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Am J Psychother. 1999 Winter;53(1):35-51.

Curiosity: reflections on its nature and functions.

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Sackler School of Medicine, Tel-Aviv University.


This paper attempts to clarify the nature, function and centrality of curiosity in the development of object relations and the consolidation of the self. It demonstrates how the primary relationship between the infant and the care-giver influences the development of curiosity, the ability to use it productively for thinking and for building the internal world. Curiosity, in its schizoparanoid forms, is an attempt at freezing states of primary undifferentiatedness. In its more mature forms, it serves as an integrative agent and signifies both the possibility and the need to know, as well as the boundaries of knowledge. It is an essential element in the individual's psychic fabric and counterbalances splitting and projective identification. Hence, in analysis, it is vital to be constantly attentive to all the diverse expressions of curiosity or, conversely, to its absence. In the transference, the analyst, as well as the analytic setting, often become the aims of that curiosity and its containers. By allowing curiosity and surviving it, curiosity is transformed from an expression of destructiveness and disintegrating intrusiveness to a necessary prerequisite for psychological growth, self-discovery and creativity. Several vignettes illustrate the impact of curiosity during therapy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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