For those of you who don’t know who Curious George is; he is a fictional character in a children’s book and cartoon series. Curious George is a monkey that has been entertaining children since the 1980’s. Like most children’s books there is usually a lesson within the story. The message I want to focus on is how important it is to remain curious and how curiosity is part of the foundation to managing difficult situations and emotions with confidence.
Being Curious should be encouraged no matter the age. I often wonder if the push to be “productive” and “efficient” members of society has created a culture encouraging constant change, rather than a culture that nurtures curiosity and sees how it can lead to success. Children are encouraged to explore and be curious. Adults are encouraged to make changes in order to progress; curiosity is too often received as a resistance to change. Even the practice of relaxation and mindful breathing often refers to the act of “changing” the way we breath as the fastest way to feel calm again.
Just like we encourage children to be curious about their environment to learn about it and to be able to make choices, our bodies are also an environment, arguably the most important environment to pay attention to. Our bodies are trying to send important information that can help us build awareness that can make our choices easier to see and that can lead to intentional actions and positive strategies.
Body Symptom (ie: fast breathing)---Curiosity---awareness---choices---Intention---confidence/control
Let me give you an example. If Curious George all of a sudden started to feel anxious and started to notice his breathing getting faster he may start to panic and tell himself, “calm down,” or “ I have to slow my breathing.” If he is unable to, he may try different breathing strategies like “box breathing”, imagining blowing bubbles etc. If he is unsuccessful and can not slow his breathing he is more likely to get even more upset and have even more anxious thoughts about not being able to do something that he feels like he should be able to do.
In this scenario Curious George can either ride the roller coaster of emotions until it slows, likely due to exhaustion, or he can leave the environment in hopes of calming down. Living out scenarios similar to this results in feeling defeated pretty quick and taking away any confidence he may have about being able to manage difficult situations.
Now consider the same scenario, but instead of the anxiety driving the need to leave the environment in order to calm down, that Curious George would be able to take a moment to be curious about what his body is trying to tell him. If Curious George stops for a moment and is curious about what his body is trying to tell him about his environment or how he is feeling then he can create some awareness in the moment that can assist in identifying choices that can result in intentional actions. Curious George may still decide to leave the environment, but the awareness and ability to identify his choices puts him in a position to respond rather than react to his emotions and symptoms.
Sounds simple right? Instead of changing and ignoring our body take a moment to be curious about what your body is trying to tell you. The intention has always started from a good, caring place. Just like Curious George. His intentions were always good. But sometimes things have the opposite impact. Just like when you tell a close friend or loved one about something that is upsetting you and they try to fix it.
Their intent is to make you feel better, but what can happen instead is that you feel dismissed and that you aren’t allowed to feel upset. Believing is in the experience.