“Curiosity is insubordination in its purest form.” — Vladimir Nabokov
I was reading the novel Lolita when I came upon this quote. The protagonist may not be a credible source on mental health and wellness, but it resonated with me nonetheless.
When we “get curious” about our mental health we develop a healthier relationship to it. When we are depressed or anxious we often believe our depressed or anxious minds. I am worthless. Nobody likes me. I’ll never succeed. We take these messages at face value and identify strongly with them.
Getting curious about these messages, as opposed to automatically believing them, will cultivate a sense of freedom from and compassion toward our experiences. You may be thinking, this sound great, but how do I get curious?
Curiosity, in essence, is the desire to learn and understand. Observing our inner experiences, such as depression, with curiosity, as opposed to judging or labeling as good or bad, allows us to cultivate compassion for ourselves and our experiences.
Approaching our experiences with curiosity is practicing insubordination toward our depression, because it means we are thinking critically about it and taking away some of its power. You may notice, with this greater sense of curiosity and control, even starting to feel some compassion toward your depression. I don’t believe what you are telling me, Depression. But I do care about you and I can see that you are hurting. Approaching your mental health in this way helps you to begin to unravel your identity from your depression. You are not your depression and your depression is not you.
Here are some concrete ways to get curious about your mental health:
Journaling – One common instinct when experiencing difficult emotions is to avoid them. Journaling is a way to approach these experiences with curiosity and compassion, so that a greater understanding can be established.
Yoga and Meditation – Practicing mindfulness through yoga and meditation creates a greater awareness of thought patterns and emotions, which aids in the unraveling of ourselves from our mental health challenges.
Therapy – Meeting with a therapist can help sort through and understand those difficult emotions and unhelpful thought patterns. Therapy can also be helpful in cultivating self-compassion through validation, affirmation and psycho-education.