Compassionate Curiosity

“In addition to a sense of humor, a basic support for a joyful mind is curiosity.”

-Pema Chödrön

Compassionate curiosity is an approach for developing self-observation skills and expanded self-awareness described by Gabor Maté, a Hungarian-Canadian Physician and expert in addiction, stress and child development. The practice involves a gentle and compassionate investigation into our emotions, thoughts and behaviors. The purpose is not to rationalize or justify our behaviors in order to protect our self-esteem, but rather to open ourselves up to seeing things as they are and develop the mind’s capacity to act as its own impartial observer.  

Here are a few questions to practice compassionate curiosity:

When you struggle to accomplish a goal, practice asking: Why do I experience this as a struggle? Have I felt this way before? Why is this so important to me?

When you feel angry, practice asking: Where does my anger come from? Does my emotion have a message? Do I feel an urge to resist or change my feelings? What about this situation is causing so much anger? Is this a pattern? What else do I feel? What am I not feeling?

When you doubt yourself, practice asking: Why do I feel so doubtful? Where does this all come from? Have I been here before? What messages do I hear in my head and where do those come from?

When you are anxious, practice asking: How am I interpreting my anxiety? Does my response seem reasonable given the current circumstances? Is there anything that I can do right now, or should I focus my attention elsewhere? What did I learn about coping with distress?

When you engage in an unhealthy or harmful behavior or habit, practice asking: How did I get here again? Why did I engage in this behavior? What purpose does this serve or what need am I trying to meet? What are some other ways I can meet my needs and take better care of myself? Do I want to change my behavior? 

Compassionate curiosity allows for us to explore our reactions, feelings, and behaviors with the goal of better understanding ourselves so that we can feel more empowered to select from a broader variety of choices, cope more effectively, and live more intentionally.  

Dr. Thomas Lindquist, Psy.D.

Licensed Psychologist

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Published by tlindquistpsyd

Licensed Clinical Psychologist

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