David Sheedy — 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.

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