forward traction wherever you are.

Published on August 12, 2013 by .
Posted in Advocacy and Support, Healing