I have worked in the world of medicine, for almost twenty years, and curiosity, by far, has proven to be the best medicine.  It is a natural salve for fear, dissipating it almost immediately. It makes all the right places in the brain shift on, or off, in order to free up the very best kind of thinking. It pacifies the ego, just enough that it can sit down and watch, instead of always having to control.  Even the ego needs rest sometimes.

Curiosity makes us humble again. It makes us ready to learn. It helps us set aside rigid, old, and sometimes outdated constructs, if they are no longer working. It opens us up to the possibilities—endless possibilities. It listens. It asks questions. Therefore, it gets answers, ideas, and inspiration, in return. It keeps us tuned in, rather than tuned out, irrelevant, and archaic.

"The free, exploring mind of the individual human is the most valuable thing in the world." - John Steinbeck

When we approach the world with this mindset, even the most insurmountable obstacles start to feel like an exercise in tenacity. When we gather all the clues, the data, and tackle them with the dogged whimsy of curiosity, that is a good marriage. That is where the good stuff lives.

In medicine, we call people "treatment resistant" when they don't fall into one of any number of designated norms, abnormals, or what we might call "normal abnormals." That is not curiosity. That is sorting. That is the hard work medical practitioners are faced with everyday: identifying the problem, applying the method, monitoring the outcome. Hoping. There are a hundred shades of gray, in each of those places, and between each of those places.

In those minutia, a lot can go wrong. A lot can go right. Science, with all of its infinite databases, is working hard, and it is a world riddled with chaos.  But in the end, what is good science, if not the skillful, rigorous application of curiosity? Good science is good science. Bad science, biased science, well, is dangerous. People are hasty to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Maybe we should not. Evidence, medicine, and practitioners can fall into two categories: helpful or harmful. Without curiosity—you, whom likely no one has ever studied, and your providers, might just find what category you fit into, and not the wealth of sweet and idiosyncratic, evidence-based things that might make all the difference. Be open and participate. You deserve to find your own, unique answers, because certainly they are out there.


Tanya Beard is a psychiatric nurse practitioner, yoga teacher, and writer in Redmond, Oregon. Her blog is a heartfelt tribute to the nuance and universality of little human moments.

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