Curiosity and the Cat

If you have met me in person, you know I’m a big proponent of the benefits of therapy. I started treatment when I was nineteen and I’ve gone off and on since then. I always viewed it as getting heavy emotions and experiences off my chest. I would leave sessions feeling unburdened, and lighter. Saturday was the first time I left a session feeling heavier. Now that my various maladaptive coping mechanisms have been replaced with healthier ones, it appears I’ve moved on to having difficult conversations with family members to have more authentic and deeper connections. I wouldn’t mind this change but I was hoping for a break. I’ve spent years healing myself and getting to a point where I’m healthy and balanced. Now I’m being challenged to have conversations with people I’ve never been brave enough to have. Working on myself felt safer. I control what I do. I make the choice to go to the gym, go to bed early, eat healthily, etc. I have methods to tame the madness in myself. I do not have as many methods for hard conversations with people I’m close to. 

The topic of what was discussed in therapy doesn’t particularly matter. I can use an example to illustrate the point just as well. Say, growing up, you were told cats were wonderful pets and the best thing in the world. You had a pet cat that brought you great comfort. Your cat interacted with the other animals in your house such as a dog kindly. You have no reason to question the narrative that cats are wonderful. Now you are in college. You are taking an evolutionary biology class. Your professor tells you the countless stories of cats, when introduced into an isolated ecosystem led to the extinction of several bird species. You are surprised that cats can be so destructive. This seems at odds with what you’ve been told your whole life and seen with your own eyes. Do you decide that cats are just purely wonderful or purely awful? You end up deciding that there is a worldview where your positive experiences with cats are truthful and that cats can also cause immense destruction. I have found that a large part of adulthood is riding the line between two opposing truths. Accepting both doesn’t mean one has more merit than the other. In order to find a balance between what appears impossible, relentless curiosity is required. 

I’ve always been curious and wanted to understand how things in the world worked. I would read magazines about how the road was built. I loved the magazine Click. There was a mouse that was always learning how things worked and it was illustrated with cartoons that explained everything from what happens during the night in the city to the layers of soil and what is in each layer. Nothing was at stake in these lessons. My worldview wasn’t being challenged and this kind of learning was comforting. What I’m being asked to do now is much less so. I have to express how I feel and ask others how they view themselves and me. I have to be prepared for answers I won’t like. I know the alternative is to not have the conversations and be filled with anxiety. I’d rather have the hard conversations and have the answers. For the first time though, I understand why people wouldn’t choose what I am. Curiosity is hard to cultivate and can lead to places that remind us of pain. I hope I continue to choose to be curious and I support whatever you choose.


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