Chris Byers, MA, LMHC
Curiosity: The Gift That Keeps on Giving the Whole Year
Invaluable Lessons from the G.O.A.T Coach
There's no denying it, the team at Grey Sky Counseling is 100% hooked on Apple TV's runaway-hit-series, Ted Lasso. If you are not yet acquainted with the show, it is an absolute exquisite story that has deeply resonated with me. Winning 7 Emmy Awards, it apparently hits close to the hearts of millions of others, too. In the show, "Jason Sudeikis plays Ted Lasso, a small-time college football coach from Kansas hired to coach a professional soccer team in England, despite having no experience coaching soccer." I admit I was hesitant to watch the show at first. If I'm honest, I was quick to judge it—and boy did I learn an invaulable lesson or two or three... However, being a super-fan of Brené Brown, who turns out to be a super-duper-fan of the show, her"expert"opinion provided enough credibility for me to overcome my prejudice and give it a try. I'm sorry Ted for underestimating you. Before I go any further, two important disclaimers/warnings about the show and the clip below: 1.) You do not have to like football to enjoy the show. 2.) You do need to be comfortable with some adult themes and language to enjoy the show.
In many ways, I relate so much with Coach Lasso. For one, I wish we all had a coach like Ted when we were kids. To be lucky enough to have someone so emotionally intelligent, compassionate, curious and kind-hearted, especially in a man, would have made the journey of life, a little less painful. When I was a kid, that guy was a unicorn! Maybe he still is. Additionally, I know what it's like to have people judge and underestimate me. However, if there was anyone who underestimated me the most in my life, that person would be me. Therapy was the first time I began to learn how to be curious about myself, my story, my heart, and discover all the hidden dreams and desires I had that were buried, smothered, and covered in toxic fear and shame.
In her book, The Gift of Imperfection, Ted Lasso super-duper-fan and shame research expert Brené Brown states, “Shame needs three things to grow out of control in our lives: secrecy, silence, and judgment." Somewhere along my path, I ran into the roadblock of shame. With an absence of a Ted in my life, I was not equipped with a language of curiosity about my story, my heart, and how and what I was even feeling. Yes, I knew what fear and shame felt like, however, I had no words for them. It wasn't until I landed on a therapy couch for the first time that I faced a small sheet of paper with 8 words on it that changed it all for me. Anger, fear, sad, hurt, lonely, shame, guilt, and gladness. These 8 simple words unlocked an unknown known in my heart. For the very first time in my life, I finally had language for how I was feeling. Through the steady presence of an emotionally intelligent, compassionate, curious, and kind-hearted-unicorn-man-therapist, I started my journey towards healing, growth, and change.
Learning to "be curious, not judgmental" is both difficult and life-changing. While it is not impossible to do this work alone, the landscape radically changes when we don't climb alone. While so much of my therapeutic approach is informed by my clinical education and training, those same 8 words still serve as a compass in my personal and professional work. I have come to embrace an Emotionally Integrative Therapeutic™️ (EIT) approach that views emotions not as a problem to avoid, but as important instruments that can work for us. Emotions serve a vital function in our lives as humans. Their unique purpose is to illuminate critical needs for us to both survive and thrive. If we can learn to have more curiosity about what we are feeling, then we can connect with the important needs they illuminate. Thus, my therapeutic mantra is simple, feelings illuminate needs, and needs require action.
Coming to healthy terms with feelings like fear is an essential skill for thriving. Fear illuminates our need for safety. We live in a world where threats are real and exist on a very complex spectrum. From bullies who have zero curiosity about our mad dart-throwing skills (see video above), to toxic relationships where our emotional and physical safety are threatened daily. These are very real realities for many. While we often normalize and understand the importance of physical safety, many of us do not know how to create emotionally safe relational structures. Without emotional safety, we get stuck in survival mode, and are easily ensnared by the trap of silence, secrecy, and judgment. Curiosity, however, as difficult as it can sometimes be to access, becomes a helpful approach in moving us towards safety, truth, and healthy loving relationships. Although it is important for us to learn how to overcome fears that keep us from living a liberated life of thriving, it is also imperative for us to seek a deeper understanding of the origin and formation of our fears, and the shame that often lingers in tandem. This toxic combo is a self-feeding cycle. When we judge our fears, we shame them. When fear and shame collide, it makes it extremely difficult to have curiosity and tell the truth. Ultimately, this will move us into isolation, secrecy, and destructive repetitive behaviors.
What keeps you from leaning into curiosity? How do you feel about your feelings? Is there space in your life where fear and shame are not super-problems that work against you and instead can be super-powers that work for you? If you would like to learn more about curiosity, Emotionally Integrative Therapy, or how to navigate the mountains of your fear and shame, I want to encourage you to reach out to one of our team members here at Grey Sky Counseling or a therapist in your area. You are worth fighting for, and you don't have to climb alone.